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Volume 7, Issue 1: Contents


Eurafrica Incognita: The Colonial
Origins of the European Union

  At the EU Africa Summit in Lisbon on December 8–9, 2007, the European Union and 53 African states adopted the Lisbon Declaration. The two parties called for more EU-Africa cooperation and joint action. "On a global scale," the Declaration stated, "we have today an increased understanding of our vital interdependence and are determined to work together in the global arena on the key political challenges of our time, such as energy and climate change, migration or gender issues." Most importantly for our purposes here, the Lisbon Declaration also alluded to the prehistory of the EU-Africa partnership. Starting out on a conciliatory note, acknowledging that "we have come together in awareness of the lessons and experiences of the past," the text of the Declaration further hailed the Lisbon Summit as offering "a unique opportunity jointly to address the common contemporary challenges for our continents, in the year that we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the European integration and the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the independence of Africa." This, of course, was a direct reference to the founding of the European Economic Community (EEC; today's EU) in the Rome Treaties signed on March 25, 1957, and to Ghana's independence from British rule just weeks earlier on March 6, 1957.




An Eminent Victorian: Gandhi,
Hind Swaraj and the Crisis of Liberal
Democracy in the Nineteenth Century

  We have a tendency to make contemporaries of thinkers with whom we feel an affinity. Gandhi is one of those figures whose thought has been mined for aphorisms on issues ranging from the environment and alternative economics to an ethical politics and the placebos of peaceful coexistence. While his epigrammatic statements—what we need is less civilization rather than more, or, the solutions we offer are indeed sometimes the problem, to state just a few—are bracing, it is the genealogy of Gandhi's arguments that is considered as crucial in this paper. Gandhi's words may have a resonance today, but we must pay special attention to the historical context and its influence on his arguments, or indeed, the diverse and now-forgotten fields of discourse within which his positions were located. This is not merely about conducting a historicist or contextualist exercise that imprisons thought in a temporal moment. We have to deal creatively with notions of anticipation, prescience, and prolepsis.




Synchronizing the World:
Synchronism as Historiographical
Practice, Then and Now


It is a familiar sight: in most cities in the world there will be dark brown vans navigating the crowded streets, while they proudly announce their purpose, in yellow letters on both sides: "Synchronizing the world of commerce." The owner of the vans is UPS, United Parcel Service, which is one of the world’s largest logistics companies, transporting all kinds of goods and materials to every corner of the globe. To promote its services, UPS has chosen a slogan, which instead of bringing to mind the vast distances its employees cover every day, points to something else: what they do with time.
          The verb "synchronize" is composed of the Greek prefix syn, "together," and the word chronos, "time." In its transitive form, to synchronize refers to actions or activities that cause something to happen together, coincide, to occur or unfold at the same time, to be in sync. Literally, what UPS offers its customers is the opportunity to complete the commercial activities they are involved in—selling and buying goods—while ignoring any temporal differences caused by geographical distance or changing time zones. In other words, with its slogan, which has been a mainstay in the urban topography of major cities for many years, UPS flaunts a commercialized version of what the geographer and Marxist critic David Harvey called in his influential 1990 book, The Condition of Postmodernity, "the time-space compression." Due to innovations in the transportation and communication sector, to which UPS obviously belongs, space is "annihilated" by time, in Harvey's words. Put slightly less dramatically, to "synchronize the world of commerce" means that UPS grants its customers the freedom to act as if communication, and more precisely, the distribution of different kinds of goods across short or long distances, were instantaneous. This can never completely succeed, of course; there will always be a time gap between when a parcel is sent and when it is received at the other end, at least as long as we are talking about actual physical parcels, traveling actual physical distances, and not digital ones.



The Living Wage,
"That Reproductive Ferment"

  How much life is in the living wage? In recent months, a number of major American cities have enacted minimum wage ordinances, offering urban working families a promise of better living conditions. Yet just as minimum wage laws attempt to ameliorate the conditions of low-wage workers, working communities appear under threat by temporary work, automation, task labor, mass incarceration, deportation, and a host of other social pressures. Shifts in capital and labor seem to have swept away any guarantees of secure, steady, and sufficient working-class employment in the global North. A decent life continues to escape even those within the reach of recent minimum wage victories. The MIT Living Wage Calculator reckons that a $15/ hour minimum wage would not suffice in a city like Los Angeles to cover a family's basic expenses. When one considers all the forms of life and all the living people excluded from wage work—by choice, by necessity, or by force—very little potential life appears left in the wage. The era of the wage, some two hundred years old, seems likely to fade sooner or later.



Making Freedom Time

  This article is an expanded version of an informal talk given in March 2015 as part of the History of a Book lecture series hosted by the Princeton University English Department. The talks are meant partly for authors to share writing experiences with junior scholars who are thinking about how to transform their work into book form. The title of the talk was "Unsolicited Advice Based on Idiosyncratic Experience." It has been revised for this Intervention.
          This book snuck up on me. After publishing The French Imperial Nation-State: Negritude and Colonial Humanism Between the World Wars in 2005, I sketched out a new research project on the relationship between the French imperial wars of colonial liberation during decolonization in the 1950s, the emergence of "romantic" mercenaries during the postcolonial period in relation to French neocolonialism [la françafrique], and the spread of private military corporations in the neoliberal post-Cold War present. It was to be an inquiry into the afterlives of empire that traced a genealogy of post-democratic state forms in relation to international law and new imperial practices. To prepare for this research, I was awarded a Mellon New Directions fellowship to spend a year studying international law (which I did in 2007–2008). I had no plans to write a second book about the Negritude project.
          However, as all writers probably do, I felt that there was a great deal of unfinished business related to my first book. So when I was invited to participate in a conference at the New School for Social Research on "Ruins, Ruination, and Imperial Debris" I decided to write a piece about Aimé Césaire's understanding of decolonization, which unfolded after the time period covered in The French Imperial Nation-State. One essay. And maybe I'd have a chance to write something about Senghor and decolonization. Two max; then I would move on. I wanted only to indicate how my study of colonial administration, the imperial nation-state, and the emergence of the Negritude project in the 1930s provided a useful foundation for thinking differently about the French Fourth Republic, West African decolonization, and Césaire's and Senghor's postwar texts and acts.




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