Literary strains of négritude and consciencism in Joseph Brahim Seid: Envisioning nation and a new multicultural Chadian identity
Keywords:négritude, consciencism, Joseph Brahim Seid, Chadian identity
This study introduces Joseph Brahim Seid, one of Africa’s intellectuals of the first generation of independence, in relation to the ideologisation of his contemporaneous counterparts, to Léopold Sédar Senghor’s négritude and Kwame Nkrumah’s consciencism. Two stories from J. B. Seid’s 1962 collection, Au Tchad sous les Etoiles (translated as Told By Starlight in Chad, 2007) are read as envisioning nation and a new multicultural Chadian identity at the moment of independence. Unpacking literary strains of négritude and consciencism lays bare neglected and overlooked tensions that thwart reconciliation of the different segments of Chadian society: African/tradition–Arab/Islam–Western/Christianity. One story envisions modernisation in the reconciliation between Africa and the West, but in real life modernisaton does not occur within the context of African communalism as the story has it, but in the neo-colonial context, where it benefits the few, and mostly international stakeholders. Possibly with the intent of building nation, Seid tends to harmonize African-Arab cultures and traditional-Islamic religions, neglecting the tyranny of Islamisation and Arabisation in the past. In the present, as we know, rivalry between Arab and African populations in the Chad region has resurfaced. Superimposing Biblical motifs and understating traditional African beliefs and religious practices in a story that tends to reconcile Christianity, Islam and the traditional society, Seid overlooks the colonial context in which “civilising” Christianity is implicated, especially the distaste it engendered towards the traditional society and religions. Double-standards result from the higher prestige attaching to Islam, associated with literacy, and Christianity, associated with modernisation, thus African societies have yielded to the perceived progress imperative. While J. B. Seid’s stories elevate the traditional societal value of communalism, portrayed with positive affect, in real life it has not transformed itself into a socialism sufficient to build nation and promote the multiculturalism envisioned and desired.
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