Twenty-five papers presented at University of Nairobi in 2000 cover themes of: African Philosophy, Approaches and Methodologies; Problems of Missionary and Colonialist Thinking; Gender and Culture in Africa; Sage Philosophy; and Philosophy, Ethics, and Politics.
A broad exploration of Irigaray’s philosophy of life and living. Featuring a highly accessible essay from Irigaray herself, this volume explores her philosophy of life and living. Life-thinking, an important contemporary trend in philosophy and in women’s and gender studies, stands in contrast to philosophy’s traditional grounding in death, exemplified in the work of philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Schopenhauer. The contributors to Thinking Life with Luce Irigaray consider Irigaray’s criticisms of the traditional Western philosophy of death, including its (...) either-or dualisms and binary logic, as well as some of Irigaray’s “solutions” for cultivating life. The book is comprehensive in its analyses of Irigaray’s relationship to classical and contemporary philosophers, writers, and artists, and produces extremely fruitful intersections between Irigaray and figures as diverse as Homer and Plato; Alexis Wright, the First-Nations novelist of Australia; and twentieth-century French philosophers like Sartre, Badiou, Deleuze, and Guattari. It also develops Irigaray’s relationship to the arts, with essays on theater, poetry, architecture, sculpture, and film. “This is a very timely text; it places Irigaray scholarship in conversation with the lively field of feminist philosophies of life, and this is a really wonderful, fruitful match. The collection itself contains many marvelous pieces. Luce Irigaray’s essay is strong and pithy—she reiterates a number of her important ideas, in accessible language, and places them in the context of pertinent questions in feminism.” — Sabrina L. Hom, coeditor of Thinking with Irigaray. (shrink)
The paper explores the methodology and goals of H. Odera Oruka’s sage philosophy project. Oruka interviewed wise persons who were mostly illiterate and from the rural areas of Kenya to show that a long tradition of critical thinking and philosophizing exists in Africa, even if there is no written record. His descriptions of the role of the academic philosopher turned interviewer varied, emphasizing their refraining from imposition of their own views (the social science model), their adding their own ideas (like (...) Plato), or their midwifery in helping others give birth to their own ideas (like Socrates). The accuracy and consistency of the various metaphors used by Oruka is the main focus of the article’s analysis. The article sums up the shortcomings of Oruka’s method as well as its strengths and concludes with Oruka’s challenge to academic philosophers to rethink their own roles in society. (shrink)
In this article, I analyze survey data from more than 1,000 financial services employees to understand how gender inequality manifests itself in employees' informal networks. I found that even when Black and white women had jobs in which they controlled organizational resources and had ties to powerful employees, they received less work-related help from their network members than did white men. Drawing on status characteristics theory, I explain that network members were less likely to invest in women than in white (...) men because of cultural beliefs that rank women below that of white men. While past research has documented how employers use gender to rank workers and distribute rewards unequally, my research indicates that workers use gender to categorize and rank their network members as well. (shrink)
Gene replacement therapy holds great promise in the treatment of many genetic CNS disorders. This commentary discusses the feasibility of gene replacement therapy in the unique context of the retina, with regard to: (1) the genetics of retinal neoplasia and degeneration, (2) available gene transfer technology, and (3) potential gene delivery vehicles.
