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Department for Afroamerican and African Studies pres.

DAAS Africa Workshop "Rhodes Must Not Rise: An Alternative Afrofuturism"

Harri Englund (Anthropology, Cambridge)

In the 1880s, when the future of Malawi was being decided between Cecil Rhodes and the British government, Protestant missionaries from Scotland issued a series of scathing attacks on Rhodes’s imperial designs. For David Clement Scott, the most visionary amongst them, Rhodes epitomised the wrong turn that race relations would take when the territory was declared a Protectorate in 1891. Scott’s vision was of an Africa in which different races worked for the common good – “not side by side but as one”. From language learning to land tenure, the approach he advocated was no idealism detached from practical initiatives. It involved as much status reversal between white and black as it did hierarchical forbearance. By attending to some of Scott’s short-lived innovations, I ask whether the intervening century has made such decolonial thought all but impossible to comprehend in its own terms. What is the prospect of recovering de-racialized humanity, even if in a Christian key, as the critical concept in decolonial thought?

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