A central discussion in African Philosophy concerns the “African concept of time,” famously theorized by John S. Mbiti. Mbiti makes a distinction between a circular and a linear concept of time, associating the former with Africa and the latter with the West. Critical of such essentialist binaries, this article develops a nuanced understanding of the concepts of time and history expressed in two categories of novels in three African languages: Ujamaa novels in Swahili (Tanzania) and Chimurenga/Umvukela novels in Shona and Ndebele (Zimbabwe). While Ujamaa novels often operate on a circular concept of time, the Zimbabwean novels are based on a view of time as linear progress. The article argues that these concepts of time are determined by the genre conventions of the novel and the tale and that the adoption and hybridization of these genres has been decisively impacted by the state ideologies in Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

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