In Praise of Greatness, employing poems and prose, pays homage to those African scholars, artists, and public intellectuals who have been exemplary in developing significant ideas and institutional legacies with far-reaching political, social, and cultural impact. Here are remarkable lives of dedicated service that have transformed society, extended the frontiers of knowledge, preserved values, and offered unique perspectives that replace universalism with pluriversalism. In twenty-two chapters that deploy dynamic poetics, distinct cultural tools, and rich traditions, the book presents multiple global-local biographies of preeminent scholars, living legends, and intellectual giants of Africa and its diaspora. Through individual stories, cumulative analyses demonstrate the existence and elaboration of an ontological and epistemic infrastructure that embodies the powerful paradigms that are essential to attaining progress, promoting ethical scholarship, and presenting distinguished Africans to the outside world. The book argues for the maintenance of strong academic traditions and new social thinking beyond patriarchy, as well as more serious attention to poetic and artistic creativity in surviving, navigating, and transforming the varying forces of modernity and globalization with meticulous and sustained attention to local needs and contexts. In Praise of Greatness advances the agenda of nation building by showcasing the formidable works and enduring genius of prominent individuals who have discovered pathways to optimal outcomes for themselves and others through myriad heroic efforts and honorable relationships of generosity and trust. In Praise of Greatness seeks to inspire intellectual productivity in an emergent generation of scholars; to provide a unique lens for interpreting the past and present; and to promote a collective narrative around African development.
“Using a distinct and revolutionary methodology and approach, Toyin Falola employs his own original transcripts and primary texts — a series of mini biographies and poems — to generate an expansive interpretative text, a book that will surely instigate serious conversations in learned circles. Deploying unusual talents in multiple fields and disciplines, Toyin Falola is not merely genre bending and reconstructing, he pioneers a genre “marque”. This is one piece too many — a smorgasbord of homages, tributes, praises, adulations. . . . And more, recreating and reclaiming memories and histories.” Mobolanle E. Sotunsa Professor of African Oral Literatures and Gender Studies, Babcock University