Director's Lecture Series - African Arena for Deliberation: Foundations of African Political Philosophy by Uchenna Okeja


Wednesday, September 26, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


Center for African Studies - 1280 Massachusetts Ave., 3rd Floor, Cambridge, MA

Join us for this semester's Director's Lecture Series and hear from CAS' visiting fellow, Uchenna Okeja, speak on the book he is working on regarding African Political Philosphy.


“The challenge of Africa to herself and the world consists in the demands for justice, emancipation from colonial rule, and freedom and dignity for the individual, the aspirations for the high standards of living that contemporary science and technology have made possible, and the search for self-confidence and self-respect based on a past rediscovered and reappraised” (Busia 1962, 4)


Kofi Abrefa Busia made this comment in 1962, barely five years after his country, Ghana, became independent.  If instead of ‘emancipation from colonial rule’ we were to say, ‘emancipation from the domination of African political elites,’ Busia’s account of Africa’s challenge would retain all the urgency it reflected when he first expressed it almost six decades ago. How do we explain this situation? How do we explain the fact that Africa’s challenges in the 1950s and 1960s have persisted into the present decade? In my view, the answer to this question must be sought in the realm of the political failure that defines the experience of post-colonial Africa. I will attempt in this presentation is to demonstrate this point and propose a sketch of an African political philosophy that responds adequately to the problem. I begin with an account of the phenomenon of political failure and show the sense in which its recalcitrance constitutes a demand for the articulation of a new African political philosophy. That is, a call for the development of a political philosophy that takes a different route in attempting to make sense of postcolonial African experience.



Uchenna Okeja is Associate Professor of philosophy at Rhodes University and Iso Lomso Fellow at Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study. He works mainly in the areas of critical theory, political philosophy, ethics and African philosophy. He attempts in his current research to address three problems: 1) how our understanding of justice is shaped by global human experience of domination and injustice, 2) why preference defines the moral problem of immigration, and 3) what non-Western traditions of thought can contribute to our understanding of democracy. His most recent works are: Religion, Politics and Postsecularism, ed., (Routledge), War by Agreement: On the Nature and Justification of Just War (Journal of Military Ethics); and "Palaver and Consensus as Metaphors for the Public Sphere in African Philosophy," in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory (Oxford University Press). He is currently completing a book on African political philosophy and starting research for another book tentatively titled Global Africana Thought – Critique of Humiliation. He is editor of two books for Routledge: Postsecularism, Religion and Politics and African Philosophy and Global Justice: Philosophical Essays. He is also co-editing a special issue of Ethical Perspectives on Ubuntu and Justice, a Handbook on the Ethics of Immigration and African Military History and Ethics. Prior to the current position at Rhodes, he taught philosophy and business ethics at University of Applied Sciences in Fulda and Goethe University Frankfurt. He had his undergraduate and post-graduate studies in Germany, obtaining his PhD at Goethe University Frankfurt in 2011. He has held visiting positions at Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, Forschungskolleg in Bad Homburg and Senior Fellowship at Iustitia Amplificata Center for Advanced Study in Frankfurt. Currently, he is completing a fellowship at the Center for African Studies at Harvard University and will be in residence from October 2018 as a Visiting Fellow at Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Study, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.