Later I'll post an interesting excerpt from Mudimbe about his book.
And here it is:
The invention of Africa stems from a very simple hypothesis. In all societies, one always finds, a sort of zero degree discourse: a primary, popular interpretation of founding events of the culture and its historical becoming. That this discourse should be qualified as conveying a body of legends and myths is of no importance since its ordinary function is to witness, naively for sure, to a historical dynamism. [emphasis added].There is also, in principle, very explicitly in certain societies and less in others, a second level of discourses. These deploy themselves critically and actualize themselves as, say history, sociology, economics of the culture; that is, as disciplinary knowledges transcending the first level discourse and, by their critical power, domesticating the domain of popular knowledge and inscribing it in a rational field. It is at this level that the identity of a culture and its dynamics manifest themselves as project and invention, as a construct claiming to hold in a regulated frame the essentials of a past and its characteristics or, if one wishes, the "spirit of a culture" in the specific illustrated, for example, by the romantic concept of Volkgeist.
Finally, there is a third level discourse; one which, in principle, should be critical of the second level discourses, and interrogating their significance and objectives; and, at the same time, by vocation, autocritical...At least theoretically, nothing prevents us from conceiving of this third level as one which a meta-discourse could bring about a history of histories of a given culture, or as, Lucien Braum has demonstrated in his book, the possibility of a history of histories of philosophy.
From this perspective, it is obvious that to the question "what is Africa?" or "how to define African cultures?" one cannot but refer to a body of knowledge in which Africa has been subsumed by Western disciplines such as anthropology, history, theology, or whatever other scientific discourse. And this is level at which to situate my project.
from A conversation with V.Y Mudimbe Faith Smith
Callaloo, Vol. 14, No. 4. (Autumn, 1991), pp. 969-986
What is important to understand is that the description of the process of developing a regulated history is of itself is not a moral judgment against history. Judging from some responses to Hugo, there is this sort of fear that elucidating the constructivist character of history functions to indict, undermine it, or leads to excessive "relativism." What it functions to do is to bring, critical attention to what it is we're doing, the difficulties and most of why
we are doing what we do in history. This also opens up the space to criticize the validity of the constructs as such. Mudimbe, hismelf, says he does not deny that there is some primary, or local discourse in Africa but African second level discourses have been silenced radically or converted to Western discourses.