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Senghor, Or The Holy Grail of Otherness

Messay Kebede


Léopold Sédar Senghor, the leading thinker of the controversial school known as Negritude, chose to rehabilitate the African person by inverting the infirmities attached to the black race into positive characteristics. This essay examines and evaluates the arguments by which he effects the transmutation. In particular, it shows how Senghor counters the evolutionary ranking of races by analyzing the epistemological and axiological disparities of Africans with the West as expressions of a divergent and sui generis civilization. To the common accusation of Negritude as an endorsement of racial inequality and a backward-looking ideology, the article opposes the idea of Negritude as a strategy of modernization by presenting the Senghorian exaltation of traditional characteristics as an invitation to forge an African modernity instead of copying the West. As a result, African modernity emerges as complementary to the idiosyncratic modernity of the West and the march toward a true universal civilization goes through the synthesis of particularized cultures.


Negritude; African Modernity; Otherness; Universalism; Particularity

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Journal on African Philosophy. ISSN: 1533-1067 (online).
Editor: Olufemi Taiwo.

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