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Toward Decolonizing African Philosophy and Religion

by Kwasi Wiredu


Let me begin by defining what I mean by decolonization in African philosophy. By decolonization, I mean divesting African philosophical thinking of all undue influences emanating from our colonial past. The crucial word in this formulation is “undue”. Obviously, it would not be rational to try to reject everything of a colonial ancestry. Conceivably, a thought or a mode of inquiry spearheaded by our erstwhile colonizers may be valid or in some way beneficial to humankind. Are we called upon to reject or ignore it? That would be a madness having neither rhyme nor reason.

Yet there are reasons for adopting a doubly critical stance toward the problems and theories of Western philosophy–particularly toward the categories of thought embedded therein. The reasons are historical. Colonialism was not only a political imposition, but also a cultural one. Gravely affected, or even perhaps infected, were our religions and systems of education. I will address the question of religion later, but I want directly to notice an aspect of the system of education introduced by colonialism that is of a particular philosophical relevance. It consists in the fact that education was delivered in the medium of one foreign language or another.

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