Modernity is the unfinished business of our times. In the case of
Africa, as the scholars contributing to this volume show, the
continent has been through a particularly ambivalent experience of
modernity. Most work has tended to emphasize, on the one hand, its
alien nature in Africa and, on the other, the ways in which
Africans have resisted it. While acknowledging this tension, the
authors of this volume seek to show the extent to which this very
tension has been constitutive of African social reality. Modernity
is understood as the basic impulse behind the construction of
changing African society over the past one hundred years. The
issues that this volume addresses relate to the ways in which,
first, Africans negotiated the terms of this modernity during the
colonial period and, then, how today they are coming to terms with
it in the post-colonial period. The contributors argue both that
the African experience of modernity is unique and, at the same
time, relevant for social theory more widely. Not only is it
important to describe this experience, but also to acknowledge that
such a description may provide African Studies with valuable
analytical insights into African social reality. In the course of
so doing, cases are presented and issues raised covering new forms
of labour, changing notions and norms relating to land rights,
religious conversion, internal migration, and even emigration.
Indeed, one particularly significant, but often underplayed,
feature that has characterised both the colonial and post-colonial
periods, and which this book deals with extensively, is the
variegated linkages and interactions between Africans in the
diaspora and within the continent.
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