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The Place of Africa, in Theory: Pan-Africanism, Postcolonialism, Beyond



Twentieth-century African theory translated two destructive diasporas – of peoples by the slave trade, of lands by empire – into a creative third: a pan-Africanist philosophy of decolonization that recovered Africa's pluralism as a powerfully “diasporic” defiance of imperial taxonomies. Comparing a 1967 lecture given in Cairo by Senegalese poet-president Léopold Sédar Senghor with a 1955 treatise on the philosophy of revolution by Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser (Jamal cAbd al-Nasir), and both with Achille Mbembe's 2001 On the Postcolony, this essay shows how Senghor marshals race/culture hybridities, Nasser historical/geographic alignments, and Mbembe temporal entanglements to deconstruct monolithic constructions of “Arab”, “Black”, and “African” being, space, and time – and to pluralize and “world” a continent. It argues that the logics of trans-territoriality and trans-temporality that informed Third World solidarity in the 1950s–1970s represent a forgotten legacy of pan-Africanism to postcolonialism and to global theory generally. Africa's place, in theory, decenters Eurocentrism.