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Bruce B. Janz

Between the Particular and the Universal

›Cultural Inquiry‹ as the Encounter Between Anthropology and Philosophy


Ivan Karp and D.A. Masolo's African Philosophy as Cultural Inquiry attempts to recover philosophical reflection based on the analysis of specific cultural forms from the charge of ethnophilosophy. It is possible for philosophy to address the particulars of cultural experience without losing its »universal« character. The papers in this volume address three major themes in an effort to illustrate the encounter between philosophy and culture – the nature of persons, the nature of knowledge, and the nature of change. The essays in the volume vary in their success at reaching the stated goal, inasmuch as some are more successful than others at integrating the particular (cultural) and the universal (philosophical). Overall, though, Karp and Masolo's work is an important and welcome addition to the ongoing task of thinking through the nature of African philosophy.


A New Kind of Philosophical Approach

Ivan Karp &
D.A. Masolo (eds.):
African Philosophy as Cultural Inquiry.
Indiana University Press,
vii, 270 pages
ISBN 0-253-21417-3
book cover
Indiana University Press:
external linkWebsite
1 One of the constant (and for some, regrettable) features of African philosophy is that, more than any other philosophical tradition, it continues to inquire into the possibility and nature of its own existence. This is seen by many as merely defensive, a response to the charge that Africans have no philosophy. If, however, we think of philosophy's central object as philosophy itself, as »thought thinking itself«, then the inquiry into first things may be the most philosophical practice possible, and African philosophy may be seen as philosophy at its best, since its self-inquiry is more crucial than most other traditions. Ivan Karp and D.A. Masolo, in African Philosophy as Cultural Inquiry, add an important new voice to the tradition of African philosophy's self examination by proposing and exemplifying »cultural inquiry« as a mode of thought.
2 They construct a narrative that connects the papers of the volume together. They place the papers in a historical development, »phases«, which presumably are meant to supplant earlier taxonomies of African philosophy such as Oruka's »trends« (1-3). These phases are ethnophilosophy, in the 1970s, philosophy of culture in the 1980s, and the politics of knowledge subsequent to this. While these phases represent an evolution, Karp and Masolo also place ethnophilosophy and »African philosophy« (presumably, the later phases) in tension, as »two contesting parties« (4). Both of these have their roots in the west (it is nice to see that they identify Tempels as drawing on Bergson, although I suspect that Teilhard de Chardin is closer to the truth), which suggests less that they are phases and more that they are going concerns. Indeed, the introduction of the book treats them as live options, considering the strengths and weaknesses of ethnophilosophy (broadly understood to include nationalist philosophies such as Nyerere's ujamaa). The goal is not to simply reject ethnophilosophy, as earlier philosophers such as Hountondji did, but to consider the enduring appeal of such attempts to understand African thought. Instead of supposing that it has been superceded by later, more rigorous forms of philosophy, Karp and Masolo argue that what is needed is, as the book's title indicates, »cultural inquiry«, which draws on the cultural strengths of ethnophilosophy while giving it a more rigorous form. It represents another attempt to deal with the age-old tension between the particularity of »African« and the universality of »philosophy«.
»African philosophy should refuse to recognize claims to ownership, whether these are based on race, ethnic identity, nationality, or academic discipline. African philosophy belongs not only to the Africans who ›make‹ it and the scholars who inquire about it – it lives in all parts of the world which Africans and scholars claim as their homes.«

