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From Metissage to Relation: A Comparative Analysis of Senghor's and Glissant's Philosophies

Cheikh Thiam


Glissant's philosophy has, for a long time, been read in opposition to Negritude. While Negritude had been considered until the end of the twentieth century as a theory of a return to the native land through an essentialist understanding of blackness, Glissant's philosophy is frequently presented as a more complex and less essentialist understanding of the histories of people of African descent that takes into consideration their fundamental diversity and their fluid and constantly shifting particularities. However, as has recently been clearly shown by scholars such as Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Donna Jones, and as I confirm in Return to the Kingdom of Childhood, Negritude is rather a philosophy of mixture and convergence resolutely turned toward the future. It is therefore, I argue, quite similar to Glissant's philosophy. In fact, both authors develop a radical critique of modernity and its corollary, the teleological conception of time that lead to the illusion of the original purity of human cultures. That is not to say that Glissant's philosophy is simply another re-articulation of the philosophy of Negritude. The two scholars' works are based on utterly different epistemic foundations. Senghor's philosophy is an optimistic and mystical understanding of life, the ultimate moment of which is the possibility to be one with the entire universe. Glissant's theory, on the other hand, is a philosophy of unpredictability and complexity based on a rhizomatic conception of being in the Tout-Monde. It is a praxis of opacity, a philosophy of uncertainty and chaos.


Negritude; Universalism; Philosophy

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Journal on African Philosophy. ISSN: 1533-1067 (online).
Editor: Olufemi Taiwo.

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