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Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa



Inaugural CODESRIA Day Lecture: The Struggles for Epistemic Freedom in Africa

Date: 21st February, 2018
Time: 2:30 p.m – 5:00 p.m
Venue: HOLIDAY INN Harare, Zimbabwe

At the centre of African struggles for epistemic freedom is that paradoxical case of Ethiopia an African country that survived direct colonial conquest and direct colonial administration but could not secure its epistemic freedom. This lecture, therefore, begins with articulating the essence of epistemic freedom while grappling with the mind-boggling case of Ethiopia’s failure to resist metaphysical empire and its invasion of Ethiopian mental universe in the twentieth century. This is an ideal entry point into the complexity and dynamics of the equally African struggles for epistemic freedom that commenced in terms of the demands for ‘African university’ in the 1860s. Thus the lecture delves deeper into the such initiatives as the Africanization that dominated the 1960s; the contributions of such pan-African intellectual formations as the Association of African Universities (AAU) and the Council for the Development of Social Science in Africa (CODESRIA) to epistemic freedom; as well as the catalogue of crises that hit the African higher education sector at the end of 1970s including the role of neo-liberal coloniality of markets that set afoot a corporate/commercial model of universities and its concomitant commoditization of knowledge and education. The lecture ends with critical reflections on the Rhodes Must Fall Movements (RMF) that rocked South Africa in 2015 and 2016, while also offering five-way-forwards for African epistemic struggles: (a) return to the base; (b) provincializing Europe and deprovincializing Africa; (c) rethinking thinking itself; (d) decolonizing the normative foundation of critical theory; and (e) learning to unlearn in order to re-learn.

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