2/12 | Adom Getachew, "The Present as History": Walter Rodney and the Search for Usable African Pasts

Color headshot of Adom Getachew, a woman with brown curly hair and light brown skin. She is smiling and wearing a yellow jacket and white shirt. She wears eye glasses. She is in a sunny hallway.
January 17, 2024

Please join us as Adom Getachew presents the second seminar in the Series in Black / Africana Critical Theory, "'The Present as History': Walter Rodney and the Search for Usable African Pasts."

Monday, February 12, 2024 | 4 - 6 PM
3401 Dwinelle Hall, Berkeley, CA

Adom Getachew will present a seminar on her contribution to the special issue of Small Axe 72 commemorating Walter Rodney's (1972) How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Getachew's essay tracks Rodney’s positioning of the historian in the conjunction of past, present, and future through the registers of diagnostician and participant in political mobilization. Rodney’s analogy of the historian as medical doctor generates a critique of romantic depictions of the African past and draws on the language of Marxism to track the formation of African political power. At the same time, Rodney’s position as a participant in political mobilization compels an approach to history writing that exceeds the terms of diagnosis. Examining the interplay between diagnosis and mobilization, this essay reveals the range of ways Rodney approached the task of historicizing the present and generating usable African pasts.

Precirculated paper in the Dossier on Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa Fifty Years Later in small axe 72, 11: 2023: https://smallaxe.net/sx/issues/72.

Speaker Biography

Adom Getachew is Professor of Political Science and Race, Diaspora & Indigeneity at the University of Chicago. She is a political theorist working on the history of political thought, theories of race and empire, postcolonial political theory, and the intellectual and political histories of Africa and the Caribbean. She is the author of Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination (2019) and co-editor, with Jennifer Pitts, of W. E. B. Du Bois: International Thought (2022)

About the Series in Black / Africana Critical Theory

The Series in Black / Africana Critical Theory stages a slow sequence of conversations across Africana Studies, Black Study, and Critical Theory. Rather than a form of triangulation that aims at resolution, the series stays with tension across these lines of thought, in provisional forms of critical contemplation that might help us meet our current condition. Seminars center on open discussion of a recently published or pre-circulated piece.


In generous collaboration with the Center for African Studies, the Center for Race and Gender, the Department of African American Studies, the Department of Comparative Literature, the Department of English, the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, the Department of Geography, the Department of Political Science, the Department of Rhetoric, the Department of Sociology, the Institute for International Studies, the Irving Stone Chair in Literature, the Marion E. Koshland Chair in the Humanities, the Office of the Dean of the Social Science Division, the Rachel Anderson Stageberg Chair in English, the Social Science Matrix, and the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

Admission Information and Accessibility

3401 Dwinelle Hall is wheelchair accessible. Please view this website for more details about accessing Dwinelle Hall. If you require an accommodation for effective communication or mobility access, please contact Patty Dunlap at pattydunlap@berkeley.edu.