In her TED talk “Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m local”, the writer Taiye Selasi states that, “as a unit of measurement for human experience, the country does not quite work,” speaking to the contradictions that often come along when citizenship becomes central to defining identities. What Selasi successfully does in her talk is to question what most would often see as a matter of fact: the idea that we often rely on the concept of a nation to define ourselves, our identities, when in fact the very idea of a nation is fictional, a socially constructed concept, whose origins root back to the concept of sovereignty that came into being in the 16th century.
There is no doubt, however, that sovereignty finds real political consequences in how we all navigate the world and perceive each other. Sovereignty, a multivalent concept manifesting in various modern nation states, which offers an individual citizenship and personhood based on the territory that it claims as domain, leads to various expressions of national citizenships that exist dynamically in a complex matrix of power. This is what is at the heart of my inquiry, albeit within a postcolonial framework. In other words, I am interested in how sovereignty (or lack thereof) affects the modern human political condition, while understanding that sovereignty, metonymic with modernity, is intimately tied with, or rather haunted by, (post)coloniality.
Modern political condition haunted by Western Enlightenment
In order to understand the inquiry I posit, I situate the “modern human political condition” within the philosopher Hannah Arendt’s definitions of the modern age and the modern world from, “Selections from The Human Condition”:
Scientifically, the modern age which began in the seventeenth century came to an end at the beginning of the twentieth century; politically, the modern world, in which we live today, was born with the first atomic explosions. (emphasis mine)
First and foremost, Arendt’s analysis is confined to Western history, and therefore Arendt inherently implies modernity’s co-relation with the West. In addition, she also implies a hauntology within her definition of the modern, i.e. hauntology being the condition of the present haunted by spectres, because haunting is, as per Avery Gordon, about “endings that are not over” just as much as it is “a story about what happens when we admit the ghost – that special instance of the merging of the visible and the invisible, the dead and the living, the past and the present – into the making of worldly relations that make our accounts of the world”. In other words, the modern political world is inevitably haunted and affected by the developments of the modern age, whose beginning (for the purposes of clarity) is also the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment, a period during which a cohesive body of philosophers and artists in Europe represented themselves as standing at the brink of history, aware of their own modernity (or sovereign political citizenship) that was based on their independence from religion, emphasising instead rationalism, science, and secular emancipation. These tenets of Enlightenment, which are by themselves political, therefore inherently haunt the modern world and the modern political condition. I will delve into the political effects of the tenets of Enlightenment much later.
What is significant so far is that I have contextualised the modern political condition with its relation to the modern age, in that the tenets of Enlightenment still “live” in the present as “ghosts”. In this sense, science and the scientific method became attributed to modernity insofar as the modern age spurred scientific progress with Europe as the centre of industrialisation. Modernity thus began to be associated with Europe.
The Japanese historian Naoki Sakai backs up this assertion by stating that modernity will always be associated with the historico-geopolitical: that is, historically, modernity is primarily opposed to its historical precedent – the premodern; and geopolitically, it has been contrasted to the non-modern, or more specifically, the non-West. Hence, when a subject is posited through the attribution of these historico-geopolitical predicates (functioning discursively), two kinds of areas are diacritically discerned: the modern West and premodern non-West.
Situating modern political condition in postcoloniality of atomic explosions
What would follow naturally then is to make clear my assertion of the postcolonial dimension of sovereignty, where sovereignty is haunted by (post) coloniality. (The definition of postcolonialism I rely on, for purposes of clarity, is that it is the study of the cultural, political, and economic impact of colonialism and imperialism.) Postcolonial Hauntology then, following hauntology, goes further to question the present being haunted by spectres of the imperial/colonial past, its historical sociopolitical effects on the present. The birth of the modern world being attributed with the first atomic explosions as per Arendt is the point of departure here, where these explosions mark the end of WWII, ushering in political alignments and social structures that set the foundation for the international order for the rest of the 20th century and into the present 21st century.
While the international orders are in themselves relevant, I argue that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is itself a political event that significantly informs the modern human political condition that still applies today. I assert this from a comparative perspective, putting in mind Haun Saussy’s outlook on the practice of comparative literature, where he advocates for postcolonialists to not limit themselves to a single imperial matrix, given how cross-cultural comparison is more than ever needed when so many problems and possibilities extend far beyond the frame of the nation.
