This collection exemplifies the kinds of engagements across disciplines, subjects of study, and areas of the world that are so important to initiate and sustain, once we have recognized the fruitfulness of all the connections that provoke commitment to the intellectual tasks of the twenty-first century, appreciation of originality, and a stamina in our scholarship that can do justice to the commitment, originality and stamina of our colleagues and the world we study. The authors all represent disciplines with which I have tried to work – history, geography, economics, political studies, philosophy and broad subfields within anthropology – in ways that can open up new vistas.
When all the chapters are taken together, the impetus of the collection goes forward into futures: both intellectual and regional. Every chapter opens a new pathway or draws new attention to one already on the map, even though it may have become neglected for a while and needs re-clearing and re-directing. That the authors can find, in my own past work, the clues to some of these pathways, and the encouragement to keep hacking away at the older ones and opening up new ones, is also a source of new cues for me, as to where to go next. The image reminds me of other, previous, experimental maps for thought that derive from Africa: Paths in the Rainforest, by Jan Vansina (1990), Paths Towards a Clearing, by Michael Jackson (1989), The African Frontier, edited by Igor Kopytoff (1987), and the journeys of the epic Moneblum, transcribed by Samuel Eno Belinga (1978), on which I drew for the idea of ‘wealth-in-people as wealth-in-knowledge’ and ‘traditions of invention’, both of them cited in these chapters. The journey, as exploration and inspiration rather than conquest, is a common orientation in African studies. Its literal nature is expressed in the African arts, as in Amos Tutuola's (1987) book Pauper, Brawler, Slanderer, which I used to explore a philosophy of life that incorporates recurrent ‘confusion’ (Guyer 2015), in a paper cited here by Michael Watts. The journey as a literal trajectory is similar to the intellectual orientation highlighted here by Fred Cooper, that concepts ‘launch an enquiry, not … close off analysis by slotting something definitively into a category’.