Syllabus on Comparative Black Epistemologies.

Comparative Black Epistemologies (Undergraduate Course) Adeolu A. Ademoyo 

DEPARTMENT OF AFRICANA STUDIES
Spring 2006
Binghamton University

Course Description:

From the standpoint of the contributions of thinkers and philosophers on the condition of peoples of African descent globally the course focuses on key issues in epistemology, metaphysics, political philosophy, aesthetics and ethics. We interrogate how knowledge construction produces social practices such as racism, transatlantic slavery, global apartheid, racial capitalism, and sexism. We examine which comes first in the construction of identity: race, gender or class. The course examines the epistemologies of the enlightenment period and modernist thinkers-Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Marx, in the context of the social and political practices that had shaped the condition of peoples of African descent globally. The course engages how idealist epistemologies such as the growing Orisa knowledge form among African Americans, the Maumau and Majimaji movements in Africa, the Vodou knowledge forms in the Haitian revolution have been used as forms of resistance to assert self identity, right of citizenship and sovereignty. We analyze critical race theories, Pan Africanism, the Black Nationalist Movement in the US from an epistemological standpoint. Our readings will include Olufemi Taiwo, Oladipo Fashina, Barry Hallen, C.W. Mills, Paget Henry, Walter Rodney, Cabral, Fanon, Lewis Gordon, C.J. Robinson.

Course Requirements:

Attendance is compulsory and mandatory. Absence from class should be backed with official reasons as laid down by Binghamton University academic regulations. Conversations and dialogue to be triggered  by Instructor, and class presentations by students. Students are encouraged to use the office hour for engaged and deeper clarifications.

Grading Structure:

Class Attendance: 10%

Active Participation in Class Discussion: 10%

Class Presentation:  20% 5 pages minimum

Final Paper: 60% Length 12 pages minimum with citations/bibliography/references etc


First Dialogue and Conversation:  Weeks 1 & 2

During this week we shall attempt to commence our conversations by laying a template. The philosophical template is epistemological traditions such as rationalism, empiricism, existentialism, phenomenology etc. Against this template we shall proceed to interrogate how knowledge forms can produce the constructions of empirical categories such as history; race, gender and other forms of identity.

Epistemological Constructions: The Enlightenment And The Notion Of  A Universal History  Readings:

Olufemi Taiwo: “Exorcising Hegel’s Ghost: Africa’s Challenge To Philosophy” in African Studies
Quarterly Vol 1 Issue 4 (1998).
Political Epistemology: The Enlightenment and The Notion of Natural Liberty.
Anthony Bogues: “Radicalized Natural Liberty, The Political Thought of Quobna Cugoano” in Anthony Bogues’ Black Heretics, Black Prophets.


Second Dialogue and Conversation: Weeks 3 & 4

Epistemology, Knowledge & Truth Readings:

“What Was Epistemology?” in Barry Allen’s  Knowledge and Civilization. pp11-59.
“The Cartesian Origins of Empiricism and Intellectualism” in M.C. Dillon’s Merleau Ponty’s Ontology. pp 9-34.


Third Dialogue and Conversation: Weeks 5 & 6

Phenomenology, Moral Epistemology And Ethics of Anti-Colonial Violence (Ethics of Resistance And The Epistemological Creation Of The Colonial Subject As Raced) Readings:

Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of The Earth.
Oladipo Fashina, “The Ethical Justification Of Fanon’s Anti-colonial Violence”.
Focus on The Notion of Freedom and The Enlightenment, Idealist Epistemology and The Haitian Revolution.


Fourth Dialogue and Conversation: Weeks 7 & 8

Social And Scientific Essentialism Explanation or Conceptualization Readings:

W.E.B. Du Bois: “The Conservation of Races” W.E.B  Du Bois: “Of Our Spiritual Strivings”. Robert Gooding Williams “Outlaw, Appiah, and Du Bois’s  ‘The Conservation of Races’”.
Lucius Outlaw, ‘“Conserve” Races? In Defense of W.E.B. Du Bois’.
Anthony Appiah: “The Uncompleted Argument: Du Bois and The Illusion of Race”.


Fifth Dialogue and Conversation: Weeks 9 & 10, 11 & 12

Race And Modernity Readings:

Charles Mills’ From Class To Race Essays In White Marxism and Black Radicalism
Cornell West: The Cornell West Reader


Sixth Dialogue and Conversation: Week 12 & 13  

Existentialism And The Human Condition Reading:

Existentia Africana: Understanding Africana Existentia Thought


Seventh Dialogue and Conversation: Weeks 14 & 15

Black Feminist Epistemology And The Question of Ontology Readings:

Angela Y Davis: Women , Race & Class
Joy James (ed) The Angela Davis Reader
bell hooks: Outlaw Culture, Resisting Representations
bell hooks: Where We Stand Class Matters
James Joy: The Black Feminist Reader
Barbara Smith: Home Girls, A Black Feminist Anthology
Irma McClaurn: Black Feminist Anthropology, Theory, Politics, Praxis/Poetics


Eight Dialogue and Conversation: Week 16: Final Presentation & Epilogue

Important Information:

(i) Deadlines and other schedules are jointly arrived at in class by ALL.

(ii) This syllabus is a creative academic engagement of the epistemological substrate of the subject of our dialogue, conversations, disagreements and agreements. Therefore, it is inherently open to suggestions from ALL in the class as we embark on our conversations and dialogue.

Books / Readings / References

1. Olufemi Taiwo: “Exorcising Hegel’s Ghost: Africa’s Challenge To Philosophy” in African Studies Quarterly Vol 1 Issue 4 (1998).

2. Charles Mills: From Class To Race: Essays In White Marxism and Black Radicalism (New York , Rowman & Littlefield , 2003)

3. Lewis R. Gordon: Existentia Africana: Understanding Africana Existentia Thought (New York, Routledge, 2000).

4. Anthony Bogues: Black Heretics, Black Prophets Radical Political Intellectuals (New York, Routledge, 2003).

5. Oladipo Fashina: Ethical Justification of Fanon’s Anti-Colonial Violence.

6. Frantz Fanon: Wretched of The Earth.

7. Barry Allen: Knowledge And Civilization (Boulder, Westview, 2004).

8. Bernard W. Bell, Emily R. Grosholz, James B. Stewart (eds) W.E.B. Du Bois: On Race & Culture (New York, Routledge, 1996).

9. Angela Y Davis: Women , Race & Class.

10. Joy James (ed): The Angela Davis Reader.

11. bell hooks: Outlaw Culture, Resisting Representations.

12. bell hooks: Where We Stand Class Matters.

13. James Joy: The Black Feminist Reader.

14. Barbara Smith: Home Girls, A Black Feminist Anthology.

15. Irma McClaurn: Black Feminist Anthropology, Theory, Politics , Praxis/Poetics.

16. Kimberley Creenshaw, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller, Kendall Thomas (eds): Critical Race Theory (New York, The New Press, 1995).

17. W.E.B.: The Souls Of Black Folk.

18. M.C. Dillon: Merleau Ponty’s Ontology (Evanston, Northwestern, 1997).


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