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Imagining Africa
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Book description

There has been a long history of idealism concerning the potential of economic and political developments in Africa, the latest iteration of which emerged around the time of the 2007–8 global financial crisis. Here, Clive Gabay takes a historical approach to questions concerning change and international order as these apply to Africa in Western imaginaries. Challenging traditional postcolonial accounts that see the West imagine itself as superior to Africa, he argues that the centrality of racial anxieties concerning white supremacy make Africa appear, at moments of Western crisis, as the saviour of Western ideals, specifically democracy, bureaucracy, and neoclassical economic order. Uncommonly, this book turns its lens as much inwards as outwards, interrogating how changing attitudes to Africa over the course of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries correspond to shifting anxieties concerning whiteness, and the growing hope that Africa will be the place where the historical genius of whiteness might be saved and perpetuated.

Reviews

'Clive Gabay employs a wide-angled lens to focus on the ways in which Euro-American idealisations of 'Africa' - its past, present and future - have continued to underpin the white-dominated racial order over the past hundred years. This painstakingly researched book will help to jolt contemporary conceptualisations of whiteness out of the narrow confines of identity politics (in which it is so often enmired).'

Vron Ware - Kingston University

'Is it possible to be optimistic about Africa? In this beautifully sculpted book, Clive Gabay argues that whiteness frames both negative and positive impressions of the continent. Via a set of empirically rich historical and contemporary investigations, Gabay comprehensively reveals the extent to which whiteness, in international relations, is a narcissism of the highest order.'

Robbie Shilliam - The John Hopkins University

'From black and savage Dark Continent to dynamic rising consumerist titan of the future, Africa has long occupied a special place in the Western imaginary. What Clive Gabay’s boldly revisionist and impressively original text demonstrates is that the psychic interplay between maps and mapmakers has always been more complex and subtle than assumed - a dialectic reflecting the ongoing evolution of Whiteness itself from exclusionary phenotypical and eugenicist racial supremacy to putatively colourless institutional placeholder that even blacks (the right kind, of course) can now occupy.'

Charles Mills - City University of New York

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