Reading Ibn Khaldun in Kampala: Mahmood Mamdani | Critical Encounters

If there is one lesson we can draw from the colonial discourse and practice on tradition, it is that there is no single and authoritative – or authentic – African tradition.  There is no authoritative – or authentic – tradition, whether African or other.  Tradition is best thought of as a set of debates, both roads taken and those not taken. Taken as this, tradition is a totality of resources from which to craft possible futures.  Not only are African traditions multiple, but the traditions that inform life of people on the African continent, today as in the past, are also multiple.  The African heritage is not just drawn from within the territorial boundaries of the continent. The life of societies on the African continent is informed by a multiplicity of traditions.  These include Islam and Arabic.  To acknowledge this is to move away from a notion of culture (and tradition) as authentic but frozen to a notion of culture as alive and changing, understood as forms of knowledge of self, the other and the environment.


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