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Can a Liberal be a Chief? Can a Chief be a Liberal?

Some Thoughts on an Unfinished Business of Colonialism

Olúfémi Táíwò

Across Africa, it is not unusual for proponents of liberal democracy and modernization to make room for some aspects of indigenous culture, such as the use of a chief as a political figure. Yet for Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, no such accommodation should be made. Chiefs, he argues, in this thought-provoking and wide-ranging pamphlet, cannot be liberals—and liberals cannot be chiefs. If we fail to recognize this, we fail to acknowledge the metaphysical underpinnings of modern understandings of freedom and equality, as well as the ways in which African intellectuals can offer a distinctive take on the unfinished business of colonialism.

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