Africana Philosophy – Syllabus

History of Africana Philosophy – Syllabus






PHIL 179-01



Office Hours: Tu (1-2pm) & by appointment Office: B-34 Locke Hall

E: [email protected]




This class examines the main ideas of key thinkers within the Africana philosophical tradition. Rather than proceeding chronologically, the course is structured around thematic units designed to give a foundational understanding of the development of Africana thought on a series of major philosophical topics: methodology, rationality, race, white supremacy, gender, time, and culture. The course is structured to give students advanced understanding of these topics, the (in)commensurability of Africana and Western answers offered, and the multiplicity of methods employed in Africana philosophical thought.


Required Text:

  1. Hallen, Barry. A short history of African philosophy. Indiana University Press, 2009.
  2. Mills, Charles Wade. The racial contract. Cornell University Press, 1997.
  3. Abímbọ́lá, Kọ́la. Yorùbá Culture: A Philosophical Account. Ìrókò Academic Publishers, 2006.


Supplementary Texts: Numerous articles and books, including:

  1. Browne, Kingsley. Divided Labors: An evolutionary view of women at work. Yale University Press, 1998.
  2. Ukpokolo, Isaac E., ed. Themes, Issues and Problems in African Philosophy. Springer International Publishing, 2017.





The object of these sessions is the comparative analysis of Western and African perspectives. We will not be adducing the standard “compare-and-contrast” method. Rather we will be relying upon the “lens” (“keyhole”) type of comparison in which W, the cognitive orientation of an individual or society, is adduced as the lens through which to view B – where B is another lens, society, idea or point of view. Just as looking through a pair of glasses changes the way you see an object, using W as the framework for understanding B defines, changes and modifies the way you see B. Lens comparisons are useful for illuminating, critiquing, or challenging the stability of a thing that, before the analysis, seemed perfectly well understood.

In reading through the materials for discussion, here are three key methodological items to pay particular attention to:

  1. Frame of Reference.Have a clear frame of reference. This sets the context within which to place your analysis and comparisons. Your frame of reference will serve as an umbrella under which you can group the things being compared. We will discuss the issue of how to clarify our frames of references in topic one.
  2. Grounds for Comparison.Suppose that you are writing a paper on global food distribution, and you have chosen to compare apples and oranges. Why these particular fruits? Why not pears and bananas? The rationale behind your choice, the grounds for comparison, explains why your choice is deliberate and meaningful, not random. Always think through, clearly, the rationale or grounds for your choices. We will begin our discussion with the analysis of the concept of “standpoint”, a concept which brings frames of reference and grounds for comparison under one rubric.
  3. Standpoints are indispensable to theses. As in any argumentative discuss, your thesis statement will convey the gist of your argument, which necessarily follows from your frame of reference and grounds of comparison. Clearly identify your thesis in relation to each topic and vis-à-vis each text you analyze.


Topic 1: Methodology and the Idea of History


  1. Miner, Horace. “Body ritual among the Nacirema.” American anthropologist3 (1956): 503-507.
  2. Hallen, Barry, Chapters 1 and 2.
  3. Abímbọ́lá, Kọ́lá (2006), Yorùbá Culture: A Philosophical Account. Iroko Academic Publishers: Birmingham. (Chapter 1, “Where is Africa?”)


Topic 2: Rationality, Afrocentricity and Ways of Knowing


  1. Hallen, Barry, Chapters 3, 4, and 5.
  2. Abímbọ́lá, Kọ́lá (2001), “Spirituality and Applied Ethics: An African Perspective.” West Africa Review, 3(1): 1-29.
  3. Abímbọ́lá, Kọ́lá (2017), “The Historical Nature of Evidential Inference.” Forensic Studies, 1(2): 1-10.
  4. Lott, Tommy L. “African Retentions.” A Companion to African-American Philosophy(2003): 168-189.


Topic 3: Gender, Equality and Power


  1. Hallen, Barry, Chapters 6.
  2. Oyěwùmí, Oyèrónkẹ́. The invention of women: Making an African sense of Western gender discourses. University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
  3. Oyewumi, Oyeronke. “Conceptualizing gender: the eurocentric foundations of feminist concepts and the challenge of African epistemologies.” Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies1 (2002): 1-9.
  4. Browne, Kingsley. Divided Labors: An evolutionary view of women at work. Yale University Press, 1998.
  5. Okin, S. “Is multiculturalism bad for women?” Boston Review 22 (1997), October/November.


Topic 4: Race and White Supremacy


  1. Mills, Charles Wade. The racial contract. Cornell University Press, 1997.
  2. Mills, Charles W. “White supremacy.” A companion to African-American philosophy(2003): 269-281.


Topic 5: Time


  1. McTaggart, J. Ellis. “The unreality of time.” Mind(1908): 457-474.
  2. Wiredu, Kwasi. “Time and African thought.” Time and temporality in intercultural perspective. Amsterdam/Atlanta: Rodolpi(1996): 127-136.


Topic 6: Philosophy and Culture


  1. Hallen, Barry, Chapters 8 and 9.
  2. Abímbọ́lá, Kọ́lá (2013), “Culture and the Principles of Biomedical Ethics.” Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, Vol. 19 (3): 31-39.
  3. Abímbọ́lá, Kọ́lá (2005), “Yoruba Diaspora” in Ember, M, Ember, C.R. and Skoggard, I, Encyclopedia of Diasporas. Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World, (New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers.)



Class Attendance

Your presence and participation in seminars are essential. Missed seminars are a matter of serious concern in a course of this nature, and for any missed class, you will need to write a make-up essay of 5-6 pages on the topic of the missed class. This must be submitted at the next class. Missing more than two classes may have an adverse effect on your final grade. You are required to attend no leass than 95% of classes




  • Examination One 20%; Paper One 30%; Final Paper 50%.

[show_if has_tag=”africana”]content[/show_if]

[show_if has_tag=”africana”]content[/show_if]