Phenomenology in an African Context

Contributions and Challenges

Edited by Abraham Olivier, M. John Lamola, and Justin Sands

Subjects: Phenomenology, African Studies, Black Studies, Philosophy
Series: SUNY series, Philosophy and Race
Hardcover : 9781438494876, 353 pages, October 2023
Paperback : 9781438494869, 353 pages, April 2024

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Table of contents

Abraham Olivier, M. John Lamola, and Justin Sands

Part 1: Origin, Methodology, and Scope

1. African Phenomenology—What Is That?
Abraham Olivier

2. Some Reflections from Africana Phenomenology on African Phenomenology
Lewis R. Gordon

3. Why Husserl in Africa? Autobiographical Reflections
Paulin J. Hountondji

4. Hountondji and Husserl: Subjectivity, Responsibility, and Phenomenology in the Critique of Ethnophilosophy
Patrick Eldridge

5. Philosophical Universality in Crisis: Hountondji’s Interruption of Husserlian Phenomenology
Carmen De Schryver

Part 2: Consciousness, Identity, Existence, and Embodiment

6. Chabani Manganyi: The Lived Experience of Difference
Mabogo Percy More

7. A Post-Sartrean Reflection on Being Black in the World: Reading Steve Biko through Slavoj Žižek
M. John Lamola

8. Blackness as a Conundrum for Phenomenology
Keolebogile Mbebe and Thabang Dladla

9. Merleau-Ponty, Embodied Subjectivity, and (White) Women Dancing
Rianna Oelofsen

10. The Experience of Community and the Meaningful Life
Ada Agada

Part 3: Art, Culture, Language, Politics, and Liberation

11. Savage Objects: On the Restitution of Alienated Meaning
Achille Mbembe

12. On the Phenomenology of a Shared World in Achille Mbembe
Schalk Gerber

13. The Voice of African Philosophy
Tsenay Serequeberhan

14. Communal Space, Communal Temporality: Kwasi Wiredu and Henri Bergson in Dialogue
Justin Sands

15. Artifacts of Emotion and Existence in Unjust Structures
Uchenna Okeja

16. Experience and Text: Toward an African-Language Phenomenology
Alena Rettová


The first edited collection to offer a systematic introduction to African phenomenology.


African phenomenology is an emerging subfield within the broader domain of African and Africana philosophy. The phenomenological method, with its various approaches to studying the seminal structures and meaning of human experience, has been a cornerstone in the thought of African philosophers such as Paulin Hountondji, Tsenay Serequeberhan, Achille Mbembe, D. A. Masolo, and Mabogo More, as well as proponents of Africana philosophy such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Lucius Outlaw, and Lewis Gordon. Technically, however, the term "African phenomenology" is not used as widely, or introduced as systematically, as Africana phenomenology. This anthology aims to fill this gap by exploring contributions and challenges to phenomenology in its African context and demonstrating the differences this context makes to the practice of phenomenology. Written by some of the most eminent scholars in the field—including Hountondji, Serequeberhan, Mbembe, More, Gordon, and M. John Lamola—the sixteen original essays here address the relation of African phenomenology to African/Africana philosophy, postcolonial/decolonial discourse, and deliberations within the international phenomenological community.

Abraham Olivier is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Fort Hare. He is the author of Being in Pain. M. John Lamola is Associate Professor of Philosophy of Technology at University of Johannesburg. He is the author of Sowing in Tears: A Documentary History of the Church Struggle Against Apartheid, 1960–1990. Justin Sands is Research Fellow at the University of the Free State, Extraordinary Fellow at North-West University, and Senior Lecturer at St. Augustine College of South Africa. He is the author of Reasoning from Faith: Fundamental Theology in Merold Westphal's Philosophy of Religion.


"In Africa, as in other formerly colonized areas of the world, the field of indigenous philosophy has been obscured by an imperial relation with Western philosophy. Subfields such as ontology, metaphysics, and epistemology have been eclipsed by political and socioeconomic philosophy. Among the major strengths of this book is the effective way in which it brings African phenomenology out from under this double cloud of invisibility." — Paget Henry, author of Shouldering Antigua and Barbuda: The Life of V. C. Bird

"This volume usefully sees phenomenology not just as a foreign philosophical method but also as a way of understanding that African philosophy has been engaging in and which it has something to contribute to." — Bruce B. Janz, author of African Philosophy and Enactivist Cognition: The Space of Thought