Ivan Karp and
D.A. Masolo
3 One of the strengths of this move, in my opinion, is that it enables Karp and Masolo to reframe African philosophy as a collaboration between the producers of culture and scholars (13), rather than locating philosophy in the culture alone (as ethnophilosophy tended to do) or in the scholarly community alone (as some versions of African philosophy, what Oruka called »professional philosophy«, tended to do). This suggests that conversation is necessary, and the place of the conversants is important. It is ironic, then, given this important insight, that more of the essays in the volume do not actually take this task seriously. Most of them fit into the scholarly mode, as critical reflections on cultural artifacts or practices, and do not actually engage in conversation with the producers of or participants in culture. The exception might be Atieno-Odhiambo's essay, "Luo Perspectives on Knowledge and Development: Samuel G. Ayany and Paul Mbuya", in which Atieno-Odhiambo gives a brief account of two Luo intellectuals through their writings and personal encounters. This paper would have come closer to the ideal of conversation if, instead of simply gleaning some Luo perspectives on knowledge and development, the writer would have raised the question of what the relationship is between Luo tradition and scholarly knowledge. The subjects and the author himself are (were) immersed in both, and a study of the philosophy that might emerge from that place would have come closer to cultural inquiry as the editors imagine.
4 There is, it should be mentioned, a further step past cultural inquiry as conversation between the producers of culture and scholars. This would be to recognize that scholarly work is actually part of culture, and that the activity of scholars is not by definition foreign to Africa. Studying the process of knowledge production in higher education is as much African as studying indigenous knowledge systems or practices. It is as much cultural as anything else, and does not exist in a realm outside of culture, or in another (probably Western) culture. This step has yet to be properly realized in any work.
5 Despite the irony of the lack of actual conversation, the idea of cultural inquiry as a place of encounter is one worth taking seriously. The essays themselves fit somewhat differently into the agenda. Most of them could be seen as attempts to take seriously what might once have been thought of as ethnophilosophy, but in the hands of the contributors attempts to be something more than reports on static, uncritical, anonymous world views. These essays, with varying success, use the tools of postcolonial inquiry – raising questions concerning agency, power, marginalization, and representation – to address philosophical issues that are rooted in African communities.
6 To philosophers this might be novel, given the historical development of the field. Many current anthropologists, though, might see this as philosophy finally catching up to what critical anthropology has been doing for several years now. Philosophy has always had a somewhat vexed relationship to anthropology when it comes to cultural matters (»ethnophilosophy«, after all, often seems to describe philosophers' reactions to anthropological work on indigenous knowledge), and has sometimes been more comfortable with outdated descriptions of the field than with looking at what is actually happening. This book bridges the gap between philosophers and anthropologists from the philosophers side (although it should be said, philosophers are in the minority among contributors to this book), by taking seriously the idea that knowledge comes from places, and that we have to pay attention to the particularities to do good philosophy. The conversation between the philosopher Masolo and the anthropologist Karp is woven throughout the fabric of this book, and that is one of its great strengths. Perhaps this heralds a new spirit of dialogue between disciplines, an inquiry into the cultures of knowledge production as well as the cultures of people, and if so, it would be beneficial to both fields.
7 The intent of the book, then, seems clear – to develop a new kind of philosophical approach, called »cultural inquiry«. I would like to assess the success of this project by considering three themes: the notion of personhood, the problem of knowledge, and the idea of change in African society.

Personhood and the Struggle Between Ethnophilosophy and African Philosophy

James E. Lassiter:
African Culture And Personality: Bad Social Science, Effective Social Activism, Or A Call To Reinvent Ethnology?
In: African Studies Quaterly 3.3 (1999).
external linkArticle

