A call for a special issue: Rethinking the Philosopher-King. The issue will be guest edited by Professor Akin Adesokan, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Deadline for Abstract: March 15, 2011
Deadline for Paper: June 30, 2011
Submit your paper directly to Prof. Adesokan at adesokan at indiana.edu.

Rethinking the Philosopher-King

One of the more spectacular features of anti-colonial nationalism was the figure of the political leader as a thinker, an intellectual, and most particularly a “Big Man.” Politicians like Kwame Nkrumah, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and Ahmed Sekou Touré were not content to be leaders of independence political movements or parties. In addition, and often collusively with their political trajectories, they wrote politico-philosophical treatises, “autobiographies,” “lives,” and “odysseys,” implicitly theorizing homologies of the political self and the national destiny. They displayed their unforgettable honorifics, too: “Osagyefo,” “Awo,” “Zik of Africa,” et cetera, et cetera.

This idea was crucial in the consolidation of the postcolonial state as “national-masculinist,” that is, the gendered character of nationalism and its role in the acquisition and actual exercise of power. Although African political leadership is still predominantly male, and personality continues to control the political process, there has been a noticeable fading of the figure of the leader as a philosopher-king since the last two decades of the 20th century.

The different components of this authority figure are being redistributed to other formations: the scholar is assuming intellectual leadership, the celebrity absorbing strains of the “personality-cult,” the emergence of well-trained technocracy promises to undermine the personalization of bureaucratic power. The list is not exhaustive. Are these changes decisive or merely indicative of a generational amnesia? What are the aesthetic, intellectual, and political values of the vast but under-appreciated texts in the genres favored by these figures? Beside the institutional forces enabling the new kinds of subjectivity—diasporicity, globalization, democratization—in what other regards can the phenomenon of the philosopher-king be said to have met its nemesis? Are there ways that these forces shape new forms of “philosopher-kings”?

We invite contributions that examine all aspects of these questions (or pose additional ones) in such fields as political science, history, literary studies, performance studies, anthropology, economics, psychology, public policy, fine arts, and the like.

We invite abstracts of 150-200 words to be sent by e-mail to the guest editor at adesokan at indiana.edu no later than March 15, 2011. Completed essays of between 5,000-7,000 words in length are due on June 30, 2011.

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