Towards a New Historical Condition


The Steve Biko Lectures in Philosophy
12 March 2015

13:00 – 16:00 – Madibeng Building, University of Johannesburg

François Hartog
École des hautes études en sciences sociales

Dilip Menon (Centre for Indian Studies in Africa)
Achille Mbembe (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research)


During the last two centuries, the word History has been one of the “crossroad” terms around which belief crystalized itself. But what do we mean when we utter the word History today? What do we (still) believe in? We could look at the question both from inside the discipline and from outside. What are the challenges and the proposals?

In any case, we must start by abandoning the prior meaning of the term: That modern notion of history written with a capital H which was launched and imposed by Europe and was charged with the progress of civilizations; which wanted to be, simultaneously, the locative of the modern world as well as its ultimate judge. That notion of history may still linger on, but it no longer holds sway on the world in the same way it once did.

Only then can we ask if the ancient name of history can be redeployed once again to offer a new way of articulating the three categories of past, present and future–which humans have always needed to regulate their life together–without subjecting any of them to the tyranny of the other. Is such a project possible in a world so far removed from the one which regulated the meridian in Greenwich?


Lecture series organized by the Centre for Phenomenology in South Africa, the French Institute of South Africa, the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, and with the support of the Steve Biko Foundation.

with the support of the EU Inspiring Thinkers Programme