Thinking of Freedom in Africa

Thinking of Freedom in Africa


Toward a theory of emancipatory politics

Thinking Freedom in Africa is one of the 2017 Frantz Fanon Outstanding Book Award winners, awarded by the Caribbean Philosophical Association.

Thinking Freedom in Africa is a genuine political treatise: nuanced, erudite, creative, committed, and, through admission of contingency in the face of necessity and fidelity to the value of commitment, attuned to reality. Breaking the idols of European exceptionalism and presumed universality, Michael Neocosmos offers a premise of fresh air: all human beings think, and, though an extraordinary journey through more than a thousand years of reflection from the Afro-Arabic world of Ibn Kaldun to the Haitian revolutionary one of Zamba Boukman Dutty and the European one of Karl Marx and Antonio Gramsci to the anti-Colonial struggles, in which Mao Zedong, Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, and Steve Bantu Biko loom large, to recent reflections from Alain Badiou, Sylvain Lazarus, and Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba, liberation is a political matter of which thinking, we should remember, is a fundamental element of action.  Surveying the moribund present of Africa, and by extension the global condition, the theorist’s task is clear—to make an emancipatory future thinkable.  No less than a classic of political thought is born: a book to be read and re-read, and in so doing, learn and, as the author hopes, imaginatively, to think.

——Lewis R. Gordon, author of What Fanon Said and Existentia Africana

Previous ways of conceiving the universal emancipation of humanity have in practice ended in failure. Marxism, anti-colonial nationalism and neo-liberalism all understand the achievement of universal emancipation through a form of state politics. Marxism, which had encapsulated the idea of freedom for most of the twentieth century, was found wanting when it came to thinking emancipation because social interests and identities were understood as simply reflected in political subjectivity which could only lead to statist authoritarianism. Neo-liberalism and anti-colonial nationalism have also both assumed that freedom is realisable through the state, and have been equally authoritarian in their relations to those they have excluded on the African continent and elsewhere.

Thinking Freedom in Africa then conceives emancipatory politics beginning from the axiom that ‘people think’. In other words, the idea that anyone is capable of engaging in a collective thought-practice which exceeds social place, interests and identities and which thus begins to think a politics of universal humanity. Using the work of thinkers such as Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, Sylvain Lazarus, Frantz Fanon and many others, along with the inventive thought of people themselves in their experiences of struggle, the author proceeds to analyse how Africans themselves – with agency of their own – have thought emancipation during various historical political sequences and to show how emancipation may be thought today in a manner appropriate to twenty-first century conditions and concerns.