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)
This article provides an overview of the contributions to philosophy of Nigerian philosopher Sophie Bọ´sẹ`dé Olúwọlé. The first woman to earn a philosophy PhD in Nigeria, Olúwọlé headed the Department of Philosophy at the University of Lagos before retiring to found and run the Centre for African Culture and Development. She devoted her career to studying Yoruba philosophy, translating the ancient Yoruba Ifá canon, which embodies the teachings of Orunmila, a philosopher revered as an Óríṣá in the Ifá pantheon. Seeing (...) his works as examples of secular reasoning and argument, she compared Orunmila's and Socrates' philosophies and methods and explored similarities and differences between African and European philosophies. A champion of African oral traditions, Olúwọlé argued that songs, proverbs, liturgies, and stories are important sources of African responses to perennial philosophical questions as well as to contemporary issues, including feminism. She argued that the complementarity that ran throughout Yoruba philosophy guaranteed women's rights and status, and preserved an important role for women, youths, and foreigners in politics. (shrink)
Hannah Arendt misrepresented Africans at the same time that she criticized the actions of those who harmed them. Arendt's 1951 work, The Origins of Totalitarianism aimed to show how Hitler's (and Stalin's) practices of totalitarian rule in Europe could be understood in the context of its predecessors, anti-Semitism and imperialism. As a middle stage in her argument, she focussed on the case of the Cape Colony in South Africa. Arendt's study includes: the distinctions she made between colonization and imperialism; her (...) comments on race-thinking and racism; and her evaluation of labor practices, or the lack of labor, among the indigenous Africans, the trekboers, and the gold diggers. While making some valuable points regarding each of these topics, she nevertheless on occasion repeats some of the popular misconceptions regarding Africa. In addition, she advocates a position regarding labor that calls indigenous African practices into question as much as the adventures of the colonizers. (shrink)
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)
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)
This article reviews the recent crisis in Detroit focusing on the placement of an Emergency Manager in charge of financial decisions, and a bankruptcy process. This political disenfranchisement harmed the pensions of city employees and offered valuable real estate to investors at low prices. While the crisis was long in the making, with deindustrialization and residential segregation beginning in the 1950s, the crisis was exacerbated in 2008 with the mortgage crisis and with water shut-offs to residences. The greatest harms were (...) felt by African American families in the city. The article takes toll of the harms suffered and chronicles movements of resistance against Emergency Management and community organizing efforts. (shrink)
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)
Soon after taking power, three leaders of nonviolent African independence movements, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia immediately turned to violent means to suppress internal opposition. The paper examines the reasons for the success of their Gandhian nonviolent tactics in ousting British colonial governments and argues that these new heads of state lost confidence in nonviolence due to a mixture of self-serving expediency, a lack of understanding of nonviolence's many different forms, and the (...) constraints of inheriting a state already dependent on the use of force. (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)
A co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, its newspaper, and hospitality houses, the writer Dorothy Day promoted public peace nationally and internationally as a journalist, an organizer of public protests, and a builder of associational communities. Drawing upon Hannah Arendt’s conceptions of the role of speech and action in creating the public realm, this paper focuses on several of Day’s most controversial public positions: her leadership of non-cooperation against Civil Defense drills intended to prepare New York City residents to survive (...) a nuclear war; her urging of Catholics to find common cause with the Cuban revolutionary government; and her support for interracial farming communities in the Southern United States. As Arendt asserts about Rahel Varnhagen’s salon in Berlin, by being public meeting spaces hosted in private houses, Catholic Worker communities fostered egalitarian rather than “agonal” politics. Like Gandhi’s newspapers and ashrams as well as “Occupy” communities such as Zuccotti Park, Day’s newspaper was a center for incubating and implementing social reform. The Catholic Worker provided a place where writers could question the official rhetoric of such conflicts as World War II and the Cold War, put forward different interpretations of unfolding events, and chart possible alternatives to establishment agendas. (shrink)
A constant question that arises when study in H. Odera Oruka's sage philosophy project is, who is a sage? What attributes are necessary? While Oruka tried to provide criteria for categorization of folk and philosophical sages, some critics note that the criteria is not clear, or not clearly applied. This paper focuses on Elijah Masinde, a Kenyan prophet who agitated against British colonialism in Kenya. The question of whether or not Masinde was a sage was debated by H. Odera Oruka (...) and Chaungo Barasa in Oruka's book on sage philosophy. I will suggest that Masinde more closely mirrors the philosophical ideologue as in the Socrates of Plato's Republic who criticizes the present regime by constructing a radically different ideal society. Also, Masinde is an orator and a "gadfly" of sorts, as Socrates is portrayed in the Apology. Masinde is not, however, the empty-handed questioner who claims to have no position. Masinde most often speaks as a prophet who has received a revelation. So, his philosophy must be inferred from these public statements. (shrink)
The paper traces the parallel paths and mutual influences of these three activists in South Africa. The paper points out that Gandhi often took steps in building his movement that echoed some of the same steps that Dube had done just before him. Also, Abdurahman, who had become Gandhi's friend in 1909, advocated for involving women in nonviolent action, and advocated the use of general strike, shortly before Gandhi incorporated both methods in his movement.
