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Philosophy and Genre: Creating a Textual Basis for African Philosophy

Project description

African philosophy through texts

Based on the elaboration of different genre of texts, the EU-funded PhiGe project proposes a new approach for African philosophy. The basic idea is to study African philosophy through African sources and not as a discipline that is included in a framework of colonial or neo-colonial studies. The project will take into consideration a wide range of texts according to their genre: oral and written, fictional and non-fictional, public and private. The main aim of the project is to understand the philosophical meaning of the texts under examination. The project will apply a comparative study of texts in eight African and European languages.


The project pioneers a multilingual approach to African philosophy, based on an understanding of philosophy as expressed through texts. In contrast to definitions of philosophical texts as non-fictional, written sources (Hountondji), we insist on a much more inclusive definition of “text”: both oral and written texts, fictional and non-fictional ones, public and private ones are considered in this project. A rigorous study of texts, working across multiple genres and several languages, is the first step in the development of an African philosophy derived from local African cultures, rather than from global, colonial or neo-colonial concerns, as is to date the case in the “mainstream” discipline of “African Philosophy”. This project establishes such a textual basis for African philosophy. This bottom-up approach necessitates a reconsideration of the nature, methods, and themes of philosophy, but also of its textual strategies, its use of language, of the nature of representation, and of the relationship between imaginative literature and theoretical thought.

The key premise of our project is that to understand the philosophical meaning of texts, it is necessary to start with an analysis of textual genres. Genres anchor texts in context, in culture and language. How exactly does genre impact meaning? To answer this central question of our research, we work comparatively on several genres of literature in eight African and European languages. The case studies include the essay in Ciluba and French, the novel in Swahili, Shona, Ciluba, Lingala, French, and English, digital texts such as blogs and social media, scenario planning narratives, Sufi poetry in Swahili and Wolof, and Alexis Kagame’s poetic work in Kinyarwanda and French, travestying the traditional genres of dynastic, heroic and pastoral poetry.

Challenging the conventional limits of both philosophy and literature, our approach allows new, topical philosophical concerns to emerge from this textual basis.



Net EU contribution
€ 1 715 318,25
Universitatsstrasse 30
95447 Bayreuth

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Bayern Oberfranken Bayreuth, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (3)