Souleymane Bachir Diagne

Qui Parle, Fall/Winter, 2008


Was this rapprochement between the Senegalese Senghor and Iqbal the Indian, the way in which Edgar Faure created a dialogue between them, a simple rhetorical device? It was much more than that and, one could say, much more than Edgar Faure himself knew. The resemblance between Senghor and Iqbal, both poets, both from the colonies of Europe, both statesmen engaged in the liberation of their people, both philosophers, the former a practic ing Catholic and the latter a Muslim?runs deep and lies ultimate ly in the philosophy that they were both profoundly influenced by: Bergsonism. How the two men, both poets, both philosophers, both states men, and both coming from lands colonized by Europe in the name of civilization that is, the imposition of sameness upon the rest of the world?came to articulate a philosophy contending with what it means to be “other” through the philosophy of Henri Bergson (1859-1941), is the problem this essay addresses. It shows that because Bergson represented a break in the history of Western phi losophy and thus introduced a philosophical approach radically different from the course followed in the West from Aristotle on ward, Bergson allowed Iqbal’s and Senghor’s philosophies of al terity to find their language in his own. The essay also retraces Bergson’s influence on both Senghor’s notion of Negritude and Iqbal’s modernist Islamic thought by presenting briefly Bergson’s other philosophy, then Senghor’s philosophy of Africanity, and finally, in its third part, Iqbal’s project of a “reconstruction of the religious thought of Islam.”

View the paper here: Bergson in the Colony: Intuition and Duration in the Thought of Senghor and Iqbal