Freedom Time

Negritude, Decolonization, and the Future of the World

Freedom Time

Book Pages: 400 Illustrations: Published: January 2015

Author: Gary Wilder

History > World History, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies, Sociology > Social Theory

Freedom Time reconsiders decolonization from the perspectives of Aimé Césaire (Martinique) and Léopold Sédar Senghor (Senegal) who, beginning in 1945, promoted self-determination without state sovereignty. As politicians, public intellectuals, and poets they struggled to transform imperial France into a democratic federation, with former colonies as autonomous members of a transcontinental polity. In so doing, they revitalized past but unrealized political projects and anticipated impossible futures by acting as if they had already arrived. Refusing to reduce colonial emancipation to national independence, they regarded decolonization as an opportunity to remake the world, reconcile peoples, and realize humanity’s potential. Emphasizing the link between politics and aesthetics, Gary Wilder reads Césaire and Senghor as pragmatic utopians, situated humanists, and concrete cosmopolitans whose postwar insights can illuminate current debates about self-management, postnational politics, and planetary solidarity. Freedom Time invites scholars to decolonize intellectual history and globalize critical theory, to analyze the temporal dimensions of political life, and to question the territorialist assumptions of contemporary historiography.


"Freedom Time is an important book. It is also exceptionally scholarly and extremely readable. Such qualities rarely inhere in a single text. And they are rarely bundled into an analysis so passionate and timely that excavates past attempts at human emancipation in order to reveal new pathways into modernization."  — Massimiliano Tomba, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

"At our present juncture of history when nation-states are at various stages of unravelling, neo-liberal economic interests have created unprecedented level of global inequity, and migrants are flocking to the shores of Europe risking death and deportation, it has become more than ever imperative to reconsider territorialist frameworks as default forms toward self-determination.... Wilder’s book maps the conception of different frameworks within which self-determination could be meaningfully pursued, as well as their relevance in the historiography of the decolonization." — Mrinmoyee Bhattacharya, African Studies Quarterly

"Rich, dense, and meticulously researched, Gary Wilder’s book offers nuanced critical reflections on the alternative landscapes of freedom proposed by Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor." — Kaiama L. Glover, French Studies

"We are invited to step-with and listen to these poet-politicians in our task of rethinking politics, art, and society, charging ahead toward new futures and freedom." — Jodie Barker, Research in African Literatures

"There is an important message here ... for a broad audience, and I sincerely hope that it reaches beyond French Studies, postcolonial, or colonial historical studies. Wilder observes that Césaire, Sédar and their contemporaries in black Caribbean and African thought ‘are rarely included in general considerations of interwar philosophy or postwar social theory’ (9). What Freedom Time does most convincingly is to demonstrate that the social theory studied in European universities is weaker for this omission and that serious engagement with these thinkers is long overdue."  — Lucy Mayblin, Ethnic and Racial Studies

"[A] thoughtful and challenging work on the often maligned Negritude thinkers, poets, and politicians Aimé Césaire and Léopold Senghor."  — Brett A. Berliner, Callaloo

"[A] tremendous achievement in scope and originality. Readers who wish to think about the nation-state from a deeply historical and theoretically sophisticated perspective will be richly rewarded." — Anuja Bose, Africa Today

"Freedom Time is an engaging book that combines cultural anthropology, political theory and postcolonial theory and offers the reader a detailed intellectual history of Leopold Senghor and Aimé Césaire between 1945 and 1960."  — Frank Gerits, European Review of History

"Gary Wilder’s Freedom Time constitutes an exciting and significant contribution to the field of nation and nationalism study in that he challenges the claim that decolonisation and self-determination can, and should, only lead to one form of state sovereignty: the nation-state." — Kristin Hissong, Nations and Nationalism

"Gary Wilder’s study of the two négritude poets who embraced politics in spite of themselves—Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor—is a welcome antidote to the essays and monographs that have been, for half a century and more, bogged down in antinomies."  — A. James Arnold, New West Indian Guide

