This article evaluates the concept of Afropolitanism, introduced by Taiye Selasi and Achille Mbembe, as a radical break from the political genealogy of Black nationalism. Whereas racialist traditions, such as Pan-Africanism and Négritude, had presupposed a close emancipatory connection between global racial solidarity and a politics of African reclamation, Afropolitanism refers to a cosmopolitan ethos of transcending national and racial differences. It envisages Africa as a conceptual geography of evolving relationships, shaped by migration and multiracialism. This chapter argues that, in refiguring the idea of Africa outside of racially autochthonous terms, Afropolitanism undermines the political elision of Blackness and Africa, and thereby, both racial solidarity and a politics of belonging. The implication is foremost a challenge to the concept of the African diaspora itself, especially regarding ancestors of those dispersed by slavery. The development of Afropolitanism in the mid-2000s occurred due to the need to manufacture an ethos for Africa’s multiracial postcolonies and 21st century migrations. This chapter concludes by arguing that Afropolitanism cannot act as an ethic for the age of global cosmopolitanism until it reckons with the problem of the inverse relationship: that is, the question of diaspora.
This essay locates the concept of Afropolitanism, introduced in the mid-2000s by Achille Mbembe and Taiye Selasi, inside a longer historiography on cosmopolitanism in Africa. Used to describe the multifarious ways that Africa is enmeshed in the world, today ‘Afropolitanism’ connects Africa's global metropolises, transnational cultures and mobile populations under a single analytic term, signifying the radical diversity that Africa possesses now and has throughout history. This essay argues that the idea of Afropolitanism has impacted theory on Africa in two ways. First, instead of regarding pluralism as a threat to state stability, Africa's cosmopolitan cities and zones are now thought to be harbingers of a new post-racial political future; rather than supposing that states will progressively coalesce into defined nations, as per the organic analogy, ethnically heterogeneous states are increasingly upheld as ‘modern’. Second, Afropolitanism marks a radical shift from a longer history of black emancipatory thought. Contra 20th century Pan-African and Afrocentrist endeavours to create a civilization based on the ‘African Personality’, proponents of Afropolitanism instead propose a world in which there can be no centre for Africa, no cultural integrity, only networks and flows.
Afropolitanism is a concept advanced by theorist and philosopher Achille Mbembe to describe the position of Africa and Africans in the global world. It is, as he elaborates, a new moment in practical philosophy for Africa—one that leaves Afrocentrism and Pan-Africanism to the annals of history. In April 2016, Sarah Balakrishnan spoke with Mbembe on the genealogy of this idea and its location inside the history of African political thought.