Not available in 2020/21
GV4M6      Half Unit
Modern African Political Philosophy

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Katrin Flikschuh


This course is available on the MSc in Political Theory. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at one group.

The deadline for applications is 17:00 on Tuesday 1 October 2019. You will be informed of the outcome by 17:00 on Wednesday 2 October 2019.



Course content

This course introduces students of political theory to post-independent African philosophical and political thinking. The chief objective of the course is to get students to engage with the intellectual heritage of the African continent and critically to re-think historically ingrained misperceptions about its peoples and cultures. Please note that this course focuses on African philosophical thinking. It will suit students who enjoy the analysis and interpretation of abstract ideas. The orientation is not anthropological or developmental; nor is this a course in 'post-colonial studies' more broadly conceived. There will be three broad blocks:

1. Methodology: ‘What is African Philosophical Thinking?’ We will examine the development from an oral to a written tradition and the particular methodological challenges involved.

2. Substantive Issues: ‘Personhood, Agency, and Community’. We will discuss African thinkers’ claims to the distinctiveness of African cultures’ conceptions of self and society, and how these in turn impact conceptions of moral and political agency.

3. Implications: We shall ask how African thinkers conceive their social and political contexts and how their views do or do not cohere with Western thinking about African developmental challenges.


20 hours of seminars in the MT.

There will be 10 weekly sessions of 2 hours each. There will be a reading week in Week 6 of MT, during which there will be no seminar. Instead, there will be extended office hours for individual tutorials to discuss planned course work. The seminars will be discussion based, with 30 minute introductory lectures that introduce the weekly reading material and establish the intended focus of discussion.  There will be some assigned group work within some of the weekly sessions.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 formative essay in the MT.

Formative assessment will consist of an essay of maximally 2500 words in length. A list of essay questions will be made available by Week 3 of MT. Students may design their own essay questions, if they prefer to do so. However, they must clear their proposed essay question with the course convener beforehand. Course work must be submitted by the end of Week 7. The essay will be read and commented on. It will be assigned a guide-mark but will not form part of the summative assessment. Essays substantially above 2500 words will not be read.

Indicative reading

Anthony Kwame Appiah, In My Father's House. Africa in the Philosophy of Culture (OUP 1992).

Kwame Gyekye, Tradition and Modernity. Philosophical Reflections on the Africa Experience (OUP 1997).

Barry Hallen, A Short History of African Philosophy (Indiana University Press 2002).

Paulin Hountondji, African Philosophy: Myth and Reality (Indiana University Press, 1996).

Teodros Kiros (ed.) Explorations in Africa Political Thought (Routledge 2001).

V.Y. Mudimbe, The Invention of Africa. Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge (Indiana University Press 1988).

Kwasi Wiredu, Philosophy and an African Culture (CUP 1980).

Kwasi Wiredu (ed.), A Companion to African Philosophy (Blackwell 2006).

Lee Brown (ed.) African Philosophy (OUP 2006).

Placide Temples, Bantu Philosophy, 1945.

Paulin Hountondji, The Struggle for Meaning (Ohio State University Press 2002)

Kwasi Wiredu, Cultural Universals and Particulars (CUP 1996).

Odera Oruka, Sage Philosophy, 1990.

Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze, On Reason. Rationality in a World of Cultural Conflict and Racism (Duke University Press 2008).


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the LT.

The assessed work for this course consists of one extended essay of 5000 words, on a course topic either chosen from the list of essay questions or designed by the student him or herself in consultation with the course convener. Students are permitted to use their formative essay as a basis for their assessed essay. However, the assessed essay must advance substantially beyond the argument made in the formative essay; students must not submit the same work twice. The assessed essay must be submitted electronically to the Departmental Office. The submitted essay will undergo a plagiarism check, including self-plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious academic offence which, if proven, will likely incur the penalty of official course failure. Late submissions will incur penalties in the form of mark deduction.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2019/20: 13

Average class size 2019/20: 13

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills