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Filosofia Theoretica: Journal of African Philosophy, Culture and Religions

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The critique of ethnophilosophy in the mapping and trajectory of African philosophy

Pascah Mungwini

Abstract


By ignoring the history of thinking in other traditions around the world, philosophy established itself as a narrow tradition, and in the name of reason, according to Bernasconi, it constituted itself as a narrative shaped largely by exclusions. Similar exclusionary tendencies have also permeated the field of African philosophy. In an effort to legitimise and indeed consolidate their discipline, a generation of academic philosophers in Africa have attempted to establish the boundaries of African philosophy with significant consequences on its meaning and future development. Their effort is credited with putting African philosophy on the world map. However, by aligning the practice of African philosophy to a particular conceptualisation of the enterprise, what was meant to serve as the springboard for intellectual freedom, including the liberation of thought and imagination in Africa became restrictive if not intolerant or repressive in its outlook. In this essay, I wish to assess the impact of the critique of ethnophilosophy on the growth and expression of African philosophy as an autonomous discipline. In doing so reference will be made to what Mudimbe has called ‘the bible of anti-ethnophilosophers.’

Keywords: Critique of Ethnophilosophy, Africa, African philosophy, Exclusionary practices, Universalism




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