With a external linkComment
by D.A. Masolo,
and a external linkReply
by James E. Lassiter.
8 At least two-thirds of the essays in this volume deal with the question of personhood. The first section is titled "Power, Personhood, and Agency", although there are actually more essays outside of that section that have »personhood« in the title. The issue of personhood fits well into the editor's program, as it has been conceived very differently in ethnophilosophy and in »professional« philosophy. Historically, anthropology has analyzed personhood in traditional settings in ways that limit or ignore the importance of individual agency. Both structuralism and functionalism looked at individual action as an indication of underlying structures or functions, not as evidence of individual rational thought, free will, or anything like that. This was one of the classic problems that philosophers had with anthropological accounts of personhood in Africa. But what was the alternative? For some, it seemed the only way around this was to invert the dualism, and assert the independence and creativity of the self over the constraints of societal structures. Wiredu's essay here, consistent with his work in general, tends toward this inversion. He begins his essay, "Our Problem of Knowledge: Brief Reflections on Knowledge and Development in Africa", with the following observation:
9 Knowledge is necessary for action. That is axiomatic. Action is necessary for survival. That too is axiomatic. Therefore, most certainly, knowledge is necessary for survival. (181)
10 These may be axiomatic, but they are not clearly true. It is entirely possible that action does not follow knowledge, but rather that knowledge is made possible in the context of action (in a Heideggerian manner, or as pragmatism argues). And, depending on how one defines action, it may be a truism that action is necessary for survival. But my point here is not to follow this line, but to point out that the assumption here is of a rational, independent, and creative thinker who has the upper hand over the cultural world.
11 Most of the papers on personhood try to avoid this dichotomy. Rosalind Shaw's excellent paper, "'Tok Af, Lef Af': A Political Economy of Temne Techniques of Secrecy and Self" is a good example. After identifying the classic assumption that the Western self is an individualistic one while the African self is a communal one, she does not simply invert the opposition, but rather argues for a hidden (rather than interior) self:
12 These tropes of the external, the wild, and the hidden trace understandings of self that might have more in common with the moi than the personne, as they define selfhood outside of and apart from formal social roles. But it would be more true to say that they confound this dichotomy altogether since, unlike the Maussian moi, they are relational. (31)
»…concepts of personhood and of constitutions of selves as social entities or agents are functions of ever-changing economic histories and historical economies. They are not constant, even if philosophical definitions tend to fix them as unchangeable substances.«

Didier N. Kaphagawani
13 There is a rationality and deliberateness about keeping oneself hidden, but that hiddenness must be negotiated in a social context. It is not the Western individualistic self, the source of action (as Wiredu imagines), nor is it the classic Mbitian »I am because we are« version of the self. Shaw gives a fine overview of situations and contexts in which one's degree of openness or secrecy is the place of identity construction. It is not a negotiation between a pre-existing interior self and a social structure that is given; rather, the »between« precedes the poles.
14 Didier Kaphagawani, in his chapter "Some African Conceptions of Person: A Critique", also ably addresses the dichotomy over the nature of personhood or self mentioned earlier. Following on Shaw's analysis, Kaphagawani argues for the fluidity of conceptions of personhood in Africa, and the inability of philosophical theories to adequately capture that fluidity, at least up to now. His essay is a critique of Tempels, Mbiti, and Kagame's notions of personhood. In each case he argues that a description of self has solidified into unyielding dogma, and has ironically failed to capture the very self it seeks to describe:
15 […] the scholars of African difference were so much steeped in articulating the ideological divides between African and Western worldviews that they lost the real self in their analyses in pursuit of something else, perhaps an esteemed value such as community. The concepts of the self adopted by these scholars are chosen strictly with this goal in mind: they are concerned not with what concept best captures the manifold experiences of the self but with what concept best allows them to both promote difference and derive the ontological values of the vital forces well as communalism. (74)
16 The effort to break down the dichotomy appears in a more pragmatic manner in other essays. David Parkin's "Islam Among the Humors: Destiny and Agency Among the Swahili", Peter Amuka's "The Play of Deconstruction in the Speech of Africa: The Role of Pakruok and Ngero in Telling Culture in Dholuo", and Corinne Kratz's "Forging Unions and Negotiating Ambivalence: Personhood and Complex Agency in Okiek Marriage Arrangement" all try to make the construction of the person more complex than the dichotomy suggests. Parkin argues that Swahili medical practice »militates against the rigid moral classification of particular individuals« (53). Indeed, the »Swahili theory of personal humoral makeup avoids classifying persons as intrinsically good or bad but instead sees them as beings that are remade constantly« (64). Peter Amuka argues that praise-names in Dholuo are ways of constructing the self in relation to others. Praise-names abbreviate stories, which may involve the dead or the living. They are appropriated by a person, but must be deserved or recognized (note the meeting of individual agency and social structure again). As they are analyzed, they only serve to generate more questions.
17 Corinne Kratz's contribution also addresses the zone between communalist and individualist understandings of the person, in this case in marriage arrangements. She argues that these complex social arrangements are more than just tradition. The negotiation of marriage, Kratz suggests, offers various opportunities for the expression of individual will within the bounds of tradition. Interestingly, while it seems that the account of marriage will highlight the opportunities for agency, in fact it seems more often that Kratz's account is of agency delayed, limited, deferred, obtained gradually, or available only as an extreme option, particularly for women. It is not entirely clear whether demonstrating that a person has a range of logical options, or demonstrating that a woman makes a contribution to a household, is the same as demonstrating that there is meaningful agency, much less that the dichotomy between communalism and individualism is broken down.
18 J.P. Odoch Pido's "Personhood and Art: Social Change and Commentary among the Acoli" seems to stand against the prevailing theme of questioning the dichotomy between communalist and individualist accounts of the person. His essay reads more like an ethnophilosophical account of the cultural use of a term. There is little if any reflection on how one's self might be constructed in the face of the way one is regarded by Acoli culture. While the essay is well done, and the analysis of the poem is very interesting, it seems out of place given the theme.

