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Alterity, African Modernity, and the Critique of Change

Living reference work entry
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Part of the Handbooks in Philosophy book series (HP)

Abstract

A large chunk of the existing literature on African modernity understood here as African experience largely defined and influenced by her contact with the West or foreign cultures has mainly described the modern experience in African spaces as a predicament, an unfortunate distortion of the pre-modern status quo or systems in Africa. In this chapter I intend to explore a perspective for understanding and appreciating the description of the African experience of the West as a predicament, one founded on alterity and difference. I argue that the primary basis for understanding the claim that African modernity is a predicament is to understand the ways in which the one mode of thought or cultural orientation (African) was radically alien from, and different from, the other mode of thought or cultural orientation (Western). Specific cases of alterity between both cultures include moral values, system of education, religion, ontologies, and knowledge production and cognition systems. The African experience of the West could easily become a predicament because the former’s experience of the latter was under compulsion and the latter refused to accept and respect the otherness of the former, but rather painted it as nothing of worth. To explore this line of thought, I begin by examining important texts in the description of the African experience of the West as a predicament. I then proceed to show that these texts can best be understood as emanating from the difficulties that were associated in coping with the difference and changes that came with African contact with the West. I conclude that difference can be a positive force and easy to accept if it is willfully understood and assimilated, but it can become a negative force and a source of frustration if it is imposed on the other by the self or vice versa.

Keywords

Modernity Africa West Radical differences Social change Predicament 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Faculty of ArtsAmbrose Alli UniversityEkpomaNigeria

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