My comparative assertion then is as follows: given recent findings that prove a transnational link between African colonialism and the atomic bombing of Japan – revealing how the uranium that was used in making the atomic bomb that hit Hiroshima was in fact mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, then a Belgian colony – the ghost of colonialism thus haunts the atomic bomb. Consequently, the perception of political modernity (the political aspects that determine the perception of whether a person/people are modern) with the atomic explosions as the point of departure becomes loaded with an Africanist postcolonial dimension that still haunts us today.
This assertion, however, does not mean that, when isolated, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is rendered void of postcolonial relevance. First and foremost, the World Wars are in themselves wars between imperial powers, and by this very fact, the atomic explosions become implicated in the impact of imperialism. Naoki Sakai again makes this clearer through his discursive analysis of modernity (or sovereignty) in what he terms as Modernisation Theory.
Sakai, in line with Arendt’s assertion of the birth of the modern political world, extends the understanding of modernity in the context of historical developments in the 19th and 20th centuries in the context of West-Orient relations, with Japan as representative of the Orient. He begins by describing modernisation, the process of becoming modern, as implicitly meaning Europeanisation first, before being reconfigured to mean Americanisation in the post-war era. Hence “modern thought” became an exclusively Euro-American, or Western, idea that excludes the possibility of a simultaneous coexistence of the premodern West and the modern non-West. This is due to the West thinking itself ubiquitous with regard to its subjective modern identity, therefore representing itself as the moment of the universal under which particulars are subsumed.
According to Sakai then, modernity for the non-West, broadly speaking, requires its subjugation to the West’s political, military and economic control. In other words, the modern non-West can only come into being only when it is invaded, defeated and exploited by the West – reminiscent of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic. It is why Sakai explains that Japan, despite successful industrialisation and modernisation during the Meiji era (1868–1912), could not be discerned as modern (or sovereign) in Western eyes. In this sense, the (post)colonial reality of the atomic bombing, where because the West refused to recognise Japan as sovereign it justified the resort to such a solution, begins to be discernible.
“Modern thought” became an exclusively Euro-American, or Western, idea that excludes the possibility of a simultaneous coexistence of the premodern West and the modern non-West.
To circle back to the significance of loading an Africanist postcolonial dimension to the atomic explosions on the modern political human condition, I assert this position because it provides a magnified sense of the contradictions that exist within what is largely a rigid Western perception of the modern human political perception. To fully appreciate such an understanding, however, I must elaborate on how the politics of Enlightenment at the beginning of the modern age developed to become an instrument of hegemony, with apparent contradictions within its logic.
Politics of Enlightenment as instrument of hegemony (or sovereignty)
As already stated, the Age of Enlightenment was a period during which a cohesive body of philosophers and artists in Europe represented themselves as standing at the brink of history, aware of their own modernity (or sovereign political citizenship) that was based on their independence from religion, emphasising instead rationalism, science, and secular emancipation. It was the genesis of an idea of modernity with a particularist string from strictly their (Western) point of view, which eventually got projected onto the wider world with an ethical imperative conscience to build a better future for all based on such self-modern understanding. This is a definition of hegemony par excellence, in as far as hegemonic relations are those in which universals, whose content is the terrain for ideological antagonisms, have their significance fixed, with acceptance of that resolution then providing a criterion for structuring society, as per Richard Cohen’s discursive analysis on the Enlightenment in relation to hegemony.
The Age of Enlightenment was a period during which a cohesive body of philosophers and artists in Europe represented themselves as standing at the brink of history.
I choose to rely heavily on Cohen’s discursive analysis on Enlightenment due to his unique take on the semiotics of the term “enlightenment” as sign, and its relations with religion and hegemony in the Western context that other scholars would overlook. His exegesis not only reveals how Enlightenment Thought functions politically to become a hegemonic tool, but also becomes informative in deciphering the motif of enlightenment and its relationship with Buddhism in the literary texts I analyse. The core of his argument proposes that the Enlightenment of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe provides the political context for understanding Buddhist enlightenment as the simultaneous, coequal, perfection of rationality, religiosity, morality, and humanity, beyond politics. In other words, Buddhist enlightenment was a European Enlightenment phenomenon, in as far as how the term “Buddha” came to be translated as “the enlightened one” instead of the more apt “the awakened one” by an Enlightenment scholar, Max Müller, who was pivotal in the formation of Buddhist studies through his science of religion. Allow me then to summarise Cohen’s discursive argument briefly below.
