The public sphere in African political thought

This research project aim is to contribute to the quest for a viable political philosophy for contemporary Africa. The goal in this regard is to develop alternative ways of making political ideas and values of traditional Africa relevant for modern times. Specifically, aiming to critically reconstruct the ideas embedded in the conceptual metaphors for the public sphere in African political thought, namely, palaver and consensus. In the extant literature, the focus has been on debating the possibility or otherwise of appropriating and applying the ideas and values of traditional African political thought to modern Africa. While some like Wamba-Dia-Wamba, Kwasi Wiredu and Kwame Gyekye argue that this is possible and essential, others like Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze, Bernard Matolino, Emmanuel Ani and Onyebuchi Eze argue that this is either not possible or undesirable. Hardly any of the participants in this debate has offered anything beyond unsystematic appropriation of aspects of traditional African thought or criticism of what has been appropriated. The aim in this research project is to move beyond these approaches by tracing the provenance, dynamics and necessary modifications needed to make these notions of the public sphere relevant for politics in modern Africa.

Project leader(s):
  • Uchenna Okeja (Department of Philosophy, Rhodes University)

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