"Wilder provides us with a provocative retelling of the intellectual and political vision of two luminaries of the 20th century, and he does a great service by recasting our attention to these two authors to provoke reflection on the condition of nationhood and sovereignty in the 21st century. The text is always engaging and at times possesses a lyricism that echoes the poetics of Césaire and Senghor.... This book is a welcome addition, providing a substantial contribution to the field of francophone intellectual history." — Michael Lambert, Anthropological Quarterly

"Freedom Time is a dynamic treatise deftly upholding the Fanonian and Wynterian imperatives to navigate ongoing processes of decolonization and becoming Human betwixt and between the allure of emancipations masking as freedom." — Neil Roberts, Theory & Event

"Wilder’s ability to demonstrate Césaire and Senghor’s strategic untimeliness in the postwar years, as well as their importance for our own times, impresses." — Pedro Monaville, Canadian Journal of History

"it is here that Wilder is most rewarding. . . in offering Césaire and Senghor (and by extension other subaltern thinkers) as neglected interlocutors in debates about freedom, sovereignty and democracy. By putting their thinking in the same intellectual lineage from Hegel and Proudhon to Derrida and Koselleck, Freedom Time serves as an important step on the path to ‘deterritorialize social thought and to decolonize intellectual history'." — Merve Fejzula, History

"Freedom Time is an impressive, inspiring, necessary work. . . . Wilder's lucid, sensitively textured and impressively well-researched book allows us to rethink the meaning of decolonisation and the conceptual nexus surrounding it." — Deborah Walker-Morrison, Cultural Studies Review

"The book makes a significant contribution to the field of history by interrogating what could have been, arguing that Freedom did not mean the same thing for everyone under French colonial rule." — Abraham Seda, Middle Ground Journal

"Wilder’s reading of Senghor and Césaire is subtle and engaging, and challenges the idea that they were cynical – or naive." — Musab Younis, London Review of Books

"The lenses that Wilder offers and what he does with them make it easier, today, to think in more interesting ways about 'the future of the world' as well as to understand decolonization." — Todd Shepard, Journal of Modern History

"A major re-evaluation of the political perspectives of Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor. . . . Wilder’s thorough and revelatory readings compel us to rethink long-standing assumptions." — H. Adlai Murdoch, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Freedom Time is astonishing in its originality, breadth of learning, rhetorical power, interdisciplinary reach, and theoretical sophistication. It thoroughly transforms our understanding of the dialogues and disputations that made up the 'Black' / French encounter. With this work, Gary Wilder establishes himself as one of the most compelling and powerful voices in French and Francophone critical studies." — Achille Mbembe, author of On the Postcolony

"Freedom Time is an exemplary work of critical revision. Thinking through the cultural-political writings of Aimé Césaire and Léopold Senghor, Gary Wilder aims to put into question the normative narrative of anticolonial nationalism that yokes the demand for self-determination to the political form of state sovereignty. Why should the nation-state be the necessary horizon of political freedom? In a time such as ours, when postcolonial states have exhausted their emancipationist energies, Wilder's intervention significantly contributes to the possibility of rethinking political futurity against empire." — David Scott, author of Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice


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Price: $29.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Gary Wilder is Associate Professor of Anthropology at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York.  He is the author of The French Imperial Nation-State: Negritude and Colonial Humanism between the Two World Wars.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Index 373

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xv

1. Unthinking France, Rethinking Decolonization 1

2. Situating Césaire: Antillean Awakening and Global Redemption 17

3. Situating Senghor: African Hospitality and Human Solidarity 49

4. Freedom, Time, Territory 74

5. Departmentalization and the Spirit of Schoelcher 106

6. Federalism and the Future of France 133

7. Antillean Autonomy and the Legacy of Louverture 167

8. African Socialism and the Fate of the World 206

9. Decolonization and Postnational Democracy 241

Chronology 261

Notes 275

Works Cited 333
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5850-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5839-8
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