"Tradition" is a difficult word for us inheritors of the world called "postcolonial," especially because it is most often through discursive mastery of a European language that we come to demarcate 'tradition" from its putative other, "modernity." I reflect on Kwame Anthony Appiah's engagements with "tradition" by, first, turning to his analysis of the relationship between the postcolonial and the postmodern as conducted through the "neotraditional" sculpture of a "Yoruba man on bicycle." Appearing in an essay of 1992 that subsequently made its way into his later work, In My Father's House, this sculpture enables Appiah reclaim the idea of the traditional in order to explode the neat alignments of temporalities and heuristic categories that govern international protocols of taste. The arguments that constellate around this sculpture allow me to dissect Appiah's reading practice as a valorisation of tradition not as something essentialist or authentic, but rather, formed and made meaningful for the contemporary African person through the contamination and often surprising collisions of diverse cultures and histories. In particular, I focus on Appiah's prose style that throws up the contradictions inherent in his views of tradition and its meaningfulness for the global postcolonial subject. This writerly virtuosity enables him to navigate between these contradictions, even while offering us teasing insights into his personal, affective, relationship with this complex concept.


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pp. 249-254
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