Unsettling Paradigms

Thinking Africa

Thinking Africa is a project of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pretoria. The project seeks to unify a number of national, institutional, research and teaching related demands in a coherent post-graduate led project that will, among other things, encourage post-graduate students to participate more actively in the various research projects of staff members. All the projects relate to Africa in some way, but each project has its own particular focus and approach. 

Thinking Africa was conceived, in part, as response to three questions: What is Africa? Who is the study of Africa for? What is the study of Africa for? The urgency and relevance of these questions derive from the fact that the systematic study of Africa as a geographically specific but culturally diverse entity, has imperial origins. As a discipline in the global academy African Studies has its roots in colonialism and remains to some degree shaped by contemporary forms of intellectual and economic imperialism. One of the aims of the project is to think carefully through the implications of these origins and their contemporary consequences.

In addition to its quarterly Newsletter (for past and current editions click here), research produced by the project is published either in its associated online journal – Journal of Decolonising Disciplines – or, in monograph form, under the Thinking Africa Imprint in association with UKZN Press. The Imprint editor is Professor Leonhard Praeg. For a list of past titles and extracts from each volume click here.

Click here to access more Thinking Africa resources.

For more information, please write to [email protected]

To publish a volume under the Thinking Africa Imprint, please send a proposal or synopsis to [email protected].



The Thinking Africa project held annual colloquia on topics relevant to Africa:

2011 - Frantz Fanon: 50 Years Later

2012 - Ubuntu: Curating the Archive

2013 - Violence In/And The Great Lakes: The Thought of V.Y. Mudimbe and Beyond

2014 - NGOs and Social Justice in Africa

2015 - Pedagogies of Place

2016 - #MustFall: Understanding the Moment

The Thinking Africa colloquia provided opportunities for lengthy debates on topical issues related to Africa. Postgraduate students in the Department of Political and International Studies participated in the colloquia, each of which was tied to a course offered in the Department.


Public lectures

The Thinking Africa project also held public lectures on issues related to Africa. These lectures were given by fellows of the Thinking Africa project.

2014 - When Did and Do We Meet? A Philosophical Anthropology of Time: Euro-      modern, Afro-modern, and Beyond by Lewis Gordon

2013 - Rethinking the South African Crisis: Nationalism, Populism, Hegemony by Gill Hart

2012 - Frantz Fanon on the Subject of Emancipation by Achille Mbembe


Thinking Africa, an Imprint of UKZN Press

The aim of Thinking Africa (an Imprint of UKZN Press) is to offer substantial, theoretical engagements with contemporary issues in (South) African studies. The intellectual starting point of the project and its publications is the recognition of a Fanonian tension at work in what it means to think and write about postcolonial Africa.

On the one hand, we have the desire to engage Africa beyond the Manichean logic of Africa/West and to insist that ‘Africa is its own foundation’; on the other hand, we also understand the need to see the dialectic of recognition through – which means negating, contesting and institutionalising the differences necessary for that process of recognition to unfold.

It is no longer (if it ever were) possible to speak about Africa from a position of exteriority; neither will it ever be possible, despite the promises of ‘de-colonisation’ and ‘post’ coloniality, to assume a position of interiority in order to speak from Africa. If anything, postcoloniality is the realisation that the postcolonial African theorist can no longer assume that a single ‘article’ suffices to signify his or her relation to Africa – therefore the title of this imprint, Thinking Africa.

What distinguishes the volumes of Thinking Africa is that they represent a sustained interrogation, not only of central themes such as memory, alterity, African humanism, and violence, but also of Western modernity and the legacy of its disciplinary grid of intelligibility. These volumes would be of interest to any scholar who is intrigued by the possibility and imperative to think Africa from a position that is at once post-Area Studies and post-disciplinary.

Click here for a list of past titles and extracts from each volume.

Click here to visit UKZN Press.


Democratic Violence Conference (March 2017)

Democratic Violence: Power, Legitimacy and Injustice in Higher Education was organised with the objective of initiating a frank and open conversation about the challenges currently facing higher education institutions in South Africa.

The conference was intended to spark an on-going discussion around issues of pedagogical praxis, curricula, and institutional cultures of Historically White Universities in South Africa. The aims of the conference were to bring together academics, students, business practitioners and government representatives in order to talk through the alternatives open to institutions of higher learning, in the wake of calls for decolonisation and transformation across the country. This conversation was conceived in light of the slow-paced changes in the decolonisation of Higher Education in South Africa.

Further, the conference participants recognised the seriousness of the need to engage with South African institution administrators and established academics to return to fundamentals by exploring what decoloniality means in contemporary times. 

Click here to view the full conference report.


Other events

2018 - Addressing blackness: In conversation with Achmat Dangor. Click here for more information.


Last edited by Nadia Grobler Edit