Universalism and autoctonia in the construction of the African episteme

Christian Fischgold (UNICAMP)
Vanessa Riambau Pinheiro
B1 1.10
Friday 19 July, 14:00-15:30, 16:00-17:30

Short abstract:

The purpose of this panel is to analyze diachronically the currents of thought produced in Africa in the twentieth century, according to the reflections on autochthonous identities, alterity, and universalism present in the discussions of contemporary authors.

Long abstract:

"How African are the so-called African studies?" (HOUNTONDJI, 2010). This question was formulated by Paulin J. Hountondji to problematize the epistemology of the researches produced on Africa, and to pay attention to what he calls "ethnophilosophy". This ethnophilosophy is made more by Africanists than by Africans in the broad sense of the word. The critique of essentialism as an intellectual premise goes against the purposes of autochthonous and racialist assertion on which the Négritude movement was based. Developed in the 1930s, the movement had in Aimé Cesáire and Leopold Senghor its main formulators. Defined as the set of values of the black world, the movement proposed a development of this reflection in three directions: "art - expression of blackness; - politics and blackness; philosophy and blackness" (AGUIAR, 2018). Today, a number of African intellectuals have been distancing themselves from the essentialist premises, notice of the problems of a supposed African collective philosophy. Valentine Mudimbe criticizes the fact that both Western interpreters and African analysts use categories and conceptual systems dependent on a Western epistemological order. In this direction, the very movement of Négritude is conceived from a Westernized episteme, although presented by Africans. The Cameroon Achille Mbembe (2014) problematizes the black identity when affirming that it can only be understood as "identity in becoming". We encourage communications that critically dialogue with the assumptions of the authors of Négritude, as well as with their contemporary critics.