Pan-African Political Economy: Liberation and Sovereignty
In popular, political, and scholarly discourse, Africa is often regarded as being politically and economically unique—and uniquely pathological. Problems of war, poverty, corruption, and political repression are treated as if they’re essential to the continent’s collective personality. Fundamental to the imperial narrative of white supremacy, the notion of Africa’s endemic disfunction obscures both the ordinariness of African prosperity, competence, and joy and the regularity of Western incompetence, hardship, and unhappiness. It also elides a major structural fact: the successes of the West are built upon the production and management of African misery. How can we understand the political and economic history of Africa and its diaspora—from the organization of the slave trade to the Haitian revolution, from European colonialism to decolonization and national liberation? And, what can a study of African subjection and struggle teach us about concepts such as liberation, freedom, and sovereignty?
In this course, we will place historical, political-economic, philosophical, and literary approaches into conversation as we explore African histories of slavery, revolution, economic and political dependence, interventionism, and independence and how they’ve shaped the continent’s political and symbolic life. We’ll begin by reading Leonora Miano’s Season of the Shadow, a powerful account of the transatlantic slave trade and its consequences for the West African interior. Situation our discussion in Miano’s text, we’ll reckon with the multifarious legacy of the slave trade–both on the continent and beyond. In the following weeks, we’ll examine the Haitian revolution and its meaning for considerations of sovereignty, Cold War-era struggles for African independence against colonialism and neocolonialism, and their continuance under the pressures of U.S African Command (AFRICOM) and the global War on Terror. Throughout, we will ask: How might an attention to the long African experience of colonialism, and to revolutionary struggles and their afterlives, offer a new lens through which to understand struggles for emancipation and liberty in the continent’s diasporas? Readings will be drawn from works by C.L.R. James, Siba N’Zatioula Grovogui, Samir Amin, and Kwame Nkrumah, among others.
Course ScheduleSunday, 2:00-5:00pm ET
May 09 — May 30, 2021