AHP HANDBOOK OF INTELLECTUAL HISTORY
The African-Modern Intellectual Tradition and the New African Intelligentsia
The African-modern intellectual tradition is the intellectual tradition developed by the New African Intelligentsia from the 18th century onwards, being those individuals intellectually formed within the western-iteration of formal education and relying for their intellectual exegeses on western philosophical conceptions, lexicon, and semantics.
This tradition is distinct from what may be termed the African-traditional intellectual tradition or African-indigenous intellectual tradition, a very much alive tradition that has continued to evolve to reflect African society despite facing immense pressures during the modern era.
African-traditional knowledge, being knowledge created within the African-traditional intellectual tradition, is enjoying something of a resurgence. There are many reasons for this, not least a marked increase in the number of people reverting to African religion. It is also due in part to the maturing of the New African Intelligentsia within the western and westernised academy, which has meant they have come to see the incongruence of the African worldview within these academies.
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As a result, the New African Intelligentsia has largely rejected the notion of universalism, and while not necessarily subscribing to the essentialist worldview that promotes the total exceptionalism of the African experience, they are demonstrating an increased tendency to epistemological deniability as it pertains to the western-modern intellectual project. This is because of the seeming exacerbation of un-freedom, inequality, and societal disharmony in the western world under liberal democracy, despite a raison d’etre firmly linked to notions of liberty, equality, and fraternity.
The New African Intelligentsia has thus largely de-deified the intellectual productions of the western-modern in their practice. They are exhibiting greater respect for, and engagement with, current African-traditional knowledge producers. Rather than spearheading a codification of their thought into a form navigable in the western world-view, they are validating spaces and methods of indigenous knowledge-production and insisting on “a pilgrimage to Africa”, rather than requiring Africa to come to the west, which had been the standard in the past.
This dislocation has of course also been fuelled by the lived experiences of the New African Intelligentsia within the western and westernised academy, and the treatment of African-traditional intellectual productions within that academy. The result is that a large part of the work of the New African Intelligentsia has been dedicated to the defence of itself, its productions, and its historical and cultural root stock from erasure, or more insidiously, wanton disregard.
Cite this article
Umolu, Apeike. “African-Modern Intellectual Tradition and the New African Intelligentsia”. AHP Handbook of Intellectual History. 2022. https://africanhistoryproject.org/article/african-modern-intellectual-tradition-and-the-new-african-intelligentsia/