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Radical Silence – Ways Out of Ineffability in African Studies

This project addresses the paradox of being intelligible to interlocutors who speak a language incapable of rendering my world intelligible. I draw from Kwasi Wiredu’s concept of “untranslatability” to, first, map out the terrain of unintelligibility, and second, understand the meaning of the claim to the effect that a given language is unable to render a certain world intelligible. The goal is to recover theoretical and conceptual ground in the important task initiated and vigorously pursued by scholars of Postcolonialism and Decoloniality in their critique of the limitations of “Western” ways of knowing as applied to the non-Western world. I situate my project in the more limited bounds of the methodology of the social sciences because owing to my experience of carrying out research in Africa and lecturing on Africa I feel the need to clarify the relationship between African Studies and the disciplines, on the one hand, and the relationship between the practice of science and my own status as an African within the broader context of lingering epistemological doubts. The ultimate goal is to write a book with the tentative title “Radical Silence”. By qualifying silence as “radical”, I seek to underline a potential stock of intelligibility rendering the silence pregnant with meaning and eloquent in nature.


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Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].