199: The Invention of Africa by V.Y. Mudimbe

by Gerard


199.6: Mudimbe, V. Y. The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1988. 216 pp. ISBN 0-253-33126-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 100: Philosophy and Psychology
  • 190: Modern Western and other non-Eastern philosophy
  • 199: Modern Western philosophy in other geographic areas
  • 199.6: Africa

V. Y. Mudimbe’s The Invention of Africa is an exploration in the philosophical landscape of the Africa continent through centuries of colonization. At least, that’s what I hoped it would be. Instead, it’s two hundred pages of name-dropping, Foucault-quoting, Levi-Strauss-loving madness. It’s a mish-mash of contemporary thinkers quoted in context with figures from Africa’s past. This book is dense and wholly un-fun. He spends way too much time criticizing Eurocentric portrayals of African thinking and not enough time actually writing about African thinkers. There is far too much academic jargon as well. It seems that the only intended audience for this book is the author himself. I would have rather read a book with chapters for the dominant cultures in Africa and how they envisioned thought, knowledge, and the universe. There is little bit of that here, but Mudimbe can’t seem to get out of his own head sometimes. To be fair, though, the bibliography is chock full of diverse sources if you want to dig deeper into the subject. Unfortunately, the only reason I can see to read this is if you are in an African philosophy course or writing a dissertation. Other than that, you’re on your own.