PoznanPoznan UniversityPoznan Interdisciplinary SeminarsArchive

Michael Onyebuchi Eze (Ludwig Maximilians Universität Munchen and Universität Augsburg) will give two guest lectures on "Postcolonial Africa" on Monday, October 25th, 2010 at 6.3o pm at the Collegium Historicum, ul. św. Marcin 78, 61-809 Poznań, Józef Burszta's room, and on Tuesday, October 26th, at 5.3o in the same bouidling, room 118.

Organization: Ewa Domanska, email: ewa@amu.edu.pl and
Michal Buchowski, email: mbuch@amu.edu.pl


1. Africanism: A history of histories
(Monday, October 25th, 6.3o pm, Burszta's room)


The overwhelming conceptual reference to “ Africa ” as a mono-cultural historical tradition is a pernicious misconception of reality. “ Africa ” so-called is NOT constituted by any single historical tradition, culture, history, people or memory. The fallacy of many Africanist writers is this conflation and homogenization of diverse historical memories through a pan-African historicism. African cultures and history and philosophy are a constellation of different memories, histories, cultures and peoples. African cultural studies must be appreciated within this matrix of creative tension which characterizes it. To homogenize these socio-historical and cultural differences is to stifle possibilities of creative imaginaries. The cultural wealth of Africa lies in tapping into the diverse memories and experiences and situate them within appropriate historical contexts. The lecture is a historical deconstruction of the very notion of Africa as both a product of colonial and post-colonial discourses. The crisis of “humanism” in Africa is decisively implicated in these colonial and post-colonial narratives. What does it mean to be an African? Where allegiance to the tribe is prior to any notion of national identity, dominant trends in contemporary African studies have not given adequate attention to these vicissitudes of history.

2. Ubuntu/botho
(Tuesday, October 26th, 5.3o pm, room 118)


The need for a historical systematization of African thought systems is simultaneously an attempt to free our discourses of certain dogmatism that has pervaded the overall intellectual history of Africa . This is my aim in this Lecture: to historicize and contextualize one such discourse – ubuntu – within the socio-political and cultural context it emerged. Ubuntu as a discourse has gained such emotional legitimacy amongst Africanist scholars. Yet our only claim to its historicity is that it is essentially an ‘African' idea and must therefore be defended and infused with new meaning. Again, the context of its socio-cultural ideation is not interrogated. Where ubuntu assumes an essentialist identity, almost a dogma, Africanist writers would become the prophets and defenders of its doctrine.

The term ‘ ubuntu' is from IsiNguni languages. Botho is SeSotho, in xiTsonga, it is vumunhi , in Tshivenda it is uhuthu. The term possesses a similar noun-stem with Nguni term Umuntu (pl. abantu) and Sotho term mo-tho (Pl. batho ) to literally encapsulate the essence or quality of being human, human-ness or loosely translated as humanism. In this project, historicizing the emergence of ubuntu as a public discourse within the intellectual history of southern Africa will offer a referent point to understanding the dynamics of the overall intellectual history of Africa . Ubuntu is not merely a cultural narrative but of socio-economic and political history of Southern Africa . Typical of the essential signification characteristic of the overall intellectual history in Africa , South African intellectual historians, especially, project ubuntu as an ethno-philosophical cul-de-sac or a displacement narrative to challenge apartheid historiography. But since historical analogy is problematic, the historical pervasiveness of ubuntu is interlaced with the socio-political imagination upon which it has gained emotional legitimacy.

Thus understood, the emergence of ubuntu as a postcolonial South African discourse will become both the mirror and consequence of post-apartheid South African vision of history. This vision of history will be three fold: it consists of (i) its origins as a nation (ii) its struggle during the apartheid, and (iii) its emergence as a democratic state. Interwoven with this threefold vision is the quest for a national identity; an inclusive self-definition that addresses the injustice of the past by appealing to a shared historic culture, tradition or value from whence it draws its sense of national subjective.

Michael Onyebuchi Eze

Michael Onyebuchi Eze was educated by the Jesuits (a former Jesuit himself!) with a degree in philosophy and classics from the Jesuit School of philosophy and the University of Zimbabwe . Leaving the Jesuit Order, he obtained a bachelor in Anthropology and psychology from the University of South Africa, and an MA in philosophy from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Eze became a Stiftung Mercator Foundation Research Fellow at the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut (Institute for Advanced Study in Humanities) in Essen , Germany from 2006-2009. He received his PhD in Intellectual History from Univesität Witten-Herdecke, Germany (Summa Cum Laude) and teaches African studies at the university of Augsburg, and (until recently), Goethe Universität Frankfurt. He is the author of two books The Politics of History in Contemporary Africa (2010) and Intellectual History in Contemporary South Africa (2010) both published by Palgrave-Macmillan. He has also published in many academic journals and currently contracted for four new monographs.

©ed | 2010

Michael Onyebuchi Eze