African Futures: Essays on Crisis, Emergence, and Possibility

Book Review

Goldstone, Brian, and Juan Obarrio. 2017. African Futures: Essays on Crisis, Emergence, and Possibility. University of Chicago Press.


This collection of essays by prominent African scholars centers familiar themes of continuity and emergence, as well as rupture and disruption, but filters them through new light. To think of African futures here is to engage with the diverse contexts through which these accounts reimagine visions of futurity and connections to the past—from the macro scale of urban construction in Kinshasa to the micro dynamics of a prayer meeting breaking up—and to view their interconnections. Drawing from new material and earlier pieces of Africanist scholarship on crisis and change by these scholars, the contributions in this collection are grouped thematically and speak to one another through a framework, which describes the construction, imagination, and deconstruction of temporality and, in particular, futurity in Africa. The editors, Brian Goldstone and Juan Obarrio, offer a textured introduction and foreground the collection as a relational reflection on the “motley ensemble of verdicts and diagnoses” proffered by previous writing on African contexts (1). The volume thus avoids the binary of despair and triumph in representations of the continent, and provides a valuable addition to scholarship on temporality in relation to refiguring Africa’s futures. As the editors write, the volume aims “not so much to iron out the contradictions nor to disprove the verdicts (though such disproving will at times be necessary) as to think within the paradoxes, perplexities, and apparent certitudes Africa is taken to insinuate” (3).