SOAS University of London

African Languages, Cultures and Literatures Section

Philosophy and Decolonisation (PG)

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 2


Students wishing to take this module are strongly advised to also take 15PAFH008: African Philosophy (Postgraduate).  African Philosophy (Postgraduate) is normally a pre-requisite for this module, but Afrophone Philosophies may exceptionally be taken without this pre-requisite after a consultation with the convenor.

On the following programmes this module may only be taken as a minor:

  • MA History (Africa)
  • MA Historical Research
  • MA Comparative Literature

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • being able philosophically to analyze texts in several African languages (in translation)
  • being able critically to reflect on the role of genre in expressing philosophical ideas
  • having developed the ability of fundamental reflection and critical analysis of central philosophical issues
  • having developed a critical approach to the underlying cultural presuppositions of philosophical discourses
  • being able to give conference papers
  • being able to produce high-quality academic writing


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and 1 hour tutorial.

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 module 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 module, 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 module.

Method of assessment

  • One 20-minute oral presentation on the selected essay topics and the bibliographic sources for the essays (30%)
  • One 2500 word essay to be submitted on day 5, week 1, term 3 (70%)

Suggested reading

The following titles provide introductory readings. The full reading list for this module 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