Cohen begins by making clear that “Enlightenment” is an idea whose semiotics is polyvalent as sign. It evokes many meanings at once, of Buddhism, of the European historical phenomenon named the Age of Enlightenment, or of a particular string of Christianity. Its signifier, however, is empty. This is to say that no one image stands for it, and so the signified becomes indefinite. This is because its signifier is unstable; no one image fully captures its meaning – the signified evoked in the mind.
The modern non-West can only come into being only when it is invaded, defeated and exploited by the West.
When constricted to a historicogeopolitcal outlook that questions modernity, however, “Enlightenment” is first filled with the religious, because man is inherently a religious species, Homo Religiosus, having Christianity at its core in the Western context because Christianity was the threshold crossed to define what was modern by Enlightenment thinkers of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries – the Age of Enlightenment. Those who adhered to its tenets (science, reason, and secular emancipation) then were considered “modern” and “progressive” while those who did not were “primitive” or “non-modern”, for he states that “in the modern world, human beings actualise their humanity, becoming Enlightened subjects, only when they have the wisdom to accept the responsibilities of political citizenships [as per Enlightenment Thought]”. Cohen adds that despite the abandonment of religion (heavily drawing from Kant who was considered the inventor of modern subjectivity) due to man being anthropologically inclined to religion, rationality becomes morality, which in turn rationalises to other said values to the point that it becomes a religion, the basis of a monistic hegemony.
In as far as the origin of Buddhist studies is concerned, the politics of Enlightenment emphasising rationality influenced the universal perception of Buddha as “enlightened”, making Buddhism, through the science of religion, more suitably Christian, assimilating Buddhism to Christianity as a religion – a hegemonic undertaking. This becomes the basis upon which a literary analysis of the motif of enlightenment in the figure of the Buddha is undertaken on the literary texts considered for my thesis: Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness and Yoshihiro Togashi’s Japanese manga Hunter x Hunter.
Besides Cohen’s core argument, his interpretation of the politics of Kantian Enlightenment Thought is also useful in the context of how such ideology describes a (post) colonially charged sovereignty. In fact, I perceive an overlap between Cohen’s language describing Enlightenment as hegemony with Achille Mbembe’s Foucauldian language of the necropolitical in relation to modernity. Cohen states that the condition of acceptance of political citizenship as per Enlightenment Thought relegates the human being’s religiosity into the private realm. By such privatisation, “no citizen is forced to relinquish or deny his own personal beliefs, even if considerably outside the mainstream. Purely internal, this confessional diversity will not disrupt the regular working of government. The secular state becomes a public sphere within which antagonisms that might arise due to personal distinctions vis-à-vis gender, ethnicity, economic status, philosophy, and of course religious faith or dogma, are set aside in favor of a single shared identity (citizenship), and will toward the common good”.
Christianity was the threshold crossed to define what was modern by Enlightenment thinkers of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries—the Age of Enlightenment.
Mbembe would agree since he asserts that, “reason is the truth of the subject and politics is the exercise of reason in the public sphere” in as far as “reason is the most important element of both the project of modernity and [literary convention] of sovereignty” and thus said sovereignty “with reason and unreason [defining] a certain idea of political, community, subject, good life and how it is achieved.”. Given such an overlap, not only does the metonymy of Enlightenment as hegemony with sovereignty become more concrete, but also the politics of Enlightenment can begin to be discussed in biopolitical terms, because to Mbembe, sovereignty is synonymous with biopower. This brings me thus to discuss Mbembe’s necropolitics as the horrific manifestation of the politics of Enlightenment, the haunting (post)colonial expression of sovereignty/modernity.
Necropolitics as the horrors of the politics of Enlightenment: A tripartite structure
First, allow me to clarify that the “horror” in the horrors of enlightenment is a Conradian reference, speaking to the contradictions that lead to the politics of death by the tenets of Enlightenment described narratively within his novella Heart of Darkness.
At this juncture, I believe it has been made clear how the tenets of Enlightenment Thought (science, rationalism and secular emancipation) become a haunting ideology on the modern human political condition in the 20th and 21st centuries, by way of its hegemonic nature. I must hasten to add here that, even though I have not explicitly stated the apparent contradictions existent in Enlightenment’s logic, by Cohen’s exposition, such has already been forwarded, i.e. in the way Enlightenment’s hegemonic nature inherently contains ideological antagonisms. In other words, to reiterate Cohen’s Laclauian interpretation of Enlightenment as empty signifier, Enlightenment comes to function as an instrument of hegemony because of its stable signifying systemic totality (Western Enlightenment Ideals as core) within which it functions and makes the basis of an exclusionary limit. Or to put it differently, it totalises Enlightenment discourse and makes it the basis upon which systemic totality is created. Within such a systemic totality that assumes a Christian universal core, Enlightenment then assimilates other meanings to itself while providing an identity only insofar as it creates an equivalence among everything on the inside, but excludes, devalues, and makes a potential antagonist of everything that does not participate in that order. This finds a similar expression in Mbembe, where he states that sovereignty finds itself manifest through the two-step process of self-institution and self-limitation.
