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Interview with Professor Nkiru Nzegwu

Nkiru Nzegwu


"Looking back thirty-some years later, the question of whether or not there was African philosophy seemed downright foolish. Clearly, it pivoted on, and perpetuated racist notions of Africa and the discipline, which we did not acknowledge. It did not help matters that proponents of the idea of "no philosophy in Africa" were senior members of the department and famed philosopher, while supporters of the idea that "philosophy existed in Africa," often times anchored their arguments on the well-meaning, but non-rigorous and noncritical "Bantu philosophy" writings of Father Placide Temples, a white Belgian priest. For the deep-thinkers that philosophers supposedly are, it seemed odd that they ignored the racist implications in both the search for "African philosophy" and the anchoring of what constitutes African philosophy on Father Temples. On hindsight, I cannot quite grasp why we let the legitimacy of the question slide. Why did we accept that philosophy was constituted by a narrowly defined set of practices as well as a narrowly defined canon of writings and writers? I always remember Carter G. Woodson when I think of those days." -- Nkiru Nzegwu

"In my view, African and/or Africana philosophy of the 20th century was largely developed on "singularity," a phenomenon: that denies value to the cultural systems of other cultures, yet appropriates their achievements as its own. This makes it possible for ancient Egyptian culture to become white, Jesus to be blue-eyed and blond haired, Christianity to become a white religion, the Moors/Maures to turn into whites, and a white Matt Damon to save China's Song Dynasty from extra-terrestrial monsters." -- Nkiru Nzegwu

"In singularity, subjectivity is always white, and only the white body embodies knowledge. All others embody ignorance in relation to their ranking on the eurocentric developmental scale. Singularity converts equality, justice and fairness into benefits, not rights, so no moral compulsion exists to end inequality or racism. Singularity does not allow any center other than itself; hence, people of color are at the lower end of the totem pole with black people at the base." -- Nkiru Nzegwu


Biography; Philosophy; Feminism; Race; Politics

Full Text:


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

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