How Colonialism Preempted Modernity in Africa
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Why hasn't Africa been able to respond to the challenges of modernity and globalization? Going against the conventional wisdom that colonialism brought modernity to Africa, Olúfémi Táíwò claims that Africa was already becoming modern and that colonialism was an unfinished project. Africans aspired to liberal democracy and the rule of law, but colonial officials aborted those efforts when they established indirect rule in the service of the European powers. Táíwò looks closely at modern institutions, such as church missionary societies, to recognize African agency and the impulse toward progress. He insists that Africa can get back on track and advocates a renewed engagement with modernity. Immigration, capitalism, democracy, and globalization, if done right this time, can be tools that shape a positive future for Africa.
beneficiaries of a way of life whose burdens they have borne more than any other people. In chapter 2, I examined in considerable detail the philosophical discourse of modernity. I identified there various elements that form the core of modernity. In this section, I shall be concerned with the institutionalization of the philosophical discourse of modernity in law. Of significance here is how well or ill the law and the legal system that the British bequeathed to their African colonies embody the
but its practical and institutional manifestations were always the same: common law versus customary law, modern law versus traditional law, regular courts versus native courts, citizens versus subjects, and so on. One system of law and its remedies was available to those who were designated human and deserving of respect due to legal subjects. Those who fell within this category, in line with the level of development of legal theory and practice in England, could invoke any of the remedies
class, had a proclivity for “going native”—that is, mixing with the natives and mimicking their ways. Nor should one expect that each category is clearly and sharply delineated from the other. At various times, the membership of one category overlapped with another. What is important is to take seriously the divergences in the colonial situation and how, within what on the whole was a more or less unified world view, there were significant variations that had implications for how the entire
by foreign traffic, together with education and the Gospel, would create new wants and new aspirations, which would naturally and inevitably lead to the regeneration of society.”44 To that end, the missionaries sought to interpose between themselves and their converts a middle-class complement that was brought up in the arts, crafts, and commerce. This middle-class group would be endowed with appropriate beliefs in the new ways of being human that the new civilization enjoined and would be fired
modification of old ones was extirpated from colonial discourse and practice. What is remarkable is that despite these difficulties, the missionaries of the autonomy model garnered stupendous achievements in their implementation of the program Buxton’s society outlined. In light of the limited material support of the secular authorities, the occasional hostility of the administrators and traders, and the sheer immensity of the task, we must in hindsight marvel at what the early nineteenth-century