Africanising/Decolonising Ourselves: The Implications for Advancing Critical University Studies – Africa (ACUSAfrica)
On the 8th of June 2021, André Keet presented a webinar hosted by the Global (De) Centre Network. In it, he put forward a conversation between the notions of Africanising and decolonising the university, specifically located within an African interpretation of Critical University Studies (CUS). The webinar framed CUS as the study of universities through analyses of power, privilege and authority and reflected on different programmes and their associated practices that orbit the notions of Africanisation and decolonisation within universities.
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“Mhudi” (Sol Plaatjie) and “The Cry of Winnie Mandela” (Njabulo Ndebele) and possible new ways of reading
On the 9th of August 2021, Antjie Krog presented a webinar in the Africa and Knowledge Seminar series, a collaboration between the Centre for Philosophy in Africa, CriSHET and the Faculty of Humanities at Nelson Mandela University, and the Emengini Institute for Comparative Global Studies.
Drawing on Bhekizizwe Peterson's 2020 article concerned with the necessity of developing a different way of reading particular texts in South Africa, the talk considered a number of misread novels through new lenses. Following Peterson, Krog argued that these texts inaugurate an underappreciated method or genre of creative meditation: that is, creatively thinking through (rather than ‘philosophising’ or ‘theorising’ in conventional ways) a range of difficult historical, political and social questions and challenges (125). For Peterson, these texts challenge the orthodoxy of the novel in the twentieth century, and are structured to allow a multiplicity of perspectives and arguments to emerge: making actual the thoughts of a philosopher, a social scientist and an historian within the newly configured concept of what a novel should be. “I am advocating that their novels… constitute modes of creative thinking and practice that had been undervalued even by scholars who are proponents of ‘decolonisation’” (126).
Although not specifically concerned with Critical University Studies, Krog's talk touched on many issues pertinent to the field, including the possibilities of creative modes of thinking as crossing disciplinary boundaries and the importance of properly contextualised modes of reading creative texts.
Development and the quest for modernity in Africa
On the 23rd of September 2021, Martin Ajei presented a webinar in the Africa and Knowledge Seminar series, a collaboration between the Centre for Philosophy in Africa, CriSHET and the Faculty of Humanities at Nelson Mandela University, and the Emengini Institute for Comparative Global Studies.
Ajei's talk argues that conceptions of Africa's 'development' have been in the hands of non-Africans since development emerged as a goal to be pursued in the mid 20th century. He maintains that these conceptions and the strategies derived from them have failed, and defends the thesis that goals of development - however conceived - cannot succeed in implementation when they are formulated without the agency of their intended objects. He considers that these failed goals are plausibly unreasonable for their inattention to the thought that the stretch of Africa's history of social formation cannot be devoid of insights into the notion of social progress, and therefore of ideas about the continent's development. Were such inattention intentional disregard, but not mere oversight, one may justifiably consider its resultant goals immoral as welI. Justification for his thesis rests on the notion of agency and its activation, particularly in theoretical perspectives on development by African philosophers. And as prescription for the failures of earlier conceptions, he proposes Gyekye's consequentialist moral theory according to which the ultimate end of social formation is the common good, as a viable basis for a progressive concept of development.
Ajei's talk is concerned with the role of philosophy in Africa, about epistemic aspects of 'development' in relation to African thought and Western epistemic hegemony.