African Discourse- Humanities, Literature and Public Sphere
By: Maduabuchi Dukor
Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria
African Discourse is a literary expression designating the meta-theoretical and meta-narrative interpretation of the subject of African predicament in the age of imperialism globalization and imperialism. The issues raised are for good reasons inheritances from the Western modernity, colonialism and neo-colonialism which are largely and collectively acculturation, enculturation and psychological or mental disequilibrium, to use Fraz Fanon analysis or metaphor, of black skin and while mind. This discourse therefore, point blankly and causally places the origin of African predicament or retardation at the door step of European or western modernity which with all its problematic eroded uninterruptedly and calculatively African continent and culture.
A definition of African predicament, is therefore, necessary to charting the course of this discourse, it is three fold; the 18th century modernity crisis generated by the problems of the literary and public sphere and as it were inherited by the peripherical states in Africa; the colonial content of modernity and the western invasion of African states; and thirdly the failure of the African to decolonize themselves and propagate their cultural tapestory of literary and public spheres, otherwise, captured here as African philosophy of culture and good governance.
The concept of cultural subjectivity and human authenticity is fundamental to Western civilization as it is to an African civilization. This is because the inheritance of the culture consuming public is derived more from the public sphere in the world of letters than from the realm of power and political economy. Beyond subjectivity, the greatest contributions of the literary public sphere to the political sphere lay in the development of institutional base. It is not surprising, therefore, why literary public sphere produced the practice of literary criticism, which promotes the political public sphere as a mode of social integration. Public discourse or what Jurgen Habermas calls communication action is a possible mode of coordination of human life, as are state power and market economies. But money and power are non-discourse modes of coordination as Habermas theory stresses; “they after no intrinsic openings to the identification of reason and will, and they suffer from tendencies towards domination and reification. State and economy are thus both crucial topics for the rivals of the democratic public sphere” (Calhoun, 1997:6). While Habermas had critiqued the modern European bourgeois public sphere as an entanglement with domination, reification and one-dimensional category, this African discourse is a critique of both modernity crisis and Habermas defence of modernity cultural imperialism as well as a defence of the African fourth-dimensional categories in both the literary and public spheres.
In this work one will discover the truth to imperialism that though Habermas as influenced largely by the Frankfut School of 1930s, his sympathies were clearly with the ideas of the bourgeois public sphere, as a defender of the Enlightenment project of modernity against postmodernism. In line with the discoursive canon of the Frankfurt School, and slim departure here and there, Habermas has the knack of arguing in a circle without reference to extant and existing narratives and literature in African philosophy on matters of rationality and critical public debate. It is of interest to note that African philosophy predated Western Enlightenment; neither would the consensus democracy of Kenyian Ujamaa or that of the Igbo or Yoruba in Nigeria less critical and less rational than the western democracy. In the same vein, there exists objective and subjective knowledge in African philosophy establishing an accessible route through reason and intuition into the inaccessible Kantian nuomena. Again Habermas project of revising the Frankfurt School’s critical theory and modernity’s one dimensional epistemology unfortunately ended up in another version of one-dimensional theory of bourgeois literal and public sphere or discourse. His one dimensional political and economic public sphere ends up as a reification of Caucasian ego and Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to the chagrin of the objectivity and rationality of the negroids and the mongoloids.