African Philosophy as Cultural Inquiry

African Philosophy as Cultural Inquiry

Edited by Ivan Karp and D. A. Masolo
Distribution: World
Publication date: 12/1/2000
Format: paper 280 pages, 6 b&w photos, 1 index
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN: 978-0-253-21417-1
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This book assesses the direction and impact of African philosophy as well as its future role.

What is the intellectual, social, cultural, and political territory of African philosophy? What directions will African philosophy take in the future? What problems will it face? In 10 probing essays by distinguished African, European, and American scholars, African Philosophy as Cultural Inquiry examines the role of African philosophy at the opening of the new millennium. Here philosophy cuts across disciplinary boundaries to embrace ideas taken from history, literary studies, anthropology, and art. Addressing topics such as the progress of philosophical discourse, knowledge and modes of thought, the relevance of philosophy for cultures that are still largely based on traditional values, and the meaning of philosophy to cultures and individuals in the process of modernization, this volume presents today’s best thinking about the concerns and practices that constitute African experience. New views about personhood, freedom, responsibility, progress, development, the role of the state, and life in civil society emerge from these broad-based considerations of the crisis of the postcolonial African state. In a lively fashion this diverse book shows how philosophical questions can be applied to interpretations of culture and reveals the multifaceted nature of philosophical discourse in the multiple and variable settings that exist in contemporary Africa.

Author Bio

Ivan Karp is National Endowment for the Humanities Professor and Director of the Center for the Study of Public Scholarship at Emory University. He is author of Fields of Change among the Iteso of Kenya.

D. A. Masolo is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Louisville. He is author of African Philosophy in Search of Identity (published by Indiana University Press).


"A conception of philosophy embedded in culture guides this anthology, divided into three categories (personhood, knowledge, and development), exploring issues in postcolonial African cultures. Part 1 has essays on the role secrecy plays in shaping personal identity in Sierra Leone, the function of moral notions of the self in Swahili medical practices in Zanzibar, and the dynamic view of the self exhibited in Chichewa linguistic practice. In part 2, which examines epistemological aspects of discourses in the forms of storytelling and music, and in the representation of arranged marriages, Karp and Masolo point out the deconstructive function of hidden meanings of praise—naming metaphors; Odoch Pido discusses Acoli concepts of the person; and Kratz explains the philosophic significance of gendered representation of shifts in identity and social relations in Okiek arranged marriages. In part 3 (the role of traditional culture in social change and modernization), Wiredu argues for retaining African social ethics to balance technical rationality of industrialization; Eboussi—Boulaga analyzes the term change, using the genetic concept of mutation to establish criteria identifying beneficial and evil mutations; Jewsiewicki reflects on the moral and social commentary in Kinshasa visual artist Cheri Samba; and Atieno—Odhiambo discusses Luo writers Samuel Ayany's and Paul Mbaya's efforts to synthesize Luo and Christian cultures. Recommended for upper—division undergraduate and graduate courses." —T. L. Lott, San Jose State University , Choice , November 2001

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Table of Contents

Preliminary :

Introduction: African Philosophy as Cultural Inquiry Ivan Karp and D. A. Masolo

Part 1: Power, Personhood, and Agency

Introduction to Part 1 Ivan Karp and D. A. Masolo
1. "Tok Af, Lef Af": A Political Economy of Temne Techniques of Secrecy and Self Rosalind Shaw
2. Islam Among the Humours: Destiny and Agency Among the Swahili David Parkin
3. Some African Conceptions of Person: A Critique Didier N. Kaphagawani

Part 2: Knowledge and Discourse

Introduction to Part 2 Ivan Karp and D. A. Masolo
4. The Play of Deconstruction in the Speech of Africa: The Role of "Pakruok" and "Ngero" in Telling Culture in Dholuo Peter S. O. Amuka
5. Personhood and Art: Social Change and Commentary Among the Acoli J. P. Odoch Pido
6. Forging Unions and Negotiating Ambivalence: Personhood and Complex Agency in Okiek Marriage Arrangement Corinne A. Kratz
7. Chéri Samba's Postcolonial Reinvention of Modernity Bogumil Jewsiewicki

Part 3: African Discourses on Development

Introduction to Part 3 Ivan Karp and D. A. Masolo
8. Our Problem of Knowledge: Brief Reflections on Knowledge and Development in Africa Kwasi Wiredu
9. The Topic of Change F. Eboussi-Boulaga
10. Luo Perspectives on Knowledge and Development: Samuel G. Ayany and Paul Mbuya
E. S. Atieno-Odhiambo