The Problem of Knowledge

Kwasi Wiredu:
Toward Decolonizing African Philosophy and Religion.
In: African Studies Quaterly 1.4 (1997).
external linkArticle
19 The problem of knowledge in the context of the tension between ethnophilosophy and African philosophy concerns the location and form of knowledge. Is it rooted, particular, relatively static, pragmatic, and mythical, or is it abstract, universal, schematic, progressive, theoretical, and scientific? Karp and Masolo, it seems to me, want to reject this dichotomy, but to do that they need to find a middle way between the two, or an alternative understanding of knowledge. Several of the papers in this volume attempt to do just that.
20 Kwasi Wiredu's brief account of the relationship between the kinds of knowledge mentioned above is that traditional knowledge must serve as a check against the worst excesses of abstract and technological reason. The issue is »how to exploit all the resources of the modern world for the benefit of our society without jeopardizing the strong points of our culture« (186). Wiredu argues that Africa needs »not the hard sciences, with their technical rationality, but rather the softer parts of the social sciences and philosophy, with their humane rationality« (186). There is a strong sense that Africa must have progressive, scientific reason, but it is a necessary evil, to be resisted by more humanistic reason.
21 This version of rationality is a kind of two worlds approach, in which fundamentally different kinds of reason must find ways to co-exist. I am not convinced that there is such a clear distinction between types of reason. Surely technical reason has its cultural and humanistic aspects, and surely humanistic and traditional reason has been as alienating at times as any scientific argument has. It is difficult to see how this represents a move forward from the view that traditional African reason is mythical and modern reason is abstract and scientific. It is also difficult to see how the editors' vision of cultural inquiry might occur under these conditions.
22 Bogumil Jewsiewicki ("Chéri Samba's Postcolonial Reinvention of Modernity") has more success at imagining a kind of knowledge that might allow cultural inquiry to take place. He contextualizes the work of his subject, Chéri Samba, by considering Gauguin's work as an act of colonizing knowledge. Art became global knowledge, not simply because it (re)presented the exotic to the European gaze, but also because it was the search for the universal as contained in the pure bodies of the »primitive«. This search legitimates external knowledge about the »primitive«: »Gauguin thus becomes like the anthropologist, … assuming that [his] knowledge is more authentic than the knowledge the savage can have about herself or himself.« (222) The universalization of this colonial knowledge means that »the only quest for identity that is open to the mulatto is the ancestry of his non-Western parent« (223). None of this means that Jewsiewicki wants to dismiss Gauguin; rather, he sees Gauguin's project as the introduction of modernity into painting through the search for the primitive. The point is to place Samba into relief against this.
»In order to deconstruct the invention of the modern, one should first look at the invention of the primitive as art category.«

»The colonial project, in its epistemological sense, is impossible without the primitive.«

