Decolonizing the Mind

Decolonizing the Mind

Interviewers: Anne Strainchamps, Steve Paulson Interviewees: Adom Getachew, Simon Gikandi, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o Story Editor: Craig Eley Introductory Text: Dipo Oyeleye

In this third episode of Ideas from Africa Anne Strainchamps and Steve Paulson, producers and hosts of To the Best of Our Knowledge, explore what Decolonizing the Mind portends for African writers, thinkers, and revolutionaries as well as its global significance in the twenty-first century. The hosts discuss the historical, social, and political consciousness of transnational, transatlantic, and pan-African movements. They examine the concept in connection with the agitations for independence in Africa, the civil rights movement, and the contemporary black struggle against racism and imperialism.

Dissecting the psychological depth and visibility of the relics of colonialism and its pathology in identity politics, Englishness, and the language question, Strainchamps and Paulson are joined by Adom Getachew (Political theorist and Professor, University of Chicago), Simon Gikandi (Professor of English, Princeton University), and "the father of decolonizing the mind," Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Author and Professor of English, University of California, Irvine).

In three segments, the program takes the listener on a journey starting with Kwame Nkrumah's speech as he assumed the leadership of an independent Ghana as Prime Minister in 1957. Commentary on the lowering of the British Union Jack flag is then followed by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech narrating that moment as a witness to galvanize America's Civil Rights movement. With this introduction, the show goes back and forth different time capsules to draw on the significance of the call for decolonizing the mind to the twenty-first-century struggle from the "Black Lives Matter" movement in the US to the "Rhodes Must Fall" protests in South Africa. The first segment contextualizes decolonization within the history that births it, and the next part highlights the role of Englishness in the struggle against colonialism and its aftermath in Africa. The last segment sheds light on the theoretical foundation of the concept discussing the politics and hierarchy of language in the psychological warfare to wean the colonized from the domination of imperialism etched into the lifeworld of modern African societies.

Special thanks go to Anne Strainchamps, Steve Paulson, and Craig Eley for the production of this episode. Anne and Steve joined CHCI in Addis Ababa in January 2019 as part of the Consortium's African Humanities Initiative. This initiative is invested in supporting lasting opportunities for collaborative and interdisciplinary humanities research, publication, and community participation. Focusing on Africa and its global connections, this program draws upon CHCI's strengths in bringing together multiple types of humanities organizations beyond those located in universities such as galleries, museums, libraries, archives, publishing houses, street theatres, public radio, and a host of other creative media. In 2019, CHCI hosted two large events bringing together leading scholars, practitioners, and early-career scholars from throughout Africa and the world. One of these events, conducted in French, was held in Dakar, Senegal, while the other, which provides the foundation for this podcast, was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Special thanks to Elizabeth Giorgis for having hosted and organized this workshop on Africa as Concept and Method. A similar event to take place in 2021 in Maputo, Mozambique is in preparation. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o gave the keynote address on "The Power of Translation: Bridging the Gulf between Cultures" at the CHCI-Mellon Global Humanities Institute on Challenges of Translation in Santiago, Chile, in July 2019.

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