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)
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)
The IMF, World Bank, and former colonial powers have put pressure on African countries to adopt multiparty democracy. Because of this pressure, many formerly one‐party states as well as some military dictatorships have embraced Western and Parliamentarian democratic forms. But does this mean that democracy has succeeded in Africa? Ernest Wamba‐dia‐Wamba of the University of Dar‐es‐Saalam and CODESRIA argues that embracing Western paradigms in an unthinking fashion will not bring real democracy, i.e. people's liberation. He advances criticisms of party politics (...) and statism, and suggests that African palaver and people's movements are a surer site of political action. In his criticisms of representative government he parallels the thoughts and criticism of Hannah Arendt. Arendt advocated a council system that shares many of the attributes of African palaver communities. By consulting the criticisms of Arendt and Wamba‐dia‐Wamba, we can see that an easy optimism about the multiparty system is unfounded. (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 article highlights the long accomplishments of Claude Sumner, S.J. in the field of African philosophy. During his lifetime he published over 33 books and 184 articles. He lived and worked in Ethiopia for 44 years. He translated into English and analysed several key historical works in Ethiopian philosophy, written originally in Ge’ez. He argued that modern rationalist philosophy began in Africa with Zera Yacob at the same time that it began in France with Descartes. He then set to work (...) recording and analyzing oral philosophical sources found in proverbs and songs. He theorized on the definitions of philosophy and the methods to explore philosophy found in different sources. (shrink)
I was invited by CARE International of Kenya to do some research on conceptions of conflict and its resolution among refugees in Kenya. Findings would help the refugees themselves in furthering their peace education project. I interviewed sixteen people, with aid of translators, on interpersonal to international issues of conflict resolution. The final report was submitted to CARE International of Kenya and representatives of U.N.H.C.R. in August of 2001. This article reflects on some of the highlights from the interviews. Refugees (...) can be wise, keen thinkers, who have observed firsthand some of the globe’s most pressing problems, and can learn from reflecting on their own experience. I share their insights on topics of interpersonal conflict, refugee camp conflict, national and international conflict. (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 paper will put forward to new audiences the core of Claude Sumner's thesis regarding philosophy in the "broad" and "narrow" senses, the former referring to wisdom and the sapiential tradition. It will look at Sumner's role in popularizing early Ethiopian texts in a project meant to debunk preconceptions that Africa has no written history of philosophy. Nevertheless Sumner does not limit himself to written texts in the Ethiopian tradition, but has branched out into collecting and analyzing the oral traditions (...) as well. He has argued that the written texts of Zera Yacob are examples of "religious rationality" in some ways similar to Descartes' scientific rationality. He argues that proverbs possess "figurative logic," which while different than conceptual logic is still indeed logic. Both written and oral sources of Ethiopian philosophy stretch well beyond the last fifty years, Sumner asserts, and thus African philosophy becomes known as being older than Hountondji, Okolo and others have thought. The paper argues that Sumner's contributions to the growth of the field of African philosophy should not be overlooked. (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.
