On ‘African’ Legal Theory: A Possibility, an Impossibility or Mere Conundrum?

  • Chikosa Mozesi SilungweEmail author
Part of the Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice book series (IUSGENT, volume 29)


If the descriptor ‘African legal theory, jurisprudence or philosophy’ suggests a purist conception of ‘African’ legal theory, jurisprudence or philosophy then the intellectual enterprise so undertaken is futile and impossible. It is more plausible to envision ‘African’ legal theory, jurisprudence or philosophy under Homi Bhabha’s idea of ‘culture’s in-between’; which denies a purist conception of ‘culture’ and emphasizes the diversity of ‘influence’. This interpretation is pertinent since in the consideration of ‘Africa’ as a space and the received-ness of ‘law’ and ‘the legal’ in that space, the understanding of any phenomenon as ‘African’ ought to be a nuanced engagement. I am not denying the ability of the constituency re-identified as ‘African’ to know or to think. I am suggesting that scholarship must, first, acknowledge that the violence of modernity on ‘knowledge’ or ‘thought’ has been far-reaching and deep-rooted. Second, the de-Europeanization or de-Americanization among the authorship of (supposedly) ‘African’ legal theory, jurisprudence or philosophy does not necessarily imply that the underlying conceptions of the resultant scholarship are not rooted in modernity. An approach to what may be called ‘African’ legal theory, jurisprudence or philosophy based on the idea of ‘culture’s in-between’ acknowledges two things: First, the convoluted socio-political environment of ‘law’ or the ‘legal’ in Africa (or in the African) which permeates into its theory, jurisprudence or philosophy. Second, the diversity of influence that underlies the ‘culture’s in-between’ thesis presents a window for the consideration of what is being termed ‘African’ in theory, jurisprudence or philosophy in confronting global phenomena.


Human Dignity Legal Theory Global Phenomenon Dialectical Thinking Internal Citation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Mizumali FoundationLilongweMalawi

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