I argue, therefore, that it is through the biopolitical mechanics of Enlightenment manifesting as sovereignty, given Mbembe’s assertion that modernity is at the origin of multiple concepts of sovereignty, or lack thereof, that the necropolitical Horrors of Enlightenment can be understood. Consequently, it is through the bio- and necropower of Enlightenment that the West has managed to control and subjugate its Others in history, which is ultimately tied to the imperial/colonial (postcolonial) across time. Thus, we come back full circle to my comparative assertion – that perception of political modernity, with the atomic explosions as the point of departure, becomes loaded with an Africanist postcolonial dimension, providing a magnified sense of the contradictory inhumanity contained within Enlightenment. I will thus elaborate on the mechanics of the politics of life and death that Mbembe asserts, before illustrating how this becomes manifest in the doubly layered human political condition in the atomic bombing.
The brief version of the mechanics of the politics of life and death that Mbembe describes is as follows: by the self-institution and self-limitation of sovereignty, three effects are realised. First, through (political) work, nature is negated. Second, the right to kill what is negated is justified. And third, by the very act of negation through the work of politics – an exercise of reason/rationalism – that seeks to confront death and live beyond it, sovereignty is upheld and proliferated as a living spirit, a ghostly hegemonic self-consciousness.
Now, Mbembe describes the self-institution and self-limitation of sovereignty in a similar vein to Cohen’s description of the condition of man to actualise humanity through the acceptance of political citizenship as per Enlightenment Thought. Mbembe states that for a human being to become a full modern subject (to be recognised us self-understanding, self-conscious, and self-representing), first he must negate nature (emphasis mine), reducing it to his or her own needs, and second, he must transform nature through (rational) work and struggle, creating a world.
It is through the bio- and necropower of Enlightenment that the West has managed to control and subjugate its Others in history.
Note that the negation, work and struggle posited above is reminiscent of the life-and-death struggle in the Hegelian master-slave dialectic, where the recognition of the humanity of the subject is necessitated by the domination of the Other. It is work and struggle that separates the human from nature, or in another sense, the animal. So, a human being becomes subject by rejecting/separating from the animal or becomes subject in the struggle and work through which he or she confronts death. Consequently, through the confrontation of death, or more elaborately, by attempting to uphold one’s work in death in order to become a living spirit, the modern human (defined by ideologies of Enlightenment) is cast into the incessant movement of history. As a result, sovereignty becomes intimately linked to death insofar as politics is a work of death. Invoking Sakai, when such an exercise of sovereignty (often expressing itself as nationalism) becomes a universal project (seeking to change and rationalise social institutions in a global level) backed by economic and political superiority, the justification of that particular sovereign to dominate and conquer others becomes complete. We thus see how the West justified the Hegelian negation, thus domination, of its Others, the non-West. This explains both the first and third effect of self-institution and self-limitation of sovereignty: the negation of nature and the self-perpetuation of sovereignty as hegemonic self-consciousness.
At the expense of digression, it is significant to point out at this juncture that the mechanics of negation includes racial classification, and by extension racism, within it. Mbembe’s configuration of necropolitics captures this feature by describing race as an ever-present shadow (emphasis mine) in Western political thought and practice that imagines the inhumanity of, and rule over, foreign peoples. This is pertinent in that race becomes the basis upon which the modern human political condition becomes defined. As far as Enlightenment Thought manifesting as biopower (or sovereignty) is concerned, the Enlightenment period was pivotal in the Western (Euroamerican) perspective on nature, deep time and evolution where race became the classifier for the progress and recognition of humanity, with the white race being argued to be the most developed while others belonged to antiquity. Put differently, the idea of the progress of humanity was described in stadial histories, perceiving some races as “stagnated” in time.
