Philosophy and Decolonisation

Key information

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Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

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.

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


155901397 - African Philosophy

Exceptionally students may take "Afrophone Philosophies" without having taken "African Philosophy", after a consultation with the module convenor.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, a student should …

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


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

Scope and syllabus

After an introductory lecture on the role of language and of genre in the expression of philosophical thought, we will examine 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).

Method of assessment

  • One 1,000 word essay submitted on the day 5, week 7, in the term the module is taught (30%)
  • One 1,500 word essay submitted on the day 5, week 1, in the following term the module was taught (40%)
  • x 2, 10 minute oral presentations on the selected essay topics and the bibliographic sources for the essays (15% for each presentation)

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 module.

  • 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