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.
This is a true cross-cultural anthology which presents philosophers from different cultures in dialogue with one another. The text includes selections from both traditional and contemporary Western and non-Western philosophy: African American, Latin American, and feminist philosophers as well as Asian, African, Native American, and Islamic philosophers. The reader is organized by topic, and highlights the similarities and differences between Western and Non-Western philosophers -- it arranges selections so that authors speak to one another across cultures. Chapter introductions and section (...) introductions within chapters guide students. The second edition includes new sections on non-Western epistemology, the question of life after death, Rawls and criticism, and understanding others' experience and points of view. (shrink)
The U.S.-led military incursion in Iraq and the subsequent occupation has been filled with myriad examples of the Bush Administration using misleading statements in an effort to win the support of American citizens, and in a secondary sense, the international community and the Iraqis. This situation provides many opportunities to analyze the use of sophistry and linguistic sleight of hand. In this paper, I draw upon the insights offered by Hannah Arendt in the earlier context of her critiques of totalitarianism (...) during the 1930s and 1940s, and her later critique of the United States upon the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the midst of the U.S. war in Vietnam. Her insights regarding truth and lying in politics shed light on what is wrong with U.S. approaches today. Similar methods continue to be used today since people have continued to be gullible to these methods. (shrink)
The paper points out ways in which philosophy can be taught from a global feminist perspective without falling into typical Eurocentric pitfalls. For example, African women's practices of cliterodectomy can be studied thoughtfully and in context, with attention to both sides of the issue, instead of covering the topic for its shock value as a strategy to convince students that relativism is wrong. The paper covers a reading list and topics that both cover feminist critiques of the prevalent male philosophical (...) canon, and coverage of feminist philosophy topics with sources that share perspectives of women from Africa, Latin America, and Asia. (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 book addresses the relative absence of the voices and ideas of African women in philosophy. Most of the authors (who are mostly African men) bemoan the fact that many voices are missing. Each contributes what they can to highlight the importance of the gap or to address the gap. The co-editors suggest that from its start, African philosophy intended to be egalitarian, emancipatory, and revolutionary, and so the current marginalization of African women should be a prominent concern. The review (...) addresses the chapter's themes in three broad categories. In the first category are five of the women contributors and two of the men, who all write with a focus on the overlooked contributions of African women. Their goal is to encourage appreciation for the contributions already made by women scholars, or to emphasize women's prominent role in society. A second category includes all men, and in these five articles the issue of women's marginalization in African philosophy departments is the central topic. The men bemoan the lack of participation of more women in the field and they speculate as to the cause of their absence. A third, smaller category includes two articles that address current specific situations of women's suffering in Africa, that is, widowhood and rape victims. The book holds out hope that if changes take place, women will feel more comfortable and appreciated in the profession of philosophy. (shrink)
The paper surveys the lifetime achievements of Claude Sumner, S.J., a Canadian Jesuit who lived for 45 years in Ethiopia and devoted his life's work to collecting, documenting and evaluating Ethiopian philosophical texts and oral literature.
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.
