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Return to the Kingdom of Childhood

Re-envisioning the Legacy and Philosophical Relevance of Negritude

Cheikh Thiam

Publication Year: 2014

Return to the Kingdom of Childhood: Re-envisioning the Legacy and Philosophical Relevance of Negritude examines the philosophy of Negritude through an innovative analysis of Léopold Sédar Senghor’s oeuvre. In the first book-length study of Senghorian philosophy, Cheikh Thiam argues that Senghor’s work expresses an Afri-centered conception of the human while simultaneously offering a critique of the Western universalization of “man.” Senghor’s corrective, descriptive, and prescriptive theory of humanness is developed through a conception of race as a cultural manifestation of being. Thiam contends that Senghor’s conception of race entails an innovative Afri-centered epistemology and ontology. For Senghor, races are the effects of particular groups’ relations to the world. The so-called “Negroes,” for example, are determined by their epistemology based on their fluid understanding of the ontological manifestations of being. The examination of this ontology and its ensuing epistemology, which is constitutive of the foundation of Senghor’s entire oeuvre, indicates that Negritude is a postcolonial philosophy that stands on its own. The hermeneutics of Senghor’s race theory show that the Senegalese thinker’s pioneering postcolonial philosophy remains relevant in the postcolonial era. In fact, it questions and expands the works of major contemporary African-descended scholars such as Paul Gilroy, Edouard Glissant, and Molefi Asante. Thiam’s approach is thoroughly interdisciplinary, combining perspectives from philosophy, literary analysis, anthropology, and postcolonial, African, and cultural studies.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This project would probably have never been accomplished without the help of many people. My deepest appreciation goes, thus, to all those that I will not be able to name in these short acknowledgements. I owe a special thanks to a number of people whose guidance...

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Introduction: Decolonialitude: The Brighter Side of Negritude

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pp. 1-11

The Trium Vira, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Aimé Césaire, and Léon-Gontran Damas, met in France during the turbulent times of the 1930s. It was a time when, in the name of the modern paradigm and its corollary, the universalization of “Western reason,”...

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1. The Limits of the Colonial Paradigm: Negritude and Its Critique

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pp. 12-34

The early 1930s can be presented as the golden age of the Negritude movement. During this vibrant time, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Aimé Césaire, and Léon Gontran Damas, along with a number of other intellectuals of African descent such as Paulette...

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2. Negritude, Epistemology, and African Vitalism

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pp. 35-68

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries mark a radical shift in the historiography of race theory. In reaction to the traditional biblical genealogy, Western thinkers such as Friedrich Blumenbach, Carolus Linnaeus, and Arthur Gobineau develop a biological...

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3. Metissages

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pp. 69-90

i met Léopold Sédar Senghor for the first time in 1987, at my uncle’s wedding. At that time, my family was extremely proud of my brother Edouard. He was the most brilliant student in his class, the best checkers player in our neighborhood, one of...

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4. Negritude Is not Dead!

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pp. 91-110

Since the 1940s the historiography of African studies has been obsessed with the death of Negritude. From Sartre’s first systematic critique of the movement to the theory of post-negritude, through the famous conference of Algiers, scholars of African studies such...

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pp. 111-122

These verses, from Léopold Sédar Senghor’s poem, “A Prayer for Peace,” denote the epistemic stand from which he develops the philosophy of Negritude. Beside the conciliatory tone of the excerpt, “A Prayer for Peace” indicates that Negritude is an attempt...


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pp. 123-134


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pp. 135-142


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pp. 143-150

E-ISBN-13: 9780814271360
E-ISBN-10: 0814271367
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814212509
Print-ISBN-10: 0814212506

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 877907909
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Return to the Kingdom of Childhood

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Negritude (Literary movement).
  • Senghor, Léopold Sédar, 1906-2001 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Blacks -- Race identity.
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