Introduction: The Responsibility of Awkwardness


  • Nicolette Bragg Cornell University



The thought of the limit has in its genetics the questioning of time and place. The essays in this collection, African Thinking and/at Its Limits, demonstrate this essential interrogation (how time and space both belong to a certain critical modality); their address of (and at) the limits of African thinking is inevitably also one that presents us with the limitedness of temporal and spatial understandings. For the limit signals the very reach(es) of time and place, and enables the possibility of territory, control, management, and measure – possibilities that can seem at once infinite and inordinately restricted. Possibility, the very provocation of the limit, can itself be formulated in terms of time and place—What can (yet) be done? Where is it possible to go? Where do we from here? The limit signifies both expiration, the farthest point a thinking can take one, and consolidation, the demarcation and establishment of a territory. These questions of time and place are, as such and for these very reasons, bound up in any thinking of Africa. This, too, is clear from the issues addressed by the contributions to this collection, not the least of which are the very historicity of the concepts commonly used to assess or explain state crisis, the hangovers of colonial paradigms, and how to think, address, and analyze the crisis of the postcolony.