These essays on postcolonial subjectivities cross the frontiers of critical theory by illuminating the contradictory predicaments Africans confront in strikingly different parts of the continent at the start of the 21st century. The focus is on the making of subjectivities as a process which is political, a matter of subjugation to state authority; moral, reflected in the conscience and agency of subjects who bear rights, duties and obligations; and realised existentially, in the subjects' consciousness of their personal or intimate relations.
The notion of agency is interrogated, without lapsing into the new Afro-pessimism. The essays recognise postcolonies troubled by state decline and increasing exploitation, dispossession and marginalisation, but avoid Afro-pessimism's reduction of subjects to mere victims. Even more against the grain of conventional postcolonial studies is the radical questioning of the force of 'modern subjectivism' in struggles for control of identity, autonomy and explicit consciousness, and through artistic self-fashioning in globally driven consumption.
With substantial cases based on autobiography, personal experience and long-term scholarly fieldwork in countries as diverse as Madagascar, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Botswana and Cameroon, the book opens out a fresh field for comparative research and theory on postcolonial transformations in intersubjectivity. This is to take seriously the people's perception, so widespread in postcolonial Africa, that to live life to the full is to live it in interdependence, in conviviality, if possible; that care and respect for others - indeed, civility - is a precious, and indeed, precarious condition of survival and as such is the object of recognised strategies for its conscious defence; and that because significant others are opaque - never being totally knowable - uncertainty, ambivalence and contingency are inescapable conditions of human existence.