This essay attempts to chart the career of the concept of ‘Africanisms’ in the anthropology and history of the African Diaspora in the Americas. After surveying the origins of the concept, I focus on the role of Melville J. Herskovits’ highly influential mobilisation of the concept, its major mid-20th century critiques, and a highly influential late 20th century reaction to the terms of these debates. I will conclude by indicating how Africanist historians have come to repurpose this concept around the turn of the millennium, and how more recent scholarship might indicate the end of its usefulness as an analytical category.
Afropolitanism’s first enunciation in public discourse can be traced to Taiye Selasi’s 2005 online article, Bye-Bye Babar. This idea of a new subjective experience of African diasporic self-identity then migrated into academic contemplation initially through Achille Mbembe, Wawrzinek and Makokha, Simon Gikandi, and Chielozona Eze’s scholarly and philosophical deepening of Afropolitanism, which has since been variously expanded by many Africanist critics. This keyword think-piece maps the disciplinary beginning and trajectory of Afropolitan ontology and scholarship. It considers the cultural materialialist and phenomenological aspects of the term and its relationship to the concept of Pan-Africanism and concludes with a projection of its possible future critical development.
The future of diaspora goes together with the future of diversity, and the different ways in which states and nations can reconfigure how their mobile, multifaceted members are accepted as belonging. The 2018 FIFA World Cup, like many international sporting events, crystallised some of debates about citizenship and belonging as applied to specific players and, notably for this event, to the ‘foreign-born’ men playing for the Moroccan team. Though public debates often focus on evaluating the ‘belonging’ of individuals who are chosen for elite events to represent the nation, that lens did not seem to be applied to the Moroccan team. By exploring how diversity and diaspora were debated in relation to players for European teams in this same tournament, I explore here how the Moroccan example represents perhaps a new direction for diaspora: one which connects descendants across multiple nations and states without character judgments about who can belong.
Based on my time with im/mobile West Africans in Senegal and Spain since 2007, I propose conviviality to conceptualise the complexity of my interlocutors’ local and diasporic tactics and views of living with difference. Simple everyday encounters such as greeting and dwelling in urban spaces serve to disentangle their various levels of reflection, habitual expectations and tactical action. They had local to global reference frameworks at their disposal. Not pretending to represent their knowledge, I discuss the inspirations I received from trying to understand what they shared with me non/verbally regarding living with difference. To start from this decentred set of premises challenges established Western/Northern politics of living with difference. Through conviviality, I show a distinct way of engaging multiple and overlapping ways of differentiating and homogenising practices and raise awareness for the importance and feasibility of minimal socialities in diasporic configurations, transnational migrations and the respective local urban contexts.
This paper asserts that we are currently experiencing an epochal shift equal to that which inaugurated modernity. If the Caribbean was central to the production of modernity and the subsequent dominance of the West, it is also central to the current epochal shift. By exploring two dimensions of this shift as experienced in Jamaica – the growing influence of China globally, and the challenge contemporary feminist and sexual activism are posing to gendered notions of racial respectability that had previously served as the backbone of nationalism – the paper reflects on how we are being required to imagine sovereignty in new terms. If we are, in fact, witnessing the death of the West, or at least the destabilisation of the dominant parameters of Western liberal governance, what can the space of the Caribbean, and particularly Jamaica, tell us about what sovereignty might mean now and into the future?
Based on auto/biographical and ethnographic narratives and conceptual theories, this essay explores the Global African Diaspora as a racialised space of belonging for African diasporas in the US, the UK, and – more recently – the clandestine migration zones from Africa to southern Europe. Both approaches are used to illustrate the author’s roots, routes, and detours; an interpretive paradigm highlighting the interconnectedness across time and space of differential African diasporas. The critical analysis interrogates transnational modalities of black and Global African Diasporic kinship, consciousness, and solidarity engendered by shared lived experiences of institutionalised racism, structural inequalities, and violence.