Notably, Mbembe is not the only scholar who has defined race or the racial Other as a “shadow”. Sakai himself describes the Orient as a shadow of the West, with race as an implicit fact contributing to the distinction of the two. He also adds that “ … the relationship between the West and the non-West seems to follow the old and familiar formula of master/slave”. And Toni Morrison crucially describes Africanist presence as a shadow to whiteness in her work Playing in the Dark. She eloquently describes how Africanist blackness became a fabricated concept associated with non-freedom and polarity of skin colour within American literature. She describes it within the context of the history of the United States, calling it specifically as “American Africanism”—a fabricated brew of darkness, otherness, alarm, and desire that is uniquely American. She also adds that European Africanism is American Africanism’s counterpart in colonial literature. Morrison thus provides a link between American and European views on Africanist blackness, which I argue speaks to the glaring similarities of language describing the Africanist black Other found in American literature and European colonial literature often connotated with savagery and animality.
Given all this, what emerges is that the Western concept of sovereignty by and large, founded on Enlightenment, is a paradox of simultaneous idealism and apparent inhumanity. The idealism expresses itself in the utopian belief in the power of human reason while spinning various narratives of mastery and emancipation underpinned by Enlightenment understandings of truth and error. And yet, adopting Morrison, such romanticised narratives simultaneously excluded the Other while, adopting Sakai, stripping them of their subjectivity, making them mere “shadows” or “spectres that haunt”, i.e. the existence of the shadowed Other is real, but is never fully acknowledged, like a ghost. Shadows then become defined by their “sub-humanness”/” non-humanness” as defined by the truth and error of Enlightenment, although the extent to which these manifest, I argue, differs dependent on the sovereign’s extent of domination on the shadow in question, and the extent of resistance that the shadow puts up against the sovereign. Which is why Mbembe defines in one instance the slave’s humanity as the perfect figure of a shadow, their condition being a triple loss: loss of a “home”, loss of rights over their body, and loss of political status, synonymous with natal alienation, absolute domination, and social death, respectively. In another instance, he implicitly states the shadow status of a colony, as colonies “inhabited by savages … are not organised in a state form and have not created human worlds”. Hence, to the sovereign conqueror, savage life is just another form of animal life that is part of nature, needing subjugation, appearing like phantoms, unreal and ghostlike. We thus begin to see how the negation of nature itself becomes the negation of the Other, as the two are conflated.
“The relationship between the West and the non-West seems to follow the old and familiar formula of master/slave.”
Onto the second effect of Enlightenment as biopower/sovereignty: the negation of nature justifies the sovereign subject to control life (sociopolitical death) and to kill. Mbembe observes the various ways this becomes manifest, first in slavery, where the slave is in a status of sociopolitical death. The right to kill also manifests in colonial domination, where a territory defined as “colony”—a shadowed territory – becomes a space where the violence of the state of exception for the sovereign is justified under the pretence of “civilisation”. Such shadowed territory and its inherent state of exception also overlaps with the state of concentration camps, where the inhabitants are divested of political status and reduced to bare life due to the camp’s political-juridical structure. The state-of-exception becomes a permanent spatial arrangement within such territory that remains continually outside the normal state of law. Finally, the right to kill manifests in the project of the “Final Solution”, where “the perception of the existence of the Other as an attempt on [the sovereign subject’s] life, as a mortal threat or absolute danger whose biophysical elimination would strengthen [the sovereign subject’s] potential to life and security”.
We thus begin to see how Enlightenment not only accommodated slavery at its inception because the concept of freedom emerged from, was highlighted, in fact created by, the antithetical concept of slavery but also became a prelude to the imperial/colonial actions of the West onto the globe, culminating in, on the one hand, what can be considered a kind of “Final Solution” that was the atomic bombing of Japan during the state of emergency that was WWII, and on the other, the colony, as seen in the Congo, Africans considered being within the state of exception, hence disposable. Moreover, with the comparative assertion that the atomic bombing is haunted by the ghost of African colonialism, the latter becomes implicated in the former. I believe, therefore, that I have succeeded in demonstrating the transnational nature of the horrific effects of the politics of Enlightenment, with the atomic explosions as the point of departure.
The Western concept of sovereignty by and large, founded on Enlightenment, is a paradox of simultaneous idealism and apparent inhumanity.
What has been deciphered then is the horrific nature of sovereignty where, upon its self-institution and self-limitation, the horror finds itself manifest in three different aspects. First, the horror becomes manifest through the fear, abjection and revulsion of the shadowed Other as described in the negation of nature. Second, the horror becomes manifest as terror, leading to the sociopolitical or physical death of the Other. And, last but not least, there is a horror in the very act of sovereignty’s negation of Nature/Other via its self-institution and self-limitation, where it self-perpetuates through the deliberate epistemic erasure of its negation while simultaneously upholding its reasoning as truth.
