ISBN 9789956764655
ePub ISBN 9789956764433
Pages 326
Dimensions 229 x 152mm
Published 2017
Publisher Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon
Formats Paperback, eBook

Drinking from the Cosmic Gourd

How Amos Tutuola Can Change Our Minds

by Francis B. Nyamnjoh

This book questions colonial and apartheid ideologies on being human and being African, ideologies that continue to shape how research is conceptualised, taught and practised in universities across Africa. Africans immersed in popular traditions of meaning-making are denied the right, by those who police the borders of knowledge, to think and represent their realities in accordance with the civilisations and universes they know best. Often, the ways of life they cherish are labelled and dismissed too eagerly as traditional knowledge by some of the very African intellectual elite they look to for protection. The book makes a case for sidestepped traditions of knowledge. It draws attention to Africa’s possibilities, prospects and emergent capacities for being and becoming in tune with its creativity and imagination. It speaks to the nimble-footed flexible-minded “frontier African” at the crossroads and junctions of encounters, facilitating creative conversations and challenging regressive logics of exclusionary identities. The book uses Amos Tutuola’s stories to question dualistic assumptions about reality and scholarship, and to call for conviviality, interconnections and interdependence between competing knowledge traditions in Africa.

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“Twenty years after his death, valued by some scholars and writers but discounted by others, Amos Tutuola here finds a compelling advocate. Nyamnjoh reveals a voice that both embraces a range of African communal experience beyond ‘lettered’ reach and challenges commonplace aesthetic and philosophical constructs of African knowledge. And he shows why Tutuola matters, in his own time and now.”

Milton Krieger, Emeritus Professor, Western Washington University

“Francis Nyamnjoh invites us to rethink contemporary cosmopolitanism through strange encounters and marvellous episodes recounted in the stories of Amos Tutuola, a mid-twentieth century Nigerian Yoruba author. This might seem an endeavour more implausible than the tales themselves, but reading will change your mind.”

Richard Fardon, Professor of West African Anthropology, SOAS, University of London

“Tutuola’s tales of frontiers, of incompleteness, of crossroads and conviviality advance profound epistemological perspectives on being and knowledge that we will do well to acknowledge. Nyamnjoh positions Tutuola as a vernacular theorist whose narratives are a fount of hermeneutical and epistemological insight. Much is often made of the idea of vernacular theory but this book is an exemplary instance of putting that idea into practice.”

Harry Garuba, poet and scholar, University of Cape Town

“The book is an important contribution to African intellectual history. It offers a fresh and original interpretation of the life and work of Amos Tutuola, but at the same time marks a substantial advance in the ongoing epistemological debates on the study of Africa…. Based on his concept of the incompleteness of human existence, Nyamnjoh opts for an inclusive, dialogical and interdisciplinary approach. Of special interest is the way in which he relates ethnography to fiction and his focus on the real life experiences of ordinary people. This is a seminal work which no doubt will have a significant impact on current epistemological thinking.”

Professor Bernard Lategan, Founding Director, Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS)

“Weaving varied ethnographic accounts together with richly textured historical perspectives, Nyamnjoh traces and rehabilitates the checkered career of an unusual and often controversial literary icon.”

Sanya Osha, author of African Postcolonial Modernity: Informal Subjectivities and the Democratic Consensus

About the Author

Francis B. Nyamnjoh

Francis B. Nyamnjoh joined the University of Cape Town in August 2009 as Professor of Social Anthropology from the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), Dakar, Senegal, where he served as Head of Publications from July 2003 to July 2009. He has taught sociology, anthropology and communication studies at universities in Cameroon and Botswana, and has researched and written extensively on Cameroon and Botswana. In October 2012 he received a University of Cape Town Excellence Award for “Exceptional Contribution as a Professor in the Faculty of Humanities”. He is recipient of the “ASU African Hero 2013” annual award by the African Students Union, Ohio University, USA. He is: a B1 rated Professor and Researcher by the South African National Research Foundation (NRF); a Fellow of the Cameroon Academy of Science since August 2011; a fellow of the African Academy of Science since December 2014; a fellow of the Academy of Science of South Africa since 2016; and Chair of the Editorial Board of the South African Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Press since January 2011. His scholarly books include: Africa’s Media, Democracy and the Politics of Belonging (2005); Insiders and Outsiders: Citizenship and Xenophobia in Contemporary Southern Africa (2006); “C'est l'homme qui fait l'homme”: Cul-de-Sac Ubuntu-ism in Côte d'Ivoire (2015); and #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa (2016).

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