258 and dissemination renders any qualifier superfluous. Such is the case with Africa – and the same is the case, in these times when racism arrays itself in both old and new garments, with its condemned soul, le Nègre. But in reality – in terms of what interests us in this context – that is not the issue. Africa is above all a project that concerns the whole planet, and the history of Africa can hardly be separated from the history of the world, just as there is hardly any world history that is not also the history of the Africans or their descendants. And this does not apply solely to the past. Imperialism still has a future; but a different geography of the world is in the making. Like it or not, there no longer exists a center to which we can opposed a periphery. To become a protagonist in the birth of this new world history, planetary but decentred, Africa needs to rewrite itself. It needs to fundamentally reinterpret its complex heritage, inasmuch as Africa’s heritage cannot be separated from the heritage that the world, viewed in its entirety, carries with it. For this to happen, we must start with a simple idea, that of worlds in motion. For unless we allow for this concept, it will be impossible to understand Africa as a geo-aesthetic category, and even more so to understand it as a philosophical project. WORLDS IN MOTION Since the emergence of the modern world we have cherished a collective dream of mastering ourselves and nature. To achieve this we had to learn to understand ourselves, to understand nature and to understand the world. Since the end of the seventeenth century the idea has been cultivated that to understand ourselves, nature and the world, it would be necessary to unify the domains of knowledge and develop a science of order, calculation and measurement. In turn, that made it possible to reduce natural and social processes to mathematical formulae – to mathematize them. Once algebra had become the means by which nature was to be modelled, this became a project that fundamentally consisted of making the earth ‘flat’ – that is, homogenizing all its objects, making them interchangeable and manipulable at will. This flattening of the world was to be the dominant tendency for several centuries in modern scientific knowledge. To varying degrees and with varying results, By Achille Mbembe PLANETARY AFRICA When we say “Africa”, what are we really talking about? Is Africa an idea or simply a geographical accident? Or is it rather a pathetic muddle without historical weight and significance about which anyone can say almost anything with no ensuing consequences? What is the “Africa, properly speaking” about which Hegel wrote not so long ago? Is one perhaps referring only to a number of languishing states, plagued by national chauvinism, ethnic wars and corruption? Indeed some names do not refer directly to the thing but glance off it or miss the mark. The purpose of these designations is to distort and obscure. The thing, its truth, will therefore often resist both naming and any conceivable translation; not because it refuses to unmask, but because the force of its proliferation ACHILLE MBEMBE, Cameroonian historian and philosopher, is the author of Critique de la raison nègre (Paris, La Découverte, 2013). His next book, La Pharmacie de Fanon, will appear in 2016.
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