Saturday, July 23, 2022

USA Africa Dialogue Series - Exploring the Multidisciplinary, Multicultural and Cosmopolitan Scope of the Work of Polymathic Scholar and Writer Toyin Falola





 Exploring the Multidisciplinary, Multicultural and Cosmopolitan Scope of the Work of the Polymathic

                                                          Scholar and Writer Toyin Falola

                                                               Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju

                                                     Comparative Cognitive Processes and Systems   

                                      "Exploring Every Corner of the Cosmos in Search of Knowledge"



Imaginative creativities at the heart of a vast expressive enterprise, the Toyin Falola universe,  are evoked for me by this detail of the cover of Falola's latest book, Nigerian Literary Imagination and the Nationhood Project ( July 2022).

Names of Nigerian imaginative writers and scholars of Nigerian literature constitute a cap worn by a writer and scholar, evoking embodiment of the creative values represented by that expressive world, as he wears a necklace indicating the titles of those books in which he explores his earliest journeys to becoming who he is, the matrix in which he is shaped by the convergence of self and circumstance, the constellation of possibility from which each moment is born, the imaginative intelligence of history beyond full human understanding even as it is partly constructed by human beings.

Verbal creativities bring to life imaginative worlds, suggesting conjunctions between bodies of knowledge, between  modes of thought and expression,  generating new possibilities beyond their constituents, a dazzling web of possibilities configured by the traveller between history and literature, art and economics, self and culture, amongst other configurations constituting the journey of African humanity from remotest origins to international settling across the seas.


On account of its infinitely stimulating power, all creativity opens itself to endless examination, recreation and inspiration of new creativity, particularly such a diversely creative complex as that developed by polymathic scholar and writer Toyin Falola.


Falola is one of the most prolific scholars ever, at any point in history, in any culture, from the earlier achievements of the ancient Greeks to Asia and the Islamic world, to Europe, North America, South America, other continents, and Africa in it's older oral and newer written traditions.


The multidisciplinary range of Falola's  work is eclipsed perhaps, only by such scholars at the foundations of cognitive history as Aristotle, and such culturally foundational cognitive  complexes as the correlative African systems represented by the Yoruba origin Ifa, the Igbo Afa and the Dahomean Fa, among others, in their integration of multidisciplinary breadth represented by visual and performative arts, spirituality, philosophy and other disciplines, within a vast literary system organized in terms of a mathematical structure, a cognitive complex that is one of Falola's inspirations.


Those older multidisciplinary architectures may surpass Falola's work in the stage it has reached so far, in the older systems' constitution of cognitive formations, establishing or consolidating particular styles of thought and expression at the foundations of the knowledge worlds of specific and related civilizations, later expanding into a global scope.


Those earlier achievements do not equal, however, the cultural breadth of Falola's creativity, strategic for speaking to humanity in it's expanding growth in multicultural and cosmopolitan interpenetration, his own inventiveness emerging within the richer information spaces of the 20th and 21st centuries.


The older accomplishments also do not match Falola's expressive range, as his works cover every aspect of African Studies, except the sciences, as well as being strong in poetry in Yoruba and English as well as autobiography, evident in books embodying his masterly use of the expository and analytical essay, short essays, long essays, essay/poetry combinations and interlinked book chapters, in sole written, co-authored and edited books and social media publications.


His work also covers a broad range of scholarly organization,  running various book series with different publishers, conducting  interviews with diverse prominent personalities, framed by his rich overviews of their achievements, along with  organizing conferences on myriad subjects in African Studies and creating and running a very rich social media platform on continental and Diaspora African and world affairs, the USAAfrica Dialogue Series Google group, publication in which ensures high Internet and thereby global visibility on account of the platform's strong online presence.


Falola's productivity has long outstripped the various essay and book length assessments of his work, and will always do so as long as he maintains his current escalating trajectory of productivity, expanding in terms of disciplinary range and depth and originality of treatment of the subjects he addresses.

My goal is that of critically engaging his work as it unfolds, examining it's strengths and limitations, in relation to the total complex of his  productivity as my understanding of it develops, in dialogue with a multidisciplinary and multicultural frame of knowledge, possibly developing new structures of understanding  from these explorations and sharing these initiatives on the uniquely democratic space represented by social media, and possibly other platforms, such as books, one approach to expanding the impact of Falola's work beyond it's accustomed academic audiences.


I am Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju, an Independent Scholar in Lagos.  Researching and publishing on the polymathic work of Toyin Falola is one of the projects I'm working on.



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