Phenomenology, Hermeneutics and the study of indigenous knowledge systems

  • G Mutema


In the quest for appropriate methods of studying religion, researchers in recent years have fiercely attacked phenomenology for its inadequacies in the academic study of religion. Phenomenology, as an approach, has been relegated to a relic in some departments of religious studies at Western universities. Yet in Africa, where traditional religions and thought systems of the indigenous people of Africa were formerly rendered primitive and at worst, dismissed as non-existent, Western
developed phenomenology has been exalted as a method of studying religion. In fact, some departments of religious studies at African universities require their undergraduates to take phenomenology as a compulsory and preparatory course for studies in African Traditional Religions and Thought. Despite the criticism levelled against it, phenomenology seems to offer a better approach to the study of African Traditional Religions and Thought. This paper draws upon the
strengths of phenomenology in the study of African Traditional Religions and applies these to the study of Indigenous Knowledge Systems. Admittedly, phenomenology has its own in-built limitations.
In this regard, it is postulated in this paper that phenomenology can be used effectively when combined with the hermeneutical approach. Such an integrated and hence, multi-methodological approach to Indigenous Knowledge Systems simultaneously equips the researcher with indispensable investigative tools and facilitates openness and the active participation of respondents in the research process.

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eISSN: 1683-0296