In ·1he Heart of Darkness’
Olu Oguibe
Prehisto,y. History. Posthistory. It is evidence o f the arrogance o l Occidental culture an d discourse
lhat even the concept of history should be turned into a colony whose borders. raliditie-s, structures
an d configurations. even life tenure. ara solely and enti rely d ecided by the West. lhisway his tory is
constructedas a validating pr ivilege. which it is the West’s to grant. like United Nations’ reco gnition.
to sections. nations. moments. discourses. cultures, phenomena. realities. peoples. In the past
fiftyy,,ar s. as Occid ental i ndividualism h as grown with industrial hyperrealily, it has become m ore
and more the pri•;ilege of individual dis:ourses and schools of thought lo grant. deny. concede. and retract the right to history. Time and history. we are inst.–ucted. are no longer given. Indeed.
history is to be distinguished from History. and the tatter reserved for rree-market civilisation,
,,,,hich, dependir>g on the school of thought. would e ith erdieor triumph with it. Though they
both share a belief in consolidating systematisation a.s a condition of historicism. Francis
Fu kuyama in the 1980s. and Arnol d Gehlen in th e immediate i,osl-Nazi period differ on the
speaficil ies of the question.Wnile on the one hand Fukuyarna betievesthat the triumpho f f ree
mar~et systematisation over regulated economies marks the end of History.’ Gehlen and the
subsequent school of post-Nazi pessimism posited that the triumph of liberal democracy
aver Fascism marked the end of Historyand t he beginning of PoS!-his toire.
In both cases. what comes oot very clearly. desplie the differences that define and
preoccupy th e di scourse on t he fate ofHistory. is theconsignment of the rest ol h um anity outside
the Old and NewWest into inconsequence- Fe r Gehlen . who had a better an d stronger sense of
history and intellectual integrity than Fukuyama can claim, the entirety cf humanitywas victim to
a universal syncretisrn that subverts the e5Sence of history. For Fuku~1ama. thisuniversality is to
be taken for granted.a lthou gh the major ityofhumanity i s indeed, factuallyand h istorically
speakin g. h ardly subject to l iberal democracy. To a great extent. Humanity. forFuku1-ama and
marry others. is synonymous vvith the Group of $e!en and Eastern Europe. Under Reaganism­
Thatcherism even lhe spatial definitionof historyseverely retrac1s to the Pre-Columbian.
The contest forHistory iscentral lo lh e struggle for a redefin ition and eventual decimation of
centrism and its engendering discourse.VJithout restituting History to other than just the Ocetdent.
or more accurately, recognising th e u nr…,rsa!ity of the concept of Historywhile perhaps leaving
its specific configurations to individual cultures, it is untenable and unrealistic to place such other
temporal and id eological concepts as Modernism. Moderni~J. Contemparameity, Oevelopmenl ,
in the a rena. IfTime is a colony, then nothing is free.
Premodem ism. Mo dernism. Postmodernism . Forth eWest erase Premooernis m. For lhe rest
replace with Primitivism. It is tempting to dwellon the denialof modernitytoA.frica orcuttures

322 Reading t”e Contemporary
other ti-an theWer,t. The underlying necessity to consign the res, of huma1ity to ant ,qu,;y and
atrophy so as to cast the West in the jght ofprogress and c :vil1satton has been sufficientlyexplored
by scholars. Hnot for the conti …,uing ar.d pervading powers an d impl ications ofwhat Edward Said
hasc’esc~b£d as structures of reference, it would be mpl’oper to spend l meo– the q …estion. It is
impor’..a nt to undetstand th~tv,l·te counter-ceritrist dis~o-rse has a responsib;lity to explore and expose thesestructures. thete is an element of conce-ssionism in tc:hering all Ciscourse to the role
and place of the outsiee.To perpetvally c:oun:er a centre ·s to recognise il. In otherwords, d sc:::>urse
– ourd scourse – should begin tom ove in the d,rect,on o:d smiss1n9. at leas: indiscursive terms.
the conceot of a cen tre, not bymO’Jing 1~. ;sNgLgi nas suggested.: bul by superseding it it is
in th1sconte:.d that a ny meaning futd’.scussion oi modernity and·modernism· in Africa mus.t be
conducted. ;-ot in relation to the idea of an existing centre or a ·modernism· agains1 which we must
aH find our bearings. but in recognmor of the mJh. pticky and :ulture-specificityof mcderr:ism 5
a i d the pluralityof centres. The history ofdevelopm en t i;Ajrk.&n socteties hasmetam~rph os.ed
quite considerably ovef lhe c.ent1.-ne-s, ~:;!r”‘;in9 frQm:heaccounts ofArabscholars and adventurer s
as •.-.,eHas internal records of royalties 2nd ~ing:’oms. to the subversive colon ialist narra1,ves and mega-narratives. Recent times have wnnessed re•:1s1ons i… earlier texts. ano a
gro·.·.•in9 willingness to adrr:it the shortcomings of outsider narraiives. Coontering discourses h2ve
pul ‘”-istory. v:ith allns inconsistencies ard vutnerabili~ies, back in the hands of each o•Nning society.
and shown howca refullyw,, must lread.
Ill In light of theab0’1e. the concept ofan .African culture. O’” an Africar1ty.which1s qurte o ften taken for
granted. isequally problematte. ltseems to ~ e thatw~ cannot discussan African mc.dernilyor
· mode …nism· ..-11thout agreeing first on eithe- the fictivenfss cf ·Atri:-ann.y· or the impe ..etive of
a plural ity of ·modernism s· inAfrica.
Ofcourse. one may well ~e wrong here. Yet it is to be recognised tha’:. like ‘:he entity and idea
called Eu rope. the specificities ofwhich ~ro s’.ill in the making and l~e collective h story ofwhich
dates no earlier~han Napoleon – the idea of Rome and Greece is d ishonest – Africa isa historical
construct rather than a definitrve. t✓. anyhave argued. prominent among them the Afrocenlfist
school the a nt,quityof a Bla ce !gu-.;1. wo-…oflg ,~eCer.’.N:: The S•n.,gy’e iorC :J:L–,;t
Freniom .Londc”l: H~i- n,;,Jnn. i~Y3,.

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