SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

Afrophone Philosophies

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2016/2017
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 of 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 2


The course "African Philosophy" is a pre-requisite for this course. Exceptionally students may take "Afrophone Philosophies" without having taken "African Philosophy", after a consultation with the course convenor.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of a course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  1. being able philosophically to analyze texts in several African languages (in translation)
  2. being able critically to reflect on the role of genre in expressing philosophical ideas
  3. having developed the ability of fundamental reflection and critical analysis of central philosophical issues
  4. having developed a critical approach to the underlying cultural presuppositions of philosophical discourses
  5. having developed oral presentations skills (gained practice for giving conference papers)
  6. having developed writing skills (learnt to produce high-quality academic articles)


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 3 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

Afrophone philosophies (i.e. philosophies in African languages) are the philosophical discourses in African languages: the (oral or written) texts that are the channels of philosophical thought in Africa. After an introductory lecture on the role of language and of genre in the expression of philosophical thought, we will examine in this course how "professional philosophers" (i.e. thinkers who have been critical to "ethnophilosophy") engage with communal thought, looking at case studies such as the thought of the Akan, the Yorùbá, or the southern African concept of ubuntu. In the second half of the course, we will study original authored texts in African languages: novels in Swahili and Shona (by Euphrase Kezilahabi, William Mkufya, Ignatius T. Mabasa, etc.) which explicitly reflect and elaborate various philosophical topics (the meaning of life, the being of God and of evil, the role of free will in religious behaviour, the nature of reality, and many others). We will also analyze non-fictional texts (such as ethnography or historiography) in Wolof, Bambara, and Ndebele and explore their interfaces with contemporary artistic productions (film, fictional literature).

All the texts will be available in translation; no prior knowledge of an African language is a prerequisite for this course.

Method of assessment

One 4,500 word essay to be submitted on the day 5, week 1, term 3 (60%);  one oral presentation of 20 minutes presenting the selected essay topics and relevant readings (20%); a written analysis of a reading of 500 words, to be submitted on the day of the lecture in Week 5 (10%); a written analysis of a readings of 500 words, to be submitted on the day of the lecture in Week 11 (10%).

Suggested reading

The following titles provide introductory readings. The full reading list for this course will be made available from the convenor at the beginning of the course.

  • Gyekye, Kwame. 1995 (19871). An Essay on African Philosophical Thought. The Akan Conceptual Scheme. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Hallen, Barry & J. Olubi Sodipo. 1997 (19861). Knowledge, Belief, and Witchcraft. Analytic Experiments in African Philosophy. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Kresse, Kai. 2007. Philosophising in Mombasa: Knowledge, Islam and Intellectual Practice on the Swahili Coast. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press for the International African Institute.
  • Kwame, Safro. (ed.). 1995. Readings in African Philosophy. An Akan Collection. Lanham et al.: University Press of America.
  • Ramose, Mogobe B. 1999. African Philosophy through Ubuntu. Harare: Mond Books.
  • Rettová, Alena. 2007. Afrophone Philosophies: Reality and Challenge. Středokluky: Zdeněk Susa.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules