After the upheaval of the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the global movement for Black lives as well as the ensuing backlash, 2022 did feel like a bland sort of year in some senses. On the other hand, the easing of pandemic restrictions gave us space, it seems to feel deeply the other things happening in the world. Political uncertainty in Britain, rising inflation around the world, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, political change in South America, the World Cup in Qatar, among other things. It almost seems as if 2022 was trying to make up for the slowing of pace that COVID lockdowns occasioned.
As is my usual practice, I would like to use my first blog post of the new year, to look back on the year that has gone by, parse some of its lessons and look ahead to the next year.
2023: My Year of Publication!
My activity on the blog in 2022 was affected by the fact that I was finishing my book. Which I finished and have written about elsewhere on the blog. I have now corrected all the proofs (my poor eyes!) I have tried to track down all the typos, but I cannot guarantee that one or two did not escape me. The book is due to be published on the 15th of March 2023. It is now available for pre-order (go for it!).
2022 on the Blog
My first post of 2022, “2021: A Year of Blogging, Twittering, Writing, Crying, Hoping… Living“, was a reflection on 2021, which ended with an encouragement to build the new worlds that we need to survive this one.
My next post was a collection of my online talks and lectures as well as an introduction to my YouTube channel (to which more content will be added in the ensuing years, fingers crossed!). Also check out my podcast.
In continuing my series of African leaders, I wrote an essay, “To Be Mountains, To Return to the Source of Power“, examining the life, times and legacies of Amílcar Cabral. This was quite emotional for me to write and research. It involved not just reading about Cabral but also listening to commemorative music. Some of those songs are in the post. Here is another:
I think the fact that the essay I wrote about Cabral was so emotional was part of the reason why my next essay was a bit more light-hearted. In my next post, I explained why, despite my love for romance stories, the world that the Netflix series Bridgerton imagined and created – a racially diverse world – did not go far enough to present a counterfactual that rejected the material logics and consequences of a colonially ordered world. In Romance is not our way out of hell, I argue that this imagined world did not engage with the origins of imperial wealth and dispossession, and therefore, is unable to disrupt, through its stories, the silencing of the subaltern.
As the cost of living crisis deepens, we should pay close attention to the fact that the reasons why we accept that to live [and not just exist] comes with a cost, arises from the way we have organised our societies and not because there is a cost naturally inherent in living. This crisis has led, in an unprecedented wave, to many labour unions calling for strike action, including the Universities and Colleges Union, to which many lecturers in the UK belong. Reflecting on the outcomes of many industrial actions that I have been affected by, I wrote a comparative essay, “University Trade Unions United By the Near and Far” about academic trade union disputes, comparing Nigeria to the UK. One clear difference is the ‘striking’ effect of the laws on what form of industrial action is possible in the UK. I ponder some reasons for other differences, including the politics and histories of these different countries.
My next post was something I had been working on for many years, an indirect answer to the question, ‘how do we become better allies?’ And so I asked, “Are we Allies in the Struggle or Just Struggling with the Idea of Allyship?” Using a movie adaptation of a book that reflects on the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, I argue that an ally is not something we become, but ‘allyship’ is evidenced by continuous growth combined with action.
Another post which I had been working on for a while and finally finished writing, focused on my concerns with the field of “African studies” – “Africa is Missing from our Curricula and Even African Studies Has Failed To Locate Her“. The publication of this essay coincidentally coincided with yet another crisis in ‘African studies’ – a crisis that essentially exemplified my worries about the field and its treatment of its main topic. In the essay I explored the reasons why I think, despite the promise of a field dedicated to the study of Africa, it offers no true home for African people.
My final blog post for 2022 summarised my forthcoming book. As I explain in the essay, the book seeks to examine some of the fundamental concepts of legal knowledge and how these have been affected by their use in the intertwined processes of racialised enslavement and exploitative colonisation.
Academic Publications in 2022
There were two main ones. First, in the edited collection “What is Legal Education For?” my brilliant colleague, Katie Bales and I contributed a chapter in which we urge Law Schools to embrace anti-racist and decolonial legal education, as a necessary part of their function. The chapter is called: “Reinventing possibility: A reflection on law, race and decolonial discourse in legal education.” In What Is Legal Education For?, pp. 85-110. Routledge, 2022.
Secondly, in “Black/African Science Fiction and the Quest for Racial Justice through Legal Knowledge“, I comment on ‘mainstream’ science fiction and its engagement with racialisation in constructing its dystopias and utopias. I also argue more generally that the relationship between law, time, temporality, race and racism is vital to understanding the continuous reproduction of racial injustice and the making permanent of colonial logics. This is an argument that I also touch upon in the forthcoming book, but in this article I also make some suggestions as to how Black/African science fiction such as Octavia Butler’s Kindred, can be used to teach these ideas in law schools.
Some Lessons as 2022 Expires: How do we become human
We have come to the end of 2022. Battered and bruised and shaken – but we are here. So what has 2022 taught me? Big question. One thing that struck me towards the end of year, was how often people trying to heal division, say things like “despite how divided we are, we are all still human”. But it seems to me that it is failure to accept that we are all human that really divides us. To reverse division, we must ask ourselves, if humanity can learn humanity once more, can the body learn freedom again? Because we stand here at the dawn of 2023, in the midst of global inequality, racialised and gendered disparity, rising waters, under the shadow of a boiling sun, facing the threat of increasing pandemics… in danger of environmental and self-induced annihilation, as a result of humanity refusing to accept that everyone, everyone should be afforded equal protection and equal standards of life.
Therefore, nothing I have witnessed in 2022 has changed my belief that we need to understand the past to comprehend the present and properly plan for the future. As the world increasingly becomes a more and more hostile place – for humans, other life and the earth itself – it is important for us to collectively accept that care is a necessary methodology if we are to survive. Care for each other, and the earth on which we currently precariously survive. In all this, academics have a vital role to play. An added reminder with a poem I wrote in a different post:
We are standing on a mass grave, a wretched earth, its soil soaked in blood.
This planet burns with injustice, inequity… in fire and so many cannot breathe on it.
‘Back to normal!’, they cry…
While we are still in the death zone, the sunken place, cast beneath the abyssal line.
So here is your reminder, that for many, ‘normal’ has always been deadly,
For the damned of the earth ‘normal’ has always meant living in the jaws of a killing machine.
2023: The year to come
As usual, I am working on a couple of blog posts for the year ahead. A number of these will be accompanying material for the forthcoming book and commentary on the writing process. I do hope to finish my essay on Vatanım Sensin, because in the context of rising toxic nationalism, there are a few comments I want to make on that and relate to the series. Hopefully, my co-edited book on antiracist/decolonising legal pedagogy should be out this year too. The call for papers was published here in 2021. Forever Africa Conference will be happening this year. Hopefully in person!
But most importantly, no matter what I write, or how much I write here, I hope to remain true to my reasons for starting this blog. The blog is called African Skies because the land and skies join us together. The skies belong to us all in equal measure. As does the future. As does hope. And even though we fear for today and tomorrow and the future is bleak, without hope all we are left with is absolute assurance of destruction. Foluke’s African Skies seeks to speak hope in the darkness, bring knowledge to the forefront. So we can look up into the skies, in hope, and see the African stars. Which are all of us. Oju orun t’eye e fo, lai fara kanra.
Bring on 2023!