• Tarik Lagnaoui
  • French Department, Rutgers University
  • Abstract Title: Souleymane Bachir Diagne's Reflections on the Implications of Translation on Philosophy and Religion in Northwestern Africa

Bio: Tarik Lagnaoui was born in Rabat, Morocco in North Africa. As a teenager, he moved to France where he spent many years, then came to the US in a cultural exchange program for the teaching of languages in Minnesota. After traveling and trying many professions, he went back to school at the University of Alaska where he received a Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts. After that, Tarik studied mathematics and received a Masters from the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He taught college mathematics for 13 years while attending graduate school in French at Montclair State University. He is now a Ph.D. student in French and Francophone literature and culture at Rutgers University since the fall of 2019. His research interests include francophone literature from North Africa and the Middle East, drawing from a millennial literary and philosophical tradition as well as from modern literary forms. His interests also include the intersection of philosophy and literature in twentieth-century France.  

Abstract: Thinking “translating Africa” from within a western university implies a comparative approach that considers the reception of African thought in the west or from the west. Such a topic is therefore hardly conceivable without envisaging a contrast or a comparison of certain aspects of the African intellectual tradition with some similar aspects encountered in the west.  “Translating Africa” becomes then in a sense “Translating Africa to and from the West”. Souleymane Bachir Diagne, the Senegalese philosopher, approaches the question from a religious and philosophical angle. Being an expert in Islamic thought, he examines the intellectual exchanges between north and south, by retracing the historical conversation between Muslim philosophers and their western homologues. In his view, putting emphasis on the rich philosophical tradition of Muslim scholars helps shed light on aspects often forgotten. These aspects according to him engaged reason for a conciliatory stance. He notices, for example, that modern colonial discourse often portrayed the Sahara desert as a zone of exclusion, splitting West Africa into two parts on one side a mysterious “oriental north” difficult to understand, and on the other an “unwritten south” left to western ethnographers to “decipher”. Souleymane Bachir Diagne on the contrary, considers the Sahara desert as a historic space of exchange, culturally and intellectually. This exchange played a vibrant role in keeping the continuum alive between these two regions of Africa. 

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