Comparative literature as mirror to understand transnational nature of political modernity
At this juncture, I must clarify that the findings of my inquiry on the postcolonial haunting of the politics of Enlightenment were initially explored through a comparative literary analysis of what, to most, would seem to be two unrelated texts: Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness and Yoshihiro Togashi’s Japanese manga Hunter x Hunter. The comparative analysis was made based on my intuitive perception of intertextuality of literary motifs between the two texts, and my belief, as with Morrison, that literature is a prime site where sociopolitical processes of the real world get inscribed in it through the writers’ ability to “transform aspects of their social grounding into aspects of language [and image in the case of manga authors] to tell other stories, fight secret wars, limn out all sorts of debates blanketed in their text”. Said overlapping motifs in the plotlines were Enlightenment, symbolically represented by the image of the Buddha, and its attendant Horrors, expressed narratively, in both texts. As already stated under “Politics of Enlightenment as Instrument of Hegemony”, Cohen’s discursive analysis proved useful in deciphering and reading Buddhist imagery used by both authors as a mere cloak to represent values and politics of Enlightenment Thought that shaped modern perceptions.
It was by fortunate coincidence that I found out amid my research that the historical contexts that inspire the plot in both texts are interlinked, that the colonial context in the Congo contributed to the atomic explosions that ushered in the modern world. By virtue of such a shared world, not only was the strength of my literary analysis that was based on mere intertextualities of motifs between the two texts further concretised, but it also went on to show comparative literature’s value, to be that site for historical remembrance that enables us to critically investigate the historical context they represent relative to our present condition.
Postcolonial ghosts in the present
Needless to say, the modern political human condition explored in the atomic bombing still haunts us in the 21st century and remains relevant. As evidence, I bring forward two postcolonial ghosts connected to the atomic explosions that politically mark the birth of our modern world.
The first is the A-Bomb Dome – the ruined skeletal structure of what was once the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall stands preserved to this day in Hiroshima, Japan. The ruin, known as the Genbaku-Domu in Japanese, is the only structure left standing near the hypocentre of the explosion that went off on 6 August 1945. The A-Dome is a “ghost” in the sense that its ruined structure is a haunting presence – carrying with it the memory of an event that reminds us of the destruction that the imperial impulse is capable of. It just as much loads the present with the question of whether history will be repeated, whether the culmination of sovereignty’s justification to kill in the form of the “Final Solution” will occur once more. Such a threat is pertinent given that currently, there are nine countries globally that possess nuclear warheads.
The colonial context in the Congo contributed to the atomic explosions that ushered in the modern world.
The second postcolonial ghost is the situation of resource mining in DRC. It is reported, as per Siddharth Kara, in his newly published book Cobalt Red, that Congolese workers find themselves in subpar working conditions that are nothing short of modern-day slavery. Nanjala Nyabola touched on the same subject matter, but on coltan in the Congo in her essay “Small Acts of Resistance” in her 2020 book Travelling While Black. These authors reveal the significance of the mining industry in the production of technological products that our modern techno-oriented lives are reliant on, from the smartphones and laptops that we use daily, to the electric vehicles that are being advocated for in an effort to address fossil-fuel driven climate change. The industry, when taken as a “ghost”, becomes one whose origins are as old as the DRC’s own colonial history when it came under the Belgian King Leopold II’s brutish reign from 1885 to 1908 (famous for the cutting of hands when quotas of rubber were not fulfilled by African labourers). Even when Leopold had to relinquish his Free State in 1908 which led to Congo’s annexation as a colony of Belgium, the coercive and brutal methods of exploitation of the African population only relatively softened, leading to the mining of uranium that contributed to the atomic explosions in Japan. Given how we still have such oppressive and extractive systems at work in the 21st century, it is evident how resource mining can be considered a (post)colonial ghost that still broadly lingers and haunts the present African condition.
With these two postcolonial ghosts considered as still haunting from the atomic explosions that Arendt considers the birth of our modern world, it is evident that there is still much room for a reimagination and reconsideration of the modern human political condition beyond what is still a rigid Western perception. Or in any case, an acknowledgement that the politics of Enlightenment is a globally shared ghostly inheritance, where all parties and individuals across geopolitical borders need to be included and concerned in discussion and discourse of what we are doing as a collective human species, and what we will do toward a more systematically just world.