The Politics of Time: Imagining African Becomings

Edited by Achille Mbembe, Felwine Sarr / Translated by Philip Gerard
February 2023

As we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century, the world is undergoing a major historical shift: Africa, and the Global South more generally, is increasingly becoming a principal theatre in which the future of the planet plays itself out. But not only this: Africa is at the same time emerging as one of the great laboratories for novel forms of social, economic, political, intellectual, cultural, and artistic life. Often arising in unexpected places, these new forms of life materialize in practices that draw deeply from collective memory while simultaneously assuming distinctly contemporary, even futuristic, guises.

In November 2017, the second session of the Ateliers de la pensée – Workshops of Thought – was held in Dakar, Senegal. Fifty African and diasporic intellectuals and artists participated and their debates unfolded along numerous thematic lines, approached from the standpoints of many different disciplines. This volume is the result of that encounter. Among the many topics discussed were the concurrence and entanglement of multiple temporalities, the politics of life in the Anthropocene, the project of decolonization, and the preservation and transmission of different ways of knowing. At a time when the world is haunted by the specter of its own end, the contributors to this volume ask whether one can, by taking Africa as a point of departure, seize hold of other options for the future – not only for Africa, but for the world.

The Politics of Time and its companion volume, To Write the Africa World, will be indispensable works for anyone interested in Africa – its past, present, and future – and in the new forms of critical thought emerging from Africa and the Global South.

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About the Editors

Achille Mbembe 
is a Research Professor at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Felwine Sarr 
is Professor of Romance Studies at Duke University.