This Silent Year 2021, or was it 2020?
I have been rather silent here these past years. Just a few blog posts. Many in my mind, as always, conceived sometime during the day doing other things, a few as drafts in my invisible wordpress writing studio, but very little finished and published. Contrary to appearances however, this (two-year-long) year was a very productive year – not in publications, but in investments in projects and – above all – in people. Let me mention some of what excited me and consoled me, and how I hope to develop things from here.
Workshops / meetings
It seems I have been at home the whole time, in more or less severe lockdowns. As if the only outside events were ever so many walks around the block or further, in parks and lanes. Still there were some live events, and because of their rarity they were more exciting and pleasant even. Like that trip to Leuven, in the autumn of 2021 – first time abroad, since february 2020… A mini-conference of the Dutch-Belgian research network Theological Ethics in the inspiring silent buildings of the ETF – the former Jesuit training institute, now the Evangelical Theological Faculty. We discussed new developments in the field, and our views of where we want it to go. It was a good reason to catch up with one of the former students of the Winter Course, who had just returned from a long research trip in Kivu, DRC.
Another inspiring workshop was just this past week at the University of Amsterdam – all distanced and with facemasks – on Derrida. organized by Mary Aude Baronian. Six colleagues discussed how their work was influenced or inspired by Derrida. So no exegesis, but critical extensions or new intellectual appropriations. My talk was titled: ‘From Algeria to Apartheid. Derrida and the Ambiguities of Decolonization’ – for myself an appetizer for the elective course I will teach in spring on Derrida and Africa. So good to get to know new people there and make new connections for the future.
The PhD students
The most wonderful experience these years, however, was to work with a growing group of PhD students – who work on Continental Philosophy, African Philosophy and Philosophy of Race. I am so humbled that they chose me to help them along, give feedback and support. One of them, from Nigeria, came over in this past summer to get introduced to our department and to some research colleagues. I saw most of them online, though. They gave presentations in one the research networks I have been chairing (Theological Ethics and African Intercultural Philosophy), they wrote their proposals and first, second, third chapters, took part in the reading group Critical Philosophy which I organize since several years, and were present in some of the conferences I visited or presented in. This is my thank you for the pleasant and interesting work to them!
Lectures, defenses, conferences
And, strangely enough, this was a very busy time giving lectures. Once, twice, sometimes even three times a month, as the online world made switching continents without visa, airplanes, and tiring planning of trips possible. There were weeks where I was in a PhD defense committee in South Africa as well as in a conference in Nigeria, or where I gave keynotes in the Philippines and Brazil – combinations I would never have been able to do with analogous travel (travel is exciting but also tires me a lot). I got to know new networks of colleagues in all these worlds, I learned so much from being with them, even on ever so many zooms!
I have been planning and organizing several research projects which I hope to do the best work for before retirement. I organized and edited two books on African Philosophy, with my colleagues Bolaji Bateye, Louise Müller and Mahmoud Masaeli – now they are under review and we are in a waiting phase, prolongued by the effects of covid on so many people and institutions.
In its active phase is now the Bantu Philosophy project. With all the teaching that goes on continuously, writing and translating (which is my main task) did not progress enough to my taste, but our network of academic collaborators grew, also with honors students, interdisciplinary insights, and several applications for funding.
A third project concerns Indigenous Knowledge Systems. That is still in a phase of exploration, a few colleagues get to read my first project descriptions, want to collaborate in an interview series to map the cleft between ‘colonized’ academia and indigenous knowledge (more to come here!). Writing will come later.
Last but not least – teaching…
There was a lot going on there, revisions of courses, the elective course on 20th century African Political Philosophy, several editions of Diversifying Philosophy – with a few new texts every time, and this year a much valued zoom visit by Tommy J. Curry when students had read his take on article on the Gentrification of CRT. There was more, but let me leave it here. You have an impression now. It was a year of many investments. I hope to reap and harvest with all my valued research partners for years to come!
Such a chronicle is invaluable.