“As an object of philosophical discourse, Africa has been constructed, indeed invented according to some, as the ‘Other’ of thought, reason, and history. Today, Africa itself is the site of origin of plural and open discourses on its ancient traditions of thought, modes of knowledge, and on the inexhaustible meanings of the discipline of philosophy … Paulin Hountondji, whose African Philosophy: Myth and Reality had a considerable impact on African Studies in general, has played an important role in the critical framing and conceptualization of these issues and discourses. In The Struggle for Meaning, he returns to a personal, intellectual itinerary of exemplary value, not for reasons of memory, but for the future; above all for the task of unblocking the horizon, of inscribing issues of identity and culture on a platform of action: notably that of the re-appropriation of the sciences.”
Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Professor of Philosophy, Northwestern University
The Struggle for Meaning is a landmark publication by one of African philosophy’s leading figures, Paulin J. Hountondji, best known for his critique of ethnophilosophy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In this volume, he responds with autobiographical and philosophical reflection to the dialogue and controversy he has provoked. He discusses the ideas, rooted in the work of such thinkers as Husserl and Hountondji’s former teachers Derrida, Althusser, and Ricoeur, that helped shape his critique.
Applying his philosophical ideas to the critical issues of democracy, culture, and development in Africa today, he addresses three crucial topics: the nexus between scientific extraversion and economic dependence; the nature of endogenous traditions of thought and their relationship with modern science; and the implications—for political pluralism and democracy—of the emergence of “philosophies of subject” in Africa.
While the book’s immediate concern is with Africa, the densely theoretical nature of its analyses, and its bearing on current postmodern theories of the “other,” will make this timely and elegant translation of great interest to many disciplines, especially ethnic, gender, and multicultural studies.
Paulin J. Hountondji, agrégé de philosophie from the Ecole normale supérieure of Rue d’Ulm in Paris, is a professor of philosophy at the National University of Benin. He is the author of Philosophy: Myth and Reality, one of the most influential books on African philosophy. John Conteh-Morgan is a professor in the department of French and Italian and African and African-American Studies at Ohio State University. More info →
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For over two centuries, Western scholars have discussed African philosophy and culture, often in disparaging, condescending terms, and always from an alien European perspective. Many Africans now share this perspective, having been trained in the western, empirical tradition. Makinde argues that, particularly in view of the costs and failings of western style culture, Africans must now mold their own modern culture by blending useful western practices with valuable indigenous African elements.
The Denver African Expedition of 1925 sought “the cradle of Humanity.” The explorers returned claiming to have found the “Missing Link” in the Heikum bushmen of the Kalahari—and they proceeded to market this image. As Robert J. Gordon shows in Picturing Bushmen, the impact of the expedition lay not simply in its slick merchandising of bushmen images but also in the fact that the pictures were exotic and aesthetically pleasing.
In Western scholarship, Africa’s so-called sacred forests are often treated as the remains of primeval forests, ethnographic curiosities, or cultural relics from a static precolonial past. African Sacred Groves challenges dominant views of these landscape features by redefining the subject matter beyond the compelling yet uninformative term “sacred.”
New South African Keywords sets out to do two things. The first is to provide a guide to the key words and key concepts that have come to shape public and political thought and debate in South Africa since 1994. The second purpose is to provide a compendium of cutting-edge thinking on the new society. In this respect some of the most exciting thinkers and commentators on South Africa have tried to capture the complexity of current debates.
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