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Beyond Bergsons Lebenphilosophie: Senghor, Negritude, and African Vitalism

Cheikh Thiam


From the eighteenth to the twentieth century, Western imperialist thought had presented whiteness as the mode of irradiation of humanness and defined other human groups according to their degrees of resemblance and difference with Western cultures. This conception of the human has as a corollary the universalization of European ratio and the assimilation of otherness with sub-humanity. African scholars understood, therefore, as early as the nineteenth century that the best way to bring colonization to its demise is to shatter its philosophical foundation: the universalist representation of Western rationality. It is along these lines that Lpold Sar Senghor proposes an Africentrist definition of being based on the representation of race as a relation to the world. How does this relation to the world function? How does his Negro epistemology shift the entire history of race theorywhile questioning colonial reason? The answers to these questions confirm that Senghors philosophy is an epistemology that functions also as a critique of colonial reason.


Negritude; Vitalism; Senghor; Bergson; Ethnophilosophy; Epistemology; Africentrist; Race Theory

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West Africa Review. ISSN: 1525-4488 (online).
Editors: Adeleke Adeeko, Nkiru Nzegwu, and Olufemi Taiwo.

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