The article examines the role of ethnic favoritism in maldistribution of national resources in Kenya and discusses two broad proposals for attacking such corruption. Evidence drawn from research in Kenya disproves the view of Chabal and Daloz, who argue that Africans prefer to distribute goods according to ethnic ties, and shows that frustration with the lack of alternatives to such a system, rather than enthusiasm for it, drives cooperation with corrupt maldistribution. One solution to the problem is to decentralize government (...) so that resources are retained locally. A second solution is to attack the culture of appropriation and push for a fair evaluation of needs and the equitable distribution of national resources to where they are needed most. Drawing on the ideas of Hannah Arendt, the article proposes a modified federalism where government is small enough to enlist the help and support of locals but powerful enough to provide funds to impoverished sectors of the country. (shrink)
An article by F. Ochieng'-Odhiambo asserted that Prof. H. Odera Oruka's work on "philosophic sagacity" in Kenya could be divided into three periods, beginning with an early period denouncing ethnophilosophy and ending with a later period which embraced and engaged in ethnophilosophy. This article says that such a characterization is inaccurate, because Odera Oruka continued to distinguish sage philosophy from ethnophilosophy in several key ways, even in his later work. While pointing out Odera Oruka's changing positions is a service to (...) scholars, Ochieng'-Odhiambo implicitly champions the early work at the expense of the latter. This article argues that folk sages were added to the later stages of the sage philosophy project with good reason, and that the project as it developed provided insights on ethical and socio-political issues as well as identity issues facing Kenyans. (shrink)
Compared to other ethnic groups in Kenya, the Maasai resisted working wage labor jobs, preferring to continue pastoral practices, even though “development” experts and Kenyans from other ethnic groups derided them as being “backward” and holding back the progress of the country. The phenomenon of Maasai reluctance to adapt to wage labor has been called a "conservative" trend by some, and a radical resistance by others. The British during colonialism seemed irritated and impatient with Maasai for their refusal to work (...) as day-laborers. Rigby agrees that Maasai resisted capitalist wage labor, and he thinks they did so for good reasons (not due to stubbornness or inability to change). This paper explores, and attempts to evaluate the Maasai resistance to Western, colonial cultural influences. It will argue that the Maasai avoided many problems that come with forced change or assimilation. Foucault's description of the disciplinary society, and its organization of work, will be drawn upon to make the argument that some of the new economic opportunities open to the Maasai were greatly unattractive. Maasai work lifestyle gives room for freedom of movement and individual volition to an extent no longer possible in many jobs in the West. Maasai found their own labor setup to be more satisfactory, because it is more in tune with their own concept of personhood. (shrink)
Prof. H. Odera Oruka started the sage philosophy project, in which he interviewed wise elders in Kenyan rural areas to show that Africans could philosophize. He intended to create a “national culture” by drawing upon sages from different ethnic groups and he downplayed religious differences, as did Kwame Nkrumah, who had a similar goal of building “national culture” in Ghana. Both projects were secular insofar as they preferred to emphasize rationality and downplay religious belief or “superstition” as backward and needing (...) to be cast off. I deal with one apparent counter-example: at the burial trial for S. M. Otieno, Odera Oruka seemed to defend the traditional Luo belief of spirits. I note, however, that Odera Oruka is evasive and indirect in how he answers the questions and his responses could be due to his wanting to appear connected to his rural compatriots, a value explained by Frantz Fanon in his treatment of the topic of national culture. The paper concludes by alluding to extensive interviews done with the sages from Kenya on topics related to religious beliefs and practices, during which sages subject those beliefs and practices to rational scrutiny. (shrink)
There has been a debate, popularized by Ifenyi Menkiti and Kwame Gyekye, regarding philosophical understandings of the human person in Africa. The debate revolves around the saying "So and so is not a person." Gyekye convincingly argues that the saying is a manner of speech, intended to be a moral evaluation of a person's actions. Menkiti, however, goes further and suggests that many of the African conceptions of a person are based on a dynamic understanding of the self. Similar findings (...) were made of Maasai concepts of personhood in the study done by Patrick Dikirr. The "potential self" is not given but is always being constructed by one's deeds and one's relations. While it is certainly a romanticization to imagine Africans as harmoniously communal in contrast to the "isolated individuals" who supposedly inhabit the West, nevertheless, for a Maasai one gains self-identity and status to a large extent through one's relations to other persons and to animals. However, the paper illustrates the many ways in which Maasais still emphasize individual achievement and thought, debunking notions of African "group-think" and conformity. The paper then draws on Axel Honneth's insights into "recognition" to note the extent to which Maasai recognition of each other prevents the community's capitulation to the value system of other ethnic groups in Kenya or Western influence. (shrink)
