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"Modes of Knowing: Intellectual and Social Dimensions of Time in Africa"

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Grounded against a background of a critique of Western characterizations of time in Africa in simple terms such as cyclical or devoid of a sense of the future, the essay analyzes the complex ways in which Africans experience time. Although no single time construct can be applied to all of Africa, since each culture experiences time dynamically in its own way, certain commonalities can be drawn.

Today, as millions of Africans find themselves at the confluence of tradition and modernity, the way in which they experience time is multilevel. Conceptions of time are embedded in multiple institutions and practices: life cycles; occupational calendars observed by farmers, fishermen and other workers; ritual calendrical systems in which there are definite patterns of days set aside for performing specific rituals of state; annual festivals that mark the commencement of the local year rather than the arbitrary January 1; myths, legends and genealogies that embody temporal constructs; various indigenous mechanisms and strategies used to establish chronologies, etc.


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