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)
The challenges of building community based on a common identity that also respects differences has two different kinds of chasms to cross. There is the division of ethnic groups, and there is also the generational gap. Given recent problems of ethnic violence that broke out during the December 2007 elections, can contemporary Kenyans build community, coming to common understanding with others on issues such as value and identity? This is not a new problem. It has often been expressed as the (...) need to develop a common Kenyan “national culture.” After a survey including Okot p’Bitek, Frantz Fanon, Bethwell Ogot and Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s contribution to the topic in the context of the 1960s and 70s, I will then go on to discuss the contribution of Kenyan Philosophy professor Henry Odera Oruka, who was greatly influenced by the ongoing discussions regarding national culture when he began his sage philosophy project – a project he clearly described as being able to play a role in the creation of Kenyan national culture. I explore some of Odera Oruka’s unpublished work on this topic. Chaungo Barasa has continued this project. I move on to survey how current academics in Kenya are working to describe and forge national values as a meaningful alternative to Kenyan government ongoing endeavors to promote culture as a tourist commodity. (shrink)
National unity is important in Kenya, since ethnic divisions have sometimes become deadly. The imposed Coalition government and the recent new Constitution in 2010 were attempts to overcome division. But cultural divisions among the generations are just as much of a challenge as ethnic divisions, as the youth sometimes sideline the practices and worldviews of their elders, leaving people to wonder what binds people to each other as Kenyans? The idea of “national culture” has its pitfalls, bit seems necessary nevertheless, (...) as explained by Frantz Fanon, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Okot ‘Bitek, and H. Odera Oruka. This article explores how ideas of “Kenyanness” have developed since Kenyan independence and the rejection of colonized mentality and education. Odera Oruka’s advocacy of “Sage Philosophy” as a project to pull Kenyans together, and more recent academics’ attempts to encourage civic education by articulating core Kenyan values are explored in depth. These scholarly and artistic efforts at describing or encouraging common identity are contrasted to efforts by the Ministry of Culture to construct (and “sell”) Kenya culture to tourists as a commodity. (shrink)
Pour édifier une communauté à partir d’une identité commune qui respecte aussi les différences, il faut traverser deux gouffres différents. Le premier est la division entre groupes ethniques, dont j’ai parlé plus haut ; le deuxième, la rupture entre les générations. Les jeunes Kényans d’aujourd’hui peuvent-ils bâtir une communauté avec leurs aïeux et parvenir à se comprendre mutuellement sur des questions telles que la valeur et l’identité ? Le problème n’est pas nouveau. C’est en fait un thème majeur qui revient (...) constamment depuis les années soixante, début de l’indépendance du Kenya. On y a souvent vu le besoin de développer une « culture nationale » kényane partagée. Ce thème a été étudié par de nombreux auteurs au Kenya. Je commencerai par brosser un tableau d’ensemble en étudiant les contributions d’Okot p’Bitek, Frantz Fanon, Bethwell Ogot et Ngugi wa Thiong’o à ce sujet dans le contexte des années soixante et soixante-dix. J’étudierai par la suite la contribution du philosophe kényan Henry Odera Oruka. Ce dernier a été profondément influencé par les débats sur la culture nationale quand il a lancé son projet de « philosophie sage » – une approche qu’il a cru à même de jouer un rôle dans la création d’une culture nationale kényane et qui s’est prolongée dans l’oeuvre de Chaungo Barasa. J’analyserai enfin comment les universitaires kényans travaillent à décrire et forger des valeurs nationales, offrant une autre perspective que celle du gouvernement kényan, qui tend à considérer la culture comme une attraction touristique. (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)
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)
The paper contains pedagogical suggestions for addressing issues of racism and sexism in the classroom, in the context of an introductory philosophy survey. It draws on the ideas of Charles Mills, Laurence Thomas, Peggy McIntosh and others.
This paper engages an important debate going on in the literature regarding the efficacy of nonviolence in confronting unjust regimes. I will focus on the commentators who have claimed that nonviolence, if adhered to more resolutely, would have ended South African apartheid sooner. I will contrast them to Mandela’s account that both violence and nonviolence working in tandem were needed to bring a speedy and just resolution to South Africa’s crisis of racist governance. To consider South Africa an easy case (...) of nonviolence’s success (for example, as shown in A Force More Powerful), evades many important factors. Mandela was familiar with Gandhian nonviolence and explicitly rejected it. The ANC organized an armed faction and engaged in acts of sabotage, and over time widened the scope of violent acts condoned by their organization. South African security forces responded to nonviolent protest with extreme repression, which contradicts claims often made by nonviolent proponents that sticking to nonviolence will lessen the chances of extreme repression. And the suffering of the South African people, while perhaps dwarfed when compared to genocides in other countries, was extensive and profound. One cannot understand some aspects of the difficult aftermath of apartheid’s legacy without taking into account the high level of violence emanating from several parties to the conflict. Nevertheless, in this context of violence, a broad nonviolent campaign had many successes. (shrink)