History of Africana Philosophy Syllabus


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.