Towards the reclamation and redemption of African philosophy

The New York Times featured an interesting article on philosophy in the academy entitled “When Philosophy Lost Its Way“. After reading it, it provoked some of my thinking about the nature of academic knowledge production and the significance of African philosophy.

This is a good discussion of the ruinous nature of so many forms of academic knowledge production. The academy has succeeded (along with the academic publishing industry) in commodifying knowledge in rather unnatural ways that divorces its productive cycles and areas of emphases from the existential quandaries that exist in the world.

I think that a number of questions are in order here. How does philosophy answer the crises that so typify so-called modern life? How does philosophy inform a mode of social criticism capable of forming a new conception of society? How does philosophy reinforce the more generalized and diffuse Eurocentric hegemony of Western education? Is philosophy (as we know it) more trouble than it’s worth? What might we pose as an alternative?

While I am disinclined to suggest a forward path for Western philosophy, I will argue that for people of African descent, the resuscitation of philosophical discourses and modalities of knowledge production are a vital part of social transformation. Whether we are examining the deep thought of the ancient Nile Valley pertaining to “good speech”, or the cosmological insights of the Dogon, or the Yoruba conception of struggle and its necessity, the love of wisdom as captured in the works of Ahmed Baba and his contemporaries at the Univ. of Sankore in the 16th Century, the social theories of Prince Hall or Martin R. Delany or Anna Julia Cooper, the cultural analysis of Du Bois from the 30s and 60s, Master Fard Muhammad’s and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s discourse on moral intractability, Malcolm X’s critique of America’s vaunted and dubious morality, Sista Souljah’s thesis about enslavement as the default condition of Africans in the American social order, and on and on. Philosophy has a great deal to offer us, but first we must do as Jacob H. Carruthers instructed and resolve ourselves to cultivate bodies of knowledge both divorced from the imperatives of the West and inextricably linked to our efforts to transform both the world and ourselves.

Kawaida and Pan-Africanism

A compelling proposal from Kawaida: An Introductory Outline by Maulana Karenga. Sadly, much of this remains in the realm of the conceptual rather than the actual.

D. Build Pan-Africanism – As Pan-Africanists, we must build Pan-Africanism as a global project, not just a continental one. Any serious and successful Pan-Africanism must be rooted in and reflective of the following basic principles and practice:

1. unity and struggle of Africans wherever they are;

2. acceptance of the principle that the greatest contribution to the liberation of African peoples is the liberation struggle each people wages to liberate itself, and thus;

3. acquire the effective capacity to aid others still struggling. In a word, the overall struggle for African liberation is one, but a people must begin the struggle wherever they are.

4. development of mutually beneficial cooperative efforts between Continental and Diasporan African.

Kawaida proposals at FESTAC: a. permanent Afro-American observer status at OAU; b. All African People’s Convention-international as distinct from continental (OAU) – Continental and Diasporan; c. Pan-African University-Continental and Diasporan; d. Diasporan Studies in all African universities as African Studies in West; e. Continental and Diasporan common language – Swahili; f. developmental capital – for all Africans; g. African people’s lobby-for all Africans; h. African people’s skills bank-for all Africans; i. support in the UN-and other international bodies by African countries for Afro-Americans and other Diasporan Africans and other concrete support (political pressure, capital, information, asylum, etc. where possible).

5. recognition and response to the fact that in the final analysis, each people is its own liberator. A people that cannot save itself is lost forever.