Transition Magazine

Born in Africa and bred in the diaspora, Transition is a unique forum for the freshest, most compelling ideas from and about the black world. Since its founding in Uganda in 1961, the magazine has kept apace of the rapid transformation of the African Diaspora and has remained a leading forum of intellectual debate. Now, in an age that demands ceaseless improvisation, we aim to be both an anchor of deep reflection on black life and a map charting new routes through the globalized world. Transition is a publication of the Hutchins Center at Harvard University, published three times annually by Indiana University Press. On Twitter at @Transition_Mag

Editorial Mission

Thumbnail for Transition Archive

Transition Archive

Founded by Rajat Neogy in Uganda in 1961, Transition was Africa's preeminent venue for cultural and political debate in the 1960s, literary home to the giants of African and black American writing. Today, Transition is the premier international forum for the freshest and most compelling ideas about race and ethnicity, giving voice to a new generation of literary legends.

Thumbnail for Transition 123 / Jalada 05 - Featured Essay

Transition 123 / Jalada 05 - Featured Essay

Fear in the Age of Displacement

Ishtiyaq Shukri expands upon intimate experiences of belonging and displacement in an enumeration of his fears for Africa and the world—from the mercenaries hired to bring “safety” to university campuses to the threats of terror and global warming in a “post-truth” era.

Read it here.

Thumbnail for Transition 123 / Jalada 05 - Featured Essay

Transition 123 / Jalada 05 - Featured Essay

On Being an African Intellectual

In this 1970 essay, Transition founding editor Rajat Neogy criticizes those deemed African intellectuals by “notebook and pencil” visitors, distinguishing them from those Independence-era thinkers (himself included) who defended freedom of thought in the face of authoritarian suppression of dissent.

Read it here.

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Transition 122 - Featured Essay

Why It's Time Schools Stopped Teaching To Kill a Mockingbird
Though it continues to be a mainstay on middle and high school reading lists, Naa Baako Ako-Adjei argues that Harper Lee's novel is nothing short of apologia for prolonging white supremacy.

Read it here.

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Transition 121 - Featured Essay

Working the City  
by Bernard Matambo     

=Chosen for Best American Essays 2017=

Matambo offers a lyrical yet sobering account of the myriad challenges facing young Zimbabweans struggling to realize their dream of attending college in the United States.

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Transition 120 - Featured Article

Camera Ministry            

In a post-screening talkback, filmmaker Khalik Allah talks with Tommie Shelby about his depiction of life on a Harlem street corner in the film "Field Niggas," and about responses to his work from his subjects, and the public.

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Transition 119 - Featured Article

Generations of Struggle              

Activists and scholars Percy Green II, Robin D. G. Kelley, Tef Poe, George Lipsitz, and Jamala Rogers, with Elizabeth Hinton, discuss more than five decades of black action in St. Louis, MO from the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter.

Thumbnail for Transition 118 - Featured Article

Transition 118 - Featured Article

by Bénédicte Boisseron

Boisseron looks at black America’s historical interaction with dogs— from slavery to the current Black Lives Matter protests—and provides a prism through which racial perception, notions of inherent goodness or badness, and the law can be further investigated.

Full Article / Issue 118

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Transition 113 - Featured Article

The Path between Two Points: Malian Adventures in France
by Julie Kleinman

Narrating the story of Boubacar, a Malian immigrant in France, Kleinman explores how French colonial fantasies of travel and adventure in Africa belie the fraught and perilous real-life "adventures" of Soninke men trying to eke out a living in the Hexagon.

Full Article / Issue 113

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Transition 111 - Featured Fiction

On the Sounds of Haiti: An excerpt from La belle amour humaine (2011)
by Lyonel Trouillot

In this early passage from Lyonel Trouillot’s recent novel, a Haitian guide, who has just picked up a European visitor at the airport, offers this typology of the sounds of Port-au-Prince.

Translated by Laurent Dubois

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Transition 110 - Featured Fiction

The Open Door of Paradise
an excerpt from Contours du jour qui vient
Fiction by Léonora Miano

That adipose flesh won’t stand being cooped up much longer and it’s getting more and more difficult for the enraged Mama Bosangui to hold her big stomach in; you can see it trembling beneath the electric blue satin of her gown.

