Harmattan: A Philosophical Fiction (Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture)

Harmattan: A Philosophical Fiction (Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture)

Language: English

Pages: 192

ISBN: 0231172354

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

We all experience qualms and anxieties when we move from the known to the unknown. Though our fulfillment in life may depend on testing limits, our faintheartedness is a reminder of our need for security and our awareness of the risks of venturing into alien worlds.

Evoking the hot, dust-filled Harmattan winds that blow from the Sahara to the Gulf of Guinea, this book creatively explores what it means to be buffeted by the unforeseen and the unknown. Celebrating the life-giving potential of people, places, and powers that lie beyond our established worlds, Harmattan connects existential vitality to the act of resisting prescribed customs and questioning received notions of truth. At the book's heart is the fictional story of Tom Lannon, a graduate student from Cambridge University, who remains ambivalent about pursuing a conventional life. After traveling to Sierra Leone in the aftermath of its devastating civil war, Tom meets a writer who helps him explore the possibilities of renewal. Illustrating the fact that certain aspects of human existence are common to all people regardless of culture and history, Harmattan remakes the distinction between home and world and the relationship between knowledge and life.


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Inglewood off our boots—but, unusually for a farming family, both Mum and Dad were adamant that we’d get all the education possible and we all knew we’d leave Taranaki when we finished high school.” The parallelism between our stories was even more arresting when we shared recollections of our mothers’ friendship. As Fleur put it, “Our mothers were very much fish out of water in Inglewood back in the fifties, and I know the friendship meant a lot to my mum. She used to make trips into Inglewood

Although it is not uncommon for intellectuals to declare that we have reached a point in our evolution when the line between nature and culture has been blurred or abolished, with virtual and built environments displacing the “natural” environments in which our ancestors struggled to survive, the interplay between human lives and life itself remains existentially fundamental. This is nowhere more dramatically evident than in tribal societies where being is not limited to human being but

longer a bit player in someone else’s drama, or an extra under someone else’s direction; you take center stage, you call the shots. Though I regard it as axiomatic that human beings strive to experience themselves as free in some small measure to make, unmake and remake the world into which they are thrown by circumstances beyond their control, they readily shy away from such dramatic transformations when these are imposed upon them against their will. Just as soldiers quail at the thought of

was killed. Yet they never got on, father and son. When Musa was a boy, the father was always badgering him, telling him he was useless, putting him down. Perhaps it was a ruse, to disguise from his other sons the fact that Musa would inherit everything when the old man died. Perhaps it was ill will. But Musa took it very hard. That I do know. He complained bitterly at the way his father lectured him constantly on the virtues of hard work and perseverance. Praise had to be earned, gifts deserved.

land. An older man complaining that his young wife had run away with her lover. Sometimes we would take the path that led from the village and sit together in the grove of kola trees where he once worked, adzing and carving masks. He would grate his kola on the rasped lid of his tobacco tin and chew it in silence. One day, walking back to the village with Moroma and Yandi, I said that Sangbamba seemed to be a troubled place. After putting my question to the old man, Yandi explained to me that he

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