8 minutes and 46 seconds: That’s how long Derek Chauvin held his knee on George Floyd’s neck, as alleged by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office criminal complaint against the former Minneapolis police officer.
This is another one of my reading lists. Readers of this parish [sorry, blog] will have seen the one on Pan-Africanism and a crowd-sourced one for new or aspiring law students. [The next reading list will be solely on decolonisation, it is about 60% finished.Watch space – this one] This anti-racism list is partially crowd-sourced as well [Thank you to everyone who contributed – mainly on Twitter]. I like publishing reading lists as they make life easier for people who are often called upon to provide reading suggestions. I noticed however, that as my lists get longer and longer, they may not be as easy to use or navigate. Therefore, I have tried to make this list thematic. There will obviously be some overlapping themes here – reading material suited for more than one theme. Do let me know what themes are missing. There will also be something that you may have read and liked and it is not on the list. Please put additional suggestions in the comments. Noting of course, how impossible it would be to make any such list exhaustive. Thank you for reading. Looking forward to additional suggestions.
This is essentially a incovidient post [not directly related to covid-19], nevertheless, I think it is important to note here that decolonial concerns are not in competition with the global pandemic. Initial data suggests that people from non-white backgrounds are most affected by covid-19. So, while there is always a temptation in these situations to pit one problem against the other – actions to manage the outcome of the pandemic against decolonial imperatives – we must resist that temptation and resist it is strongly. Also we can walk and chew gum and the same time. The impact of the pandemic has been to deepen inequality and not level it, contrary to what is often suggested. Reiteration is not confirmation. Admittedly, the virus cannot discriminate [it is a virus – barely sentient], but people and structures do discriminate. And people and structures determine who may live and who must die. Therefore the effect of the pandemic does discriminate. As I mentioned in my earlier piece about our world and covid-19, we must let our dreams and visions and knowledge structures and epistemologies and universities and schools and institutions… do more than continually reproduce an uneven world. A world where the lots of those who must die so that others may live, have always been unfairly cast.
This has got to be the weirdest time for students about to start their degrees. Following the corona-related shutting down of all schools, and the suspension of entrance exams, potential university undergraduates are probably feeling like they have been cast adrift on a sea of uncertainty. The guiding hand which represents the world they have known since they started formal education at the age of four, abruptly yanked away. Almost every year, I get asked for recommendations of books for aspiring law students. The stakes are so high this year. Therefore, when I received a similar request this year, I decided to crowd-source my response on Twitter, and received an overwhelming response.
I have often said that fear is humanity’s greatest vulnerability.
And in this moment, in this time, we live in great fear.
We are afraid that we will never have enough,
We are afraid that we will never be safe enough,
We are afraid that the air will not be kind to us,
We are afraid that the earth we walk upon will soon cover us,
As at time of writing, the global death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 10,000. Many countries around the world are in some form of lockdown. Patterns of work and life are changing, maybe forever. As death tolls rise from country to country, people who have never lived in close proximity to death before are being forced to stare death in the face. Those who have always known death’s name have felt its cold visage draw closer. For some of us who live between those two worlds, known terrors have come calling once more. As the numbers rise, we know that there are names behind each figure, entire lives that exist no more, we know once again the pain of the left behind, as we deal in death once more.
My mind is numb. Pictures, videos, emails, messages and tweets from around the world. Fear, panic, dread, loss and uncertainty. And a thousand letters from ‘caring’ company CEOs telling me how they will carry on through this unprecedented disaster. Every day, every hour, updates from around the world. From every continent, every region, every country, every province. We are counting the dead. We are counting the dead. How does one write through a global disaster? Should one write through catastrophe?
In 2018, I gave a presentation at The International Student Conference for Africa (TISCA) at the University of Leicester. The focus of the presentation was broadly on the legal implications of fundamental constitutional change on the continent of Africa – not constitutional change in individual nation-states, but a wide-ranging reinterpretation of what the continent looks like, how it operates… essentially what the meaning of Africa has been, is and could possibly be. One of the things I touched on in my presentation was the concept of ‘tribe’ in Africa. My contention was, and is, that the sociological space the word ‘tribe’ occupies is problematic in its historical origin and contemporary use. Therefore, it remains an inherently flawed unit and tool of analysis of African realities (or indeed any reality in which ‘tribe’ is deployed as a unit of intellectual examination).
On the 13th of September 2019, I convened a conference at the University of Bristol titled, ‘Decolonising the Law School.’ (The conference was sponsored by the Society of Legal Scholars as well as the Law School at the University of Bristol.) The purpose of the conference was to contribute to a process of accurate practice and theorisation of decolonisation which forces us to confront the history and effects of imperialism upon our academic practices (i.e. research and teaching) in law. This, I think is vital, because in a lot of the contemporary discourse on epistemic decolonisation, there is a focus only on decolonial practice and teaching, to the detriment of decolonial theory and research. Without decolonising research, I believe that we decolonise our teaching in vain.
I have written elsewhere, and much more extensively about my driving thoughts behind convening the conference. This is a process which for me continues to continue. Watch this space. In the meantime, below is the text and video of my welcome address at the conference. A programme of the event also follows.
Since I wrote the essay ‘Finding My Africa, Finding Myself,‘ I have continued to reflect on the elusive concept of home, especially in this global moment, where children of Africa continue to be caught up in violences of non-belonging through neocolonisation, racism and environmental injustices, among other things. And African states capitalise on this non-belonging through an inadequate conceptualisation and bringing to fruition of possible return. In my earlier essay, I explained how I can remember my first real experience of an African country because I returned to Nigeria from the UK when I was young. But I have no memories of being in Nigeria before then. I only have memories of return. I also talked about the racism that formed part of the reasons why my parents decided to return to Nigeria. But this return home comes with its own burdens, burdens not exactly divorced from the reasons for return. And so for children of Africa, I think, the search for belonging feels eternal, as historical un-mattering results in present and future separation from the earth. This separation may be a slow process, it may be quick, but for children of Africa, home is always a dangerous spirit, yet home is still this restless soul.