As we head into our summer season of lectures and work towards welcoming new students in September, we caught up with AHP Director Apeike Umolu to talk about her latest series of lectures looking at philosophy of history.
The first lecture will explore The African Conception of Time. The entire series will stretch over a year and is part of a long term project looking into the lexicon, semantics, and intellectual idioms of the Pan-African intellectual tradition. We caught up with Apeike to find out more about the upcoming conversations on philosophy of history and what she hopes to achieve with the series.
Have you always been interested in philosophy of history?
Yes, as an intellectual historian and former lawyer, I have always been interested in the theoretical aspects of history. Studying history itself as an academic discipline and as a social and political tool is a big part of my historical practice. All of the thinkers I research were historians, or at the very least historical enquiry was a big part of their intellectual practice. Therefore, I spend a lot of time thinking about what history meant to them and how that may affect what history should mean to us today. In this way, reflecting on history itself is as important a part of my work as undertaking fresh historical enquiry; the two are a natural combination for me.
Related Article: Mythical and Historical Time in the African Tradition
How do lectures in philosophy of history fit into the AHP’s ethos?
Philosophy of history allows us to think about the structures used to create and disseminate history. The modern African historical tradition is a tradition of activism, it has had to fight erasure from one end and atrophy from the other. Therefore, African historians are not just facing the challenges of the general decline in academic historical studies but they are facing the specific challenges of being a product of and working within the African historical tradition. Centring conversations in philosophy of history fits in with our ethos at the African history project, which is to champion Black scholars and Black scholarship.
But also we are committed to not limiting the spaces in which African history is discussed. We don’t feel that African history should be thought of only in terms of revision and correction – meaning, we should not only be talking about African history in terms of what needs to be fixed or corrected. The African historical tradition is also generative, it has things to say about what the past is and how we can access, map and narrate it. Through more theoretical conversations, we want to provide avenues for history enthusiasts and academics to collectively brainstorm the vocabulary and intellectual idioms we need to preserve a healthy and generative historical practice within the African tradition.
Will the AHP run any structured courses alongside the lectures on philosophy of history?
The upcoming lectures will all be integrated into our existing Historiography and Approaches to History Course that can be taken as a standalone course or as part of our Foundation Certificate in African History. But philosophy of history is touched on in some way in all our courses, most notably in our flagship Black Consciousness Workshop in which we work with participants to explore the place of history within one’s Black Consciousness praxis.
Can anyone attend the conversations or are they just for those with experience in philosophy?
Like all our public lectures, these conversations have been designed with the general public in mind. While I will be introducing complex concepts, I am confident that with our signature AHP discursive style of lecture, even those with no experience of philosophy will be able to follow and contribute to the discussions, so I would strongly encourage anyone interested to sign up and come along!
Related Article: The Philosophy of History
The first conversation is on The African Conception of Time, why did you choose to start there?
Time is the single most important variable that distinguishes history from other disciplines and social phenomena. History deals exclusively with the past and particularly with changes as a function of time. This is the core of the academic and social practice we call history. So a conversation about time seemed like the only place to start. More specifically, I have been interested in the issues around periodisation for a while. Last year, I led a seminar bringing together academics and the general public to discuss periodisation in African history. I hope we can continue to ask questions and push the conversation forward about the need to temporalise and periodise African historical narratives in line with African historical consciousness.
Other than the concept of time, what else do you have planned in this series?
Over the next twelve months, I plan to cover topics such as the place of orality in African history practice and how the philosophy of Pan-Africanism shapes contemporary historical practice. I would also like to look specifically at the concept of silences, “auto-erasure”, and “benevolent epistemicide” in the African-modern intellectual tradition. The last two concepts relate to the history Africans do not tell, why silence has become a feature of the African-modern, and the extent of its utility. Though there is such a push to talk about slavery in public spaces, should we address the fact that we rarely talk about it in private spaces? I don’t necessarily have answers but hope that I can spark a conversation with these topics.
Is there anything participants can read to get ready for the lectures?
In truth, you can just come along as you are. Bring yourself and your ideas! If you want to get a grounding in some of the concepts, I would recommend watching either our lecture on African Religion or on the Moral and Political Philosophy of the Asante. We also have a few articles in The Africxn Review that you might find interesting.
Study with us
Interested in our Foundation Certificate in African History? Please send us a message using the form below and we will be happy to help: