The Internet is Afropolitan by Achille Mbembe


by CHRONIC on March 17, 2015

Achille Mbembe discusses the history and horizon of digital communication and identity in the African continent with Bregtje van der Haak. Mbembe suggests that what some regard as the explosion of the Internet is really just the continuation of the age old cultures in the new age of the Afropolitan.

AM: That’s where Africa becomes really interesting because in Africa cosmologies, African systems of thought before the colonial era, and even now, a human person could metamorphose into something else. He or she could become a lion and then a horse or a tree. And that capacity for conversion into something else was also applied to economic transactions. You were always transacting with some other force or some other entity. And you were always busy trying to capture some of the power invested in those entities to add them to your own powers. So, to if one wants to think in those rather essentialist terms, Africa is a fertile ground for the new digital technologies, because the philosophy of those technologies is more or less exactly the same as ancient African philosophies. This archive of permanent transformation, mutation, conversion and circulation is an essential dimension of what we can call African culture. The Internet responds directly to that drive and its cultural success can be explained by the fact that it meets at a very deep level with what has always been the way in which Africans transact with themselves and with the world. And that, in fact, Africans have been postmodern before postmodernism. If you want to have any idea of the world that is coming, the world ahead of us, look at Africa! You’ll see the symptoms and the expressions of that world that is ahead of us. And most readings of the continent have not been able to highlight that because they are looking backward rather than in a future-orientated manner.

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