To a world assaulted by private interests, this book argues that peace must be a public thing. Distinguished philosophers of peace have always worked publicly for public results. Opposing nuclear proliferation, organizing communities of the disinherited, challenging violence within status quo establishments, such are the legacies of truly engaged philosophers of peace. This volume remembers those legacies, reviews the promise of critical thinking for crises today, and expands the free range of thinking needed to create more mindful and peaceful relations. (...) With essays by committed peace philosophers, this volume shows how public engagement has been a significant feature of peace philosophers such as Camus, Sartre, Dewey, and Dorothy Day. Today we also confront historical opportunities to transform practices for immigration, police interrogation, and mental health, as we seek to sustain democracies of increasing multicultural diversity. In such cases our authors consider points of view developed by renowned thinkers such as Weil, Mouffe, Conway, and Martín-Baró. This volume also presents critical analysis of concepts for thinking about violence, reconsiders Plato’s philosophy of justice, and examines the role of ethical theory for liberation struggles such as Occupy! (shrink)
This book responds to the Bush Administration position on the “war on terror.” It examines preemption within the context of “just war”; justification for the United States-led invasion of Iraq, with some authors charging that its tactics serve to increase terror; global terrorism; and concepts such as reconciliation, Islamic identity, nationalism, and intervention.
This paper will highlight Maathai’s insights regarding empowerment, tracing several important themes in her approach, namely, empowerment’s relationship to self esteem, teamwork, and political action, its ambivalent relationship to formal education, and the role of cultural traditions in providing alternatives to colonial-era cultural impositions and current exploitative effects of neo-liberal capitalism. After reviewing Maathai’s thoughts on each of these topics, I will briefly draw upon other East African thinkers and Africanists’ studies of East African communities to present corroborating evidence for (...) Maathai’s views or for challenges to her position. Listening to the perspectives of Maathai and other East Africans provides several important correctives to current popular uses of the term “empowerment.”. (shrink)
The paper applies insights from Axel Honneth's recent book, The Struggle for Recognition, to the South African situation. Honneth argues that most movements for justice are motivated by individuals' and groups' felt need for recognition. In the larger debate over the relative importance of recognition compared with distribution, a debate framed by Taylor and Fraser, Honneth is presented as the best of both worlds. His tripartite schema of recognition on the levels of love, rights and solidarity, explains how concerns for (...) equality and difference are two separate needs, even though both must be satisfied. Past and ongoing struggles in South Africa can be understood as struggles for recognition. The African Renaissance itself, to be successful, must address economic and recognition issues simultaneously. (shrink)
Ubuntu, or humanness, has been theorized as a uniquely African contribution to the world. At the same time, others insist that it is a universal ethical principle. This paper particularly wants to look at a sub-theme of ubuntu studies, regarding how some of the authors and researchers have wanted to apply it to business, even suggesting that ubuntu can provide a model for ethical management principles that can also result in better outcomes for businesses. To approach business with an ethical (...) emphasis is clearly better than casting ethics aside in pursuit of profit without concern for human flourishing. But, can ubuntu management principles be used in a global capitalist framework, to soften the hard edges of cutthroat capitalism? Or does the ubuntu management approach without capitalist critique fall short of reaching the goal and practice of humanness? Additionally, perhaps the fault of current practices is not only due to the capitalist global economy, but also, an historical and a current global anti-black racism as well as sexism, which continues to skew the numbers of managers to greatly over-represent white males. This is due to historical privileging of men and the white race. We need to put forth our best efforts to ensure fair treatment of workers, who are valued as persons, and paid a good wage, with profits to go to them so that they can nourish and support their extended families. An ubuntu ethic could indeed be helpful as a guide for deciding which kinds of changes to the larger economic and political structures we should advocate and fight for (Publisher's website includes free full text). (shrink)