Bogumil Jewsiewicki
(215 and 239)
23 Jewsiewicki's discussion of Chéri Samba begins unexpectedly, given the trenchant analysis of Gauguin that precedes it. Instead of making a case for what Samba's art accomplishes, he gives an extended character sketch of the artist. The effect is to establish Samba as anything but Gauguin's primitive, and furthermore as someone who is thoroughly immersed in the modern, to the extent that his art constantly raises social norms and roles to question. At the same time (and this is the point of the comparison between Gauguin and Samba), Samba allows the possibility of postcoloniality even in his dogged pursuit of the modern. Jewsiewicki argues that the artist's work has three significant characteristics. First, his painting »explores modernity, tracks it down everywhere, examines it, critiques it, and caricatures it in an effort to capture its formula and key and to possess it« (235). Secondly, the artist »paints human beings as a moralist, as a preacher who stands up as a teacher and a knight-errant whose mission it is to save humanity« (235). And finally, »Chéri Samba's paintings give prominence only to the person most important to him, Chéri Samba« (237). Samba's answer to Gauguin seems to be that the artist creates him or her self in an act of assertion, even if that assertion is narcissistic. (240) There is no primitive, which serves to justify modernity, and colonialism, for that matter. Knowledge requires recognition and construction of identity – thus tying two major themes of Karp and Masolo's book together nicely.

Change in African Society

»What is change? How and why does change occur? What are the ideal conditions of change in the sense of socio-political transformations?«

