Globalectics: Theory and Politics of Knowing, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, New York: Columbia University Press, 2012

in Historical Materialism
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Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is known for his principled criticism of colonialism, advocacy of the importance of indigenous languages, and concern with the role of culture and literature in forming the foundation of a truly national sensibility. Globalectics adds interpretations of Fanon, Hegel, and the Marxian legacy. It provides an opportunity to assess Ngũgĩ’s analysis of colonialism and national liberation.

Globalectics: Theory and Politics of Knowing, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, New York: Columbia University Press, 2012

in Historical Materialism



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wa Thiong’o 1972ap. 13; see also Chidi Amuta’s 2003 appreciation of wa Thiong’o; and wa Thiong’o 2011.


wa Thiong’o 1972bp. xv.


wa Thiong’o 1995p. 439.


See wa Thiong’o 1997pp. 59–62. W.E.B. DuBois’s 1925 Pan-Africanist vision locates Kenya within the international labour market and sees the logic of capitalism ultimately working to undermine racial segregation (DuBois 1997). See also Hannah Arendt (Arendt 1994) on the nation-state.


See Odinga 1969p. 63.


Fanon 1980p. 183.


See Marx 1979p. 916. Erich Fromm (Fromm 2003 pp. 20–1) comments on this phrase: ‘Marx saw that political force cannot produce anything for which there has been no preparation in the social and political process. . . . . Marx transcends the traditional middle-class concept − he did not believe in the creative power of force in the idea that political force itself could create a new social order. For this reason force for Marx could have at most only a transitory significance never the role of a permanent element in the transformation of society’. For Gewalt as legitimate power justified authority as well as violence see Walter Benjamin (Benjamin 1996).


Fanon 1980p. 50 invokes Engels in his attack on mealy-mouthed reformist nationalist leaders at the same time as he rejects Engels’s ‘childish position’ that the triumph of violence depends upon the production of armaments. See also Jean-Paul Sartre’s comments on Anti-Dühring (Sartre 2004 pp. 144−52).


Fanon 1980p. 74.


Cocks 1995p. 227. See also Nick Hewlett’s discussion of Balibar’s theorisation of political violence (Hewlett 2007 pp. 129−36); and David Macey (Macey 2000 pp. 295 464–5) on Fanon’s view of violence as a cleansing force and Fanon’s address at the All-African People’s Congress Accra Ghana (pp. 367–8).


Fanon 1980p. 74.


Gibson 2007p. 94 n. 35.


See also wa Thiong’o and Sahl 2004.


Fanon 1967pp. 220–1 n. 8. Octave Mannoni confirms that the use of violence can solve problems but for the soldier to make peace with himself ‘he must first have recognised himself in the enemy. . . . This is hardly possible in a colonial war’ (Mannoni 1964 p. 88).


See Sartre 1984p. 720.


Fanon 1980pp. 69 47; and see p. 41. Assertion of humanity does not redeem the master but circulates in the struggle of the oppressed. Whereas under the colonial regime gratitude sincerity and honour are empty words in the anti-colonial struggle ‘honour self-sacrifice love of life and scorn of death have taken on no ordinary forms’; ‘honour dignity and respect for the given word can only manifest themselves in the framework of national and international homogeneity’ (Fanon 1980 p. 238).


See Sekyi-Otu 1996.


wa Thiong’o 2003.


See Sartre 1984p. 156. The restitution of the interrupted continuity of identity that is the colonised self – a repressed foundational national self and source of unity is transcendentalised as the origin and destination of culture and politics – recalls Sartre’s The Transcendence of the Ego (Sartre 1960 pp. 38 41). However for Sartre a transcendental ‘I’ is the death of consciousness for as Being and Nothingness puts it hypostatising the being of the for-itself makes it into an in-itself (Sartre 1984 p. 156).


See Baruch Hirson’s (1990) critique of C.L.R. James on this score.


Kojève 1969pp. 8−9.


Marx 1992p. 379.


Hegel 1977§184 p. 112; and §190 pp. 115−16.


Hegel 1977§193 p. 117. The master-slave dialectic reappears in The Philosophy of Spirit Part III of the Encyclopaedia (1817) §§352–9 which returns to the terms of the System of Ethical Life.


Hegel 1977§188 pp. 114−15; and see Stern (ed.) 1991. For Kojève: ‘In fact Individuality can be fully realized the desire for Recognition can be completely satisfied only in and by the universal and fully homogeneous State. For in the homogeneous State the “specific-differences” [Besonderheiten] of class race and so on are “overcome”’ (Kojève 1969 p. 237).


Lacan 2006p. 686.


wa Thiong’o 2009p. 114.


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