This article reviews, compares and contrasts the film "Black Hawk Down" by Ridley Scott, with the book by Marc Bowman. The book has a third of its contents devoted to the Somali experience of, and perspective on, the "Day of the Rangers," that is, the day that US troops were militarily involved in Mogadishu, Somalia (October 3, 1993). However, the film almost entirely conveys the U.S. servicemen's experience, with hardly any sympathetic Somali characters. I argue that many of Bowman's original (...) points are lost by not being portrayed in the film. While the film's director Ridley Scott says he intended his film to be an anti-war film, the impression of viewers, and the use of the film by the larger media (and the film's release timed during the US War in Afghanistan in 2002), seems to come to a different conclusion, not only about history (and the "inevitability" of war), but about the current US war on terrorism: support our troops, and don't question a war's intent or methods. (shrink)
Although Hannah Arendt is not known as an advocate of nonviolence per se, her analysis of power dynamics within and between groups closely parallels Gandhi’s. The paper shows the extent to which her insights are compatible with Gandhi’s and also defends her against charges that her description of the world is overly normative and unrealistic. Both Arendt and Gandhi insist that nonviolence is the paradigm of power in situations where people freely consent to and engage in concerted action, and both (...) argue that power structures based on violence and coercion will ultimately fail, because the resort to violence implies an inability to gain free consent or cooperation. Any gains from violence are temporary, since agents will express themselves freely as soon as force is withdrawn. Arendt argues that dominating powers know this, and therefore rely on manipulation, propaganda, and outright lies to win people’s consent, an analysis which can be used to explain some current social dynamics. (shrink)
This article traces the larger theme of egalitarianism within the context of equality of the sexes throughout H. Odera Oruka’s interviews with Kenyan sages, whom he asked to share their views on the topic. Often, the sages asserted men’s superiority to women. This paper analyses the sages’ responses, as well as Odera Oruka’s rejoinders to their comments. I have broadened my study to include five sages interviewed by Frederick Ochieng’-Odhiambo, included in his dissertation completed under Odera Oruka’s supervision (1994). I (...) find that the sages’ arguments for women’s inferiority were weak and flawed. Many contemporary Kenyans find fault with views similar to the sages’. The one sage who did elaborate on women’s equality failed to acknowledge that men discourage women from taking action to improve their situation. This article does not reject sage philosophy as an approach to the topic but insists that further study, including women sages, is needed to address the shortcomings of the sage interviews included in Odera Oruka’s Sage Philosophy (1991). (shrink)
Hannah Arendt argues that a revolution must not only tear down, but build up a new government. That new government needs authority and it gets its authority from its founding moment, when peers come together in mutual promise, agreeing to treat each other as equals and obeying laws which they legislate for themselves. The paper then looks at the recent attempts of the U.S. government and its allies to bring democracy to Iraq. The paper argues that given the dynamics necessary (...) at the founding moment, U.S. heavy-handedness in setting up Iraq's new government was counterproductive. Also, while the U.S., through subcontracting with Research Triangle Institute, hoped to give Iraq a pyramid-shaped local governance structure, its diversions from Arendt's model make its success unlikely. (shrink)
It is worth exploring the longstanding preoccupation with the future that can be found throughout H. Odera Oruka's writings, especially the writings to be found in a retrospective collection of his essays on which he was working at the time of his death, Practical Philosophy: In Search of An Ethical Minimum. This practice of tracing the future results of actions of which people are presently engaged, in order to determine whether a change of course is needed, is not something that (...) Odera Oruka had to go to a university to learn. When Odera Oruka takes up Futures Studies, it is not to embrace a foreign way of thinking, but to find the international complement to the local approach well known and practiced by Africans. (shrink)
This is a review of Ronald Santoni's book, Sartre on Violence: Curiously Ambivalent. Santoni argues that Sartre is often misunderstood. He was not an advocate of violence, and always cautioned that the revolutionary's decision to use violent means must always be re-evaluated to ensure that the revolution reaches its goal. In this way, Santoni argues, the views of Sartre and Camus are actually very close on the topic of revolutionary violence, even though they are often portrayed as opposites.