F. Eboussi-Boulaga
24 I would like to highlight one essay from this collection which I think is interesting in its own right, as well as suggestive of much broader themes in African philosophy than it seems on the surface. F. Eboussi-Boulaga's essay "The Topic of Change", fits differently into the overall theme of Karp and Masolo's book than the other essays. Recall that »cultural inquiry« draws on the strengths of ethnophilosophy, as well as critical postcolonial thought to create a new approach to understanding existence in Africa. One of the problems that Hountondji and others had with ethnophilosophy was that it imagined that culture was static. If it was static, then philosophy itself seemed to have little chance. Critique could not yield meaningful change, and there could be no real philosophy of action or practice. Hountondji, and others such as Wiredu, have questioned the need for adherence to tradition precisely because they see tradition as resisting change. Other thinkers (e.g. Kwame Gyekye in Tradition and Modernity) argued more moderately that, while tradition was important, change (or more to the point, modernist change, or progress) is part of all culture. The question of the nature of change strikes at the heart of African philosophy itself. Philosophy seems to require change, in the sense that critical reflection must have an impact. But in what way and to what extent can change occur if we are to still do philosophy that has a cultural marker in its very name?
25 So, the question of the nature of change is a significant one. Eboussi-Boulaga handles the question as an abstract one, and in this essay attempts to sketch out a theory of change originating in Aristotle which he (presumably) thinks is relevant to the African situation. The fact that he begins with Aristotle is not problematic because Aristotle is not African, but rather because of Aristotle's assumptions about the nature of change. Specifically, Aristotle lived almost two millenia before Newton, which meant that he assumed (like most people before the modern era) that the natural state of everything was to be at rest, and that everything had its »natural« place where it was at rest. Change, then, needed explanation inasmuch as it was an »unnatural« state. If, then, we are interested in change in African society, we suppose that the state described by ethnophilosophy is the natural state. He might have started with Heraclitus instead of Aristotle, and assumed that change was the fundamental feature of existence, and the lack of change would need an explanation. Or, he might have assumed that we always exist in metaphorical inertial frames of reference, and that nothing needs explanation in comparison to some »natural« state. But he did not take these options.
26 There is another reason why Aristotle is an unexpected embarkation point. Eboussi-Boulaga begins with Aristotle's Topics (unexpectedly, in that Aristotle's work on change is mostly in the Physics). He takes the topoi as a »common-places«, or a generally agreed upon tactic of arbitration within complex arguments (187-188). While this is true to Aristotle, another sense of place is evident throughout the article. In an essay on change, Eboussia-Boulaga regularly uses geographical metaphors. Change, it seems, is best expressed or understood by movement in space. In both colonial and postcolonial times, he says, »Africa has been defined as a space that is lacking change and exhibiting tradition or as a space in which change has to be introduced and managed by an external apparatus« (188). »The inside (which is contrasted to the outside) is at once this indeterminate whole that is called Africa.« (193) There is a »plane of linear propogation« which we leave for a »pluridimensional and multipolar space« (207). I will have more to say about the geography of change presently.
27 Eboussi-Boulaga's intention in starting from the Topics was to schematize his thoughts on change, and address some central questions: »What is change? How and why does change occur? What are the ideal conditions of change in the sense of socio-political transformations?« (188-189) The move from the abstract account of change to the production of change in the socio-political world is dizzying, to say the least. His intention clearly is to provide the basis for social change, and he sees the proper foundation of that change to be the abstract analysis of the nature of change itself. Like Kwasi Wiredu, he clearly thinks that if we get our ideas straight, our actions will naturally and necessarily follow. I do not think his analysis will bear the weight of his goal, as I will show in what follows.
Messay Kebede:
Development and the African Philosophical Debate.
external linkArticle
28 The analytic part of the paper starts from the analysis of several key terms: »causes«, »internal«, »current mutations«, and »in Africa«. These terms figure in a question that emerges from the earlier questions, which is, »What are the internal causes of the current mutations in Africa?« For Eboussi-Boulaga, a cause is a physical explanation expressed reductionistically. »Internal« refers to a generative efficient cause, which makes existence possible (ex-sist, after all, refers to »standing out«, specifically standing out from causes). »Current mutations« is a biological metaphor that is pressed into service to describe social change. Eboussi-Boulaga sees social change as a random discontinuity, usually not beneficial to an organism/society, but occasionally creative and therefore necessary for change. And, »Africa« is an »autonomous assembly of internal dependencies in which we can observe the concentration of the global at the local level« (194-195).
29 What does this analysis yield? Mostly, that Eboussi-Boulaga imagines Africa as a kind of organism, which operates on an evolutionary basis not unlike biological evolution. Accounting for social and political change, therefore, means identifying the mutations, and furthermore, identifying the useful ones, so that beneficial change can occur.
30 This metaphor seems to be stretched well past its breaking point. In what sense does evolution apply to the social conditions of Africa? What is the »ecosystem«, where is the »natural selection«, and how can this metaphor work »inside« the organism? But more serious is the premise of the paper itself, that social change happens because of causes which can be explained. Evolutionary biology has given up talking about the causes of any change at all. Indeed, at the root of Eboussi-Boulaga's incoherent metaphor is the use of Aristotle in the service of modern evolutionary theory. Aristotle's system is teleological, something which modern biology avoids at all costs. Animals do not evolve eyes because they need to see. Do societies change because they require some telos? Probably not. But using Aristotle to account for social change requires some sort of teleological theory. Eboussi-Boulaga does seem to realize that there might be a problem with this (203), but his answer seems only to obscure teleology, to try to have directional change without direction. Hegel dealt better with this possibility, but there is no Owl of Minerva to save the day here.
»What is called underdevelopment can be interpreted as the non-coordinated juxtaposition of different growth rhythms and the bouncing back or backlash of the most rapid with the slowest.«

