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Suggested dissertation topics and samples in African philosophy and Sociology?


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One of the biggest differences between African philosophy and sociology and Western and Eastern philosophies and social structures is the role that religion, individuals, and the community play.  While many Western and Eastern philosophical forces are focused on external elements and often feature a monotheistic God, African philosophy is more focused on the concept of a vital force which is not only the force of life for the individual but also for the rest of the world.   This is a fairly consistent concept across central and southern Africa, though it becomes less prevalent in Northern Africa, especially in recent centuries.  It is intertwined with African religious traditions, especially those other than the Abrahamic religions. 

Here are some topic suggestions:

  1. While African philosophical traditions have often been dismissed as magical thinking by people in the West, they are actually inherently religious.  Explore the differences between magical thinking and religion and how colonialism and racism have shaped outside conceptions of African religious thought.
  2. African sociology is often seen as more communal or communitarian than many other areas; what do you think are the philosophical roots of this more communal approach?
  3. What role to elders play in African philosophical tradition and how does the death of an elder impact that role, especially in those communities that regard departed elders as somehow still interacting with the community?
  4. The African concept of time is frequently discussed in African philosophy.  To your understanding, does African philosophy embrace a concept of future, as it is seen in other philosophies?  If not, what are the differences and how do to those differences impact the lived experiences of Africans, both historically and in present-day Africa?
  5. What are some of the critiques of the idea of an African philosophy and how valid are those critiques?  Some ideas to investigate may be the role of philosophy in societies with oral traditions, whether it is accurate to use a broad term to describe hundreds of cultures and groups of beliefs, the validity of the concept of Negrism/ Negritude.

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