Hannah Arendt insisted that citizens should approach politics from a position of disinterest. By this she meant that people should not distort politics by entering it only to benefit their own private good. She refused to condone a politics of competition of interest groups. This approach would seem to be a helpful antidote to many political situations in African countries which have become notorious for blatant use of the political realm to amass private fortunes or to shower gifts on one's (...) own ethnic group to the detriment of others. However, Arendt's approach has also been charged with elitism, since she rejects the poor classes' demand for bread as unallowable manipulation of the public realm for private advancement. In addition some feminists have argued that neutral "disinterest" is an unachievable and in fact wrongheaded goal. The article takes the criticisms into consideration and outlines what aspects of Arendt's insights can still be helpful in the African political context. (shrink)
Grace Lee Boggs (1915–2015) was a philosopher and activist influenced by Hegel, Marx, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and her collaborators C. L. R. James and Jimmy Boggs. During her long career, she inspired a generation of young thinker-activists to establish institutions and practices in Detroit to promote community and justice. The article gives an overview of her life and accomplishments, discusses the social and political philosophy set forth in her book The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the (...) Twenty-first Century, and reviews the documentary about her by director Grace Lee, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs. (shrink)
This paper reviews the book, Bill Sutherland and Matt Meyer, Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan-African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle, and Liberation in Africa. Bill Sutherland recounts to Matt Meyer his many years of activism for peace and social justice in Africa. Sutherland worked with Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and others. Sutherland and Meyer together tour places Sutherland lived and interview important lifelong activists still working in Africa, all documented in this book.
This paper explores Odera Oruka’s sage philosophy project, focusing on his insistence of the parallels between Socrates and the rural Kenyan sages whom he interviewed and who he considered to be orally philosophizing. Sages, he explained are those who possess wisdom, insight, ethical inspiration, and who use their talents for the benefit of the community. Key parallels between the sages and Socrates are: Socrates’ criticisms of conventional morality; his insistence on the moral virtues of practicing temperance; his emphasis on dialogue (...) and his methods of guiding dialogue; and his guiding individuals as well as the community. Socrates says he is called by the god to challenge individual Athenians to become morally better; this descriptor, while fitting some contemporary academic philosophers, accurately reflects the convictions and actions of most African sages. Socrates often depicted his wisdom as listening to a “voice” within him that came beyond himself; similarly, Kenyan sages interviewed attributed their wisdom to God. But both Socrates and the Kenyan sages assess the truth of insights communicated spiritually, and are able to explain the ideas to others using reason. (shrink)
This study investigates whether and how sex and race affect access to and rewards for job authority, using 1980 survey data for 1,216 employed workers. The authors examine whether, net of human-capital characteristics, sex and race affect access to and compensation for job authority. In addition, the authors examine whether the translation of credentials into authority and earnings varies depending on workers' sex or race.
Hamner seeks to discover what makes pragmatism uniquely American. She argues that the inextricably American character of pragmatism of such figures as C.S. Peirce and William James lies in its often understated affirmation of America as a uniquely religious country with a God-given mission and populated by God-fearing citizens.
Large-scale sequencing tests, including whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing, are rapidly moving into clinical use. Sequencing is already being used clinically to identify therapeutic opportunities for cancer patients who have run out of conventional treatment options, to help diagnose children with puzzling neurodevelopmental conditions, and to clarify appropriate drug choices and dosing in individuals. To evaluate and support clinical applications of these technologies, the National Human Genome Research Institute and National Cancer Institute have funded studies on clinical and research sequencing under (...) the Clinical Sequencing Exploratory Research program as well as studies on return of results. Most of these studies use sequencing in real-world clinical settings and collect data on both the application of sequencing and the impact of receiving genomic findings on study participants. They are occurring in the context of controversy over how to obtain consent for exome and genome sequencing. (shrink)