Fermented Ph.D. Dump: Again Enclosing Philosophy with Backward Thinking

A Tactical Recap to the Fermented Ph.D. Dump

Dump I | Dump II | Dump III | Dump IV | Dump V | Dump VI/Africa I | Dump VI/Africa II |

It is funny quickly one's own position can be turned around to again enclose that very position. A strange encounter:

Only XYZ can do ABC

To add more color to the situation.

Only color XYZ can do activity ABC.

Let us look closer at this statement. Only one portion of humanity can do an activity supposedly open to everyone. Even more specifically. Only one portion of humanity, based on a racialized and colonial idea of that race, can practice an activity supposedly open to everyone. And lastly, to go even more specific. Only one portion of humanity, based on a racialized and colonial idea of that race, according to another race from a position of authority, can practice an activity supposedly open to everyone.

The Debate on Who Can Practice (African) Philosophy

For many years, there was a debate in African philosophy regarding who can do it. Some African philosophers, like as Hountondji (1996:xii, 33, 105) and Mudimbe (1988:ix) claim that only African can practice African philosophy.

That is good and all, it is understandable, and coming from Africans themselves, this is also understandable, albeit a bit problematic, but I will come to that part now.

The problem is when, for example, white philosophers from the western philosophical tradition begin to claim the same thing; but not from a humble position. Instead, they arrive at this conclusion from an already racist position; they already have a fixed and racist idea of what, for example, African philosophy should be and that only Africans can practice it. Thus, from a position of authority, they claim to know what is best for Africans practicing African philosophy. Only African can practice African philosophy.

This encloses from the start again what philosophy is.

Again Enclosing Philosophy with Backwards Thinking

The idea behind many decolonial and African philosophers is that the notion of philosophy professed by western philosophy is enclosed; it has arbitrary barriers that limit some from practicing it and marginalizing/excluding others. It is inherently closed of, but we can, via many different ways, disenclose this idea of philosophy. We can open it up, we can think anew what we can do with philosophy, like concept creation and finding new ways of becoming.

But with backward thinking, like only XYZ can do ABC, we are again enclosing the notion of philosophy.

Only Africans can practice African philosophy arbitrarily again cut off many from entering the conversation. It is based on exactly the same logic as western exclusionary philosophy. It merely turns around the binary thinking, it merely shifts the terms and uses different ones. To end off this piece with a piece of jargon (which I will translate): It perpetuates and reproduces the colonial matrix of power. Basically, it perpetuates the very logic and frameworks that we want to get rid of.

Postscriptum, or Stay Calm and Smile

When provoked, you need to stay calm. It is not easy to keep your cool. When ideas simmer for a while, you can get a better understanding and a better grip on your own work. When you need to answer on the spot, you can sometimes make a balls up.

This essay above is one I needed to give to a provocation, but in the moment I could not. Alas, life is not perfect.

I hope you at least learned something from the above discussion. All of the work is my own, unless hyperlinked. The photographs are also my own, taken with my Nikon D300. I hope you are well. Happy learning and stay well!

3 columns
2 columns
1 column
Join the conversation now