Mourning and The Imagination of Political Time In Contemporary Central Africa
In many societies, especially those where individual and collective memory are marked by the trauma that can accompany authoritarian rule, people attempt to come to terms with the past by finding ways of making it relevant to the present. One way to understand this complex relationship with history is through a careful examination of the practice of mourning. Mourning constitutes, above all, a framework from which the deceased's relationship with the living is collectively inventoried, evaluated, and debated so that the social work of memory may graft the experiences of yesterday onto a horizon of expectations. Defining the status of the deceased means making important decisions about how to “move on,” since the moment of mourning is not only a moment for weighing the acts and deeds of the deceased, but also a way of testing more generally the criteria for becoming recognized as an ancestor. As death seems increasingly present in the lives of people in many parts of Africa, emerging forms of social mourning echo the need for new political futures, and mourning shows itself as an important terrain for the social production of meaning. The primary objective of this collection of articles is to look at how the process of mourning mediates between the past and the future, and how the practices and perceptions of mourning are linked to real and imagined divisions in political time. Mourning, in other words, is a way of rethinking time.