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Transition 108 - Featured Article

"Tense and Tender Ties"
a review of Janny Scott's A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother (2011)
by Kimberly DaCosta

Psychologically conflicted, confused, traitorous, tragic, and deracinated: the public vocabulary used to describe multiracial people has hardly changed since the days when state laws banned marriage between black and white. Zeroing in on interracial kinship, DaCosta close reads Janny Scott's biography of Barack Obama's mother.

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Transition 106 - Featured Article B

But Why, Father?
looking back on the legacy of the African Writers Series, fifty years on
by David Kaiza

For half a century, the African Writers Series was the publisher of record when it came to African literature (whatever that means). But did the quality of the writing usually meet the mark? Growing up in the shadow of the AWS, Kaiza tells us why the next generation of writers is less concerned with salvaging black pride than with the craft of fiction itself.

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Transition 105 - Featured Article

The Memory of Gold: Happy Slaves and the Problem of Security
by Laurence Ralph

On his way back from a trip to Brazil, anthropologist Laurence Ralph unexpectedly becomes the object of scrutiny, calling into question the meanings of "homeland" and "security" in the long wake of the Atlantic slave trade.

Full Article / Issue 105

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Transition 104 - Featured Article

uGogo: Residing with the Spectral in South Africa
by Emily Margaretten

Ghosts and witches haunt Point Place, an abandoned building that serves as a hellish haven for street children in Durban, South Africa. Anthropologist Emily Margaretten finds that calling the evil spirit by its name--AIDS--does little to dispel its eerie effects on the minds, as well as the bodies, of those living "off the map" and "in-between".

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Transition 102 - Featured Article

Don't Cry for Me Africa: Preamble of a Memo to the African Prince
by John F. E. Ohiorenuan

The recent economic history of Africa has been less than postcolonial thanks to the powerful external institutions that continue to shape policy and to which African leaders continue to cater. John F. E. Ohiorenuan offers some sage advice to the African princes and princesses to come.

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Transition 096 - Featured Article

Guyanarama: In Search of Walter Rodney
by Achal Prabhala

In the last decades of the 20th century, tiny Guyana hosted an outsized roster of rebels, rogues, and raconteurs, from Pan-Africanist hero Walter Rodney to the homicidal cultmaster Jim Jones. It's a land where calypso is king—and where Africans and Indians engage in low-intensity race warfare. Achal Prabhala goes down to Georgetown.

Full Article

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Transition 094 - Featured Article

Ebony and Ivoirité
by Siddhartha Mitter

On Baltimore Avenue in Philadelphia, casualties of the civil war include the butcher, the bodega-owner, and the president of the Association of Patriotic Ivorian Women. Ivory Coast's ongoing crisis has torn the country in half and destroyed its reputation as West Africa's golden child. Siddhartha Mitter explores pride and prejudice among the partisans of the Ivorian diaspora.

Full article

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Transition 092 - Featured Article 2

Remains of the Day-O: A Conversation with Harry Belafonte

Don't be fooled by his Broadway pedigree and banana-boat repertoire. Decades before Bono, Harry Belafonte was the original crusading crooner, a mass-market folk hero and confidant to Martin Luther King, Jr. So why was he singing “Danny Boy” and “Hava Nageela”? Michael Eldridge talks with the godfather of protest pop about the roots of race music.

Full article

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Transition 092 - Featured Article 1

Strange Fruits: Rethinking the Gay Twenties
by Mason Stokes

The Harlem Renaissance was a classic avant-garde movement, full of adventurous new writing, bold artistic experiments, heated literary polemics--and homoerotic subtexts. In the decades that followed, it was enshrined as the birth of blackness, but at the time, it seemed more like an orgy. Mason Stokes revisits when Harlem was in bloom.

Full article

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Transition 084 - Featured Article

Tomb Raider
by Naresh Fernandes

Everybody wants a piece of St. Francis Xavier. The Goans have his torso, the Romans have his wrist; one pilgrim even tried to bite off his big toe. And somewhere off the coast of China, there is a shrine to his elbow. Naresh Fernandes goes in search of a one-man diaspora.

Full article

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Steve Biko On My Mind

by Xolela Mangcu

"As Biko put it himself rather prophetically shortly before he died: 'You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead you can’t care anyway. And your method of death can itself be a politicizing thing.'"

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