ISBN 9789956553808
Pages 266
Dimensions 229x152
Published 2024
Publisher Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon
Format Paperback

Incompleteness Mobility and Conviviality

Ad. E. Jensen Memorial Lectures 2023 Frobenius-Institut Goethe-University

by Francis B. Nyamnjoh

Central to the Jensen Memorial Lectures 2023 is an invitation to take incompleteness seriously in how we imagine, relate to and seek to understand a world in perpetual motion. Despite our instinct for and obsession with completeness, we are constantly reminded that the sooner one recognises and provides for incompleteness and the conviviality it inspires as the normal way of being, the better we are for it. Fluidity, compositeness and the capacity to be present in multiple places and forms simultaneously in whole or in fragments are core characteristics of reality and ontology of incompleteness. How would we frame our curiosities and conversations about processes, relationships and phenomena with an understanding of the universality of incompleteness and mobility? West and Central Africa, for example, are regions where it is commonplace to embrace and celebrate incompleteness in nature, the suprasensory, human beings, human actions, human inventions and human achievements. The lectures indicate how we could draw inspiration in this regard to inform current clamours for decolonisation and the growing ambivalence about rapid advances in digital technologies (artificial intelligence (AI) in particular), as well as with twenty-first century concerns about migrants and strangers knocking at the doors of opportunities we feel more entitled to as bona fide citizens and insiders. The lectures draw on the writings of Amos Tutuola as well as from popular ideas of personhood and agency in Africa, to make a case for sidestepped and silenced traditions of knowledge. They highlight Africa’s possibilities, prospects and emergent capacities for being and becoming in tune with the continent’s creativity and imagination. They speak to the nimble-footed flexible-minded frontier African at the crossroads and junctions of myriad encounters, facilitating creative conversations and challenging regressive logics of exclusionary claims and articulation of identities and achievements. The traditions of knowledge discussed in these lectures do not only speak to Africans, but to the world, as the philosophies explored have universal application. 

“The crucial anthropological question of relationality and othering is at the heart of this original and enlightening book. Nyamnjoh cautions the missionaries of decoloniality against the risk of substituting one illusion of completeness with another. For him, incompleteness is the basis of any healthy exchange. He therefore recommends embracing the universality of incompleteness in motion and taking seriously an ancestral tradition of self-extension through creative imagination in this anxious age of artificial intelligence. Forcefully argued and abundantly substantiated – with finesse and laughter that run through it – this book will be a milestone by making us rediscover the demands and the magic of fieldwork.” 

Prof. Dr. Mamadou Diawara, Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main Frobenius-Institut, Frankfurt/Main Point Sud, Bamako, Mali

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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).