F. Eboussi-Boulaga
31 The metaphor also fails because of the 19th century move that supposes that social structures can be mapped onto biological ones. We have seen evolutionary theory used for social purposes, in the robber barons and early 20th century capitalists who believed that the »fittest« in society survived, and in the eugenicists who believed that we could produce a better society by addressing the causes of problems, which were identified as »undesirable« people. More recent applications of evolutionary theory to society, such as sociobiology, whatever else their problems, do not fall into these patterns simply because they have given up teleological accounts of the world. Eboussi-Boulaga, however, cannot do that if he starts from Aristotle, and he clearly does not want to give up on teleology, given his discussion of »teleonomy« (200-203).
32 The natural-ness of the static conception of Africa becomes clear later in the paper, when he says: »In order to determine whether a mutation is beneficial or evil, we must have chosen stability or the optimal form of the object ›Africa‹ as something good and desirable…« (201) Stability suggests a static society; the »optimal form« suggests teleology. The second half of the paper is an account of how we identify and assess mutations. The discussion stays at a very theoretical level, despite the fact that we are promised »applications: rules and examples« (203), but the point of the exercise is to account for underdevelopment:
33 What is called underdevelopment can be interpreted as the non-coordinated juxtaposition of different growth rhythms and the bouncing back or backlash of the most rapid with the slowest. (211)
34 I have raised a number of serious problems with the paper, but perhaps the most serious has yet to be raised: what difference does this make? Does it matter to anyone actually living in Africa? Kaphagawani suggested that many scholars have »lost the real self in their analyses in pursuit of something else« – has Eboussi-Boulaga found any real selves in this analysis? He has, at best, explained, but he has not interpreted, and he has not aided understanding. And, his explanation cannot be tested (it seems unfalsifiable), cannot yield new strategies for development – unless we have already answered the question of what kind of Africa is desired – and must assume a backdrop of a static Africa, giving the argument to the ethnophilosophers. In what sense does any of this exemplify the editors' ideal of cultural inquiry, as outlined at the beginning of this review?
35 As I suggested, though, there might be something useful despite all this, and it is contained more in the rhetoric than in the dialectic of the paper. I already mentioned the geographical references that constantly crop up. It is difficult to talk about change without using geographical metaphors, as our most basic sense of change is change of position, direction, speed, or orientation. Aristotle recognized the significance of change of place, as he devotes a large section of the Physics to that question. It seems potentially more fruitful to construct a theory of change around the geographical than the logical.
36 Eboussi-Boulaga is correct to realize that a theory of change is needed. And, his geographical images suggest a different direction to look for such a theory, and possibly one more consonant with the theme of the book. Instead of starting from a static conception of Africa, what if we started from a nomadic hermeneutic? What if, instead of using Aristotle the project was re-thought through the lens of Deleuze and Guattari, thinkers who recognized fluidity as a fact of existence, and who were interested in starting from an account of real existence in Africa rather than some abstract schematization? What if, in short, change was not something to be explained, but was a fundamental fact of human existence? 1 We might find a more suggestive, and more useful, theory of change under those circumstances.
37 Karp and Masolo's project is largely successful, despite some contributions that do not add as much as one would hope. I think the chief value of the book, and what will endure, is the attempt to take the particularity of African experience seriously without giving up the philosophical tradition. The book represents both a disciplinary and cultural encounter, and in that serves as a model for the future.
polylog: Forum for Intercultural Philosophy 4 (2003).
Online: http://lit.polylog.org/4/ejb-en.htm
ISSN 1616-2943
© 2003 Author & polylog e.V.


I have written elsewhere on this possibility. See (2001): "The Territory Is Not The Map: Deleuze and Guattari's Relevance to the Concept of Place in African Philosophy". In: Philosophy Today, 45.4/5, 388-400. Also published in (2002): Philosophia Africana 5.1, 1-18. go back


Bruce B. Janz (*1960 in Regina, Sask., Canada) is Associate Professor of Humanities and Director of the Humanities Program at the Department of Philosophy, University of Central Florida in Orlando. He obtained his PhD in Philosophy from University of Waterloo in 1992. Before joining University of Central Florida he was Associate Professor of Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies at Augustana University College in Camrose, Alta. (Canada). His fields of interest are African philosophy, contemporary European philosophy, research on place and space, interdisciplinarity and humanities and the history of mysticism.
Prof. Dr. Bruce B. Janz
University of Central Florida
Department of Philosophy
Colbourn Hall
4000 Central Florida Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32816-1352
Fax +1 (407) 823-6658
external linkhttp://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~janzb
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