Political Theory 48 (3):330-356 (2020)

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In this essay, I examine Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka’s A Dance of the Forests in order to think through political founding. Viewing founding from the postcolonial context, I explore how members of a political community negotiate among the multiple pasts that continue to affect them, and what kind of institutions and actors are best equipped to pursue this critical part of the founding project. Situating Soyinka’s account against competing narratives of the postcolonial condition, I demonstrate how he uses Yoruba philosophy and cosmology to reframe the challenges and potentials of founding, and I illustrate how political actors should respond to these by adopting the role of “citizen-artists” who can learn from past struggles and overcome their overwhelming legacies. Read as a dramatic intervention into Nigerian democratic politics and as a work of political theory, A Dance offers a lens through which to interrogate founding within and beyond the postcolony.
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DOI 10.1177/0090591719878403
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