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Advanced History of Philosophy: African Social and Political Philosophy


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

  • History of Philosophy


Despite its multimillennial existence in the orature and social and political history of the indigenous people of Africa, Ubuntu was not of any interest to Westerners, including their philosophers, both in Southern Africa and outside of it until the past three decades. Since the early nineties however, “Ubuntu” has increasingly become a global phenomenon in Western academic philosophy (especially in the field of Ethics) beginning from the time of South Africa’s supposed transition to democracy. South Africa itself, like many other African countries, has a considerable history of forcible and violent colonial entanglements which have seen its natural and human resources continuously benefiting various quarters of the Western world at the expense of its indigenous peoples conquered in the unjust wars of colonisation. A history dating back to since their earliest conquest in the unjust wars of colonisation in the seventeenth century by the Netherlands (through its Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie [Dutch East India Company]) and lasting until the present day.

The central aim of this course is an African philosophical examination of the popular (Western/white/conqueror) ubuntu which has recently emerged out of South Africa as a global “ethical and social resource”. This “ubuntu” emerged during the 1990s from the pens of South Africa’s predominately white academy and its Native assistants and with the invaluable aid of its international allies. The course conducts the examination by focus upon the tension between the White/Western/South African/Conqueror ubuntu on the one hand and Black/African/ Azanian/liberatory ubu-ntu on the other hand. Where the former is an ubuntu without abantu (the indigenous conquered people whose philosophy ubuntu is) and without isintu (the culture which is the basis for the philosophy of ubuntu) and has always placed its greatest emphasis and focus on forgiveness, reconciliation, tolerance and forgetfulness. The latter finds historical expression in the Azanian philosophical tradition’s insistence that freedom is the priority condition for any Ethics and is the foundation out of which justice must be thought, demanded, pursued and attained as the most absolute of human necessities. The concepts of war, conquest, sovereignty, title to territory, memory, justice, race/ism and liberation are so then explored in the course of the tension’s examination.

Course Objectives

  • The fostering of an understanding of the contemporary politics of knowledge and its relationship to the knowledge of politics

  • The fostering of an understanding of the role that neo-colonialism plays in the dissemination and authority of knowledge in the world today

  • The fostering of the understanding that interculturality is not always and merely the product of the exercise of free and ethically inclined agency but may be the result of forcible and violent encounters

  • The introduction to the main themes of contemporary African Social and Political philosophy with a specific reference to the history and experience of Southern Africa


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will be delivered in a series of seminars focused upon treating the essential conceptual components of the prescribed and recommended readings as well as collective discussion and debate. It will also proceed through the facility of detailed written and spoken feedback both formative and summative upon written and orally presented work.

Assessment Method

  • Abstract of selected research topic [individual] (20%)

  • Oral Presentation of draft essay (“conference paper”) as well as the fielding and posing of questions [individual] (30%)

  • Final research essay [individual] (50%)

Reading list


  • Ramose MB (2002). The ethics of ubuntu in Coetzee & Roux (eds) Philosophy from Africa: A Text with Readings. Oxford University Press; Cape Town. 324 – 330

  • Ramose MB (2002). ‘I conquer, therefore I am the sovereign: Reflections upon sovereignty, constitutionalism and democracy in Zimbabwe and South Africa’ in Coetzee & Roux (eds) Philosophy from Africa: A Text with Readings. Oxford University Press; Cape Town. 463-500.

  • Biko SB (2002). Black Consciousness and the quest for true Humanity in Coetzee & Roux (eds) Philosophy from Africa: A Text with Readings. Oxford University Press; Cape Town. 79-85.

  • Dladla N (2017) ‘Towards an African Critical Philosophy of Race: Ubuntu as a Philo-praxis of Liberation’ 6 Filosofia Theoretica: Journal of African Philosophy, Culture and Religions 39–68.

  • Modiri JM (2021) Azanian Political Thought & the Undoing of South African Knowledges in Theoria, Issue 168, Vol. 68, No. 3. doi:10.3167/th.2021.6816804.

  • Webster A (2021) South African Social Science and the Azanian Philosophical Tradition in Theoria, Issue 168, Vol. 68, No. 3. doi:10.3167/th.2021.6816806. 111-135

  • Dladla N (2018) ‘The liberation of history and the end of South Africa: some notes towards an Azanian historiography in Africa, South African Journal on Human Rights, 34(3) Doi:10.1080/02587203.2018.1550940. 415-440.


  • Diop CA (1989) The Cultural Unity of Black Africa: The Domains of Matriarchy & of Patriarchy in Classical Antiquity. Karnak house publishers

  • Ramose MB (2002). The philosophy of ubuntu and ubuntu as a philosophy in Coetzee & Roux (eds) Philosophy from Africa: A Text with Readings. Oxford University Press; Cape Town. 230-238

  • Dladla N (2017) Racism and the Marginality of African Philosophy in South Africa in Volume 18. 204-231

  • Yves Winter ‘Conquest’ Political Concepts: A Critical Lexicon, 2011.

  • John Locke ‘The Second Treatise of Government’ in Two Treatises of Government ed. Peter Laslett (1988) – Selected Extracts. Chapter XVI “Of Conquest” §175 - §196 (402-415); Chapter XVII “Of Usurpation” §197-§199 (415-416)

  • Carl Schmitt ‘The Land Appropriation of a New World’ Telos 109 (1996) 29-80. Doi: 10.3817/0996109029.

  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Entry: “War”:

  • Daniel Lee (2021) The right of sovereignty: Jean Bodin on the Sovereign State and the Law of Nations The History. Oxford University Press. 1- 31.

  • Johnson v McIntosh, 21 U.S. 543 (1823).

  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1997) The Social Contract, and Other Later Political Writing, trans. Victor Gourevitch – Book I : Chapter I Subject of the First Book ; Chapter II: Primitive Societies; III: Subject of the First Book ; Chapter III: On The right of the Strongest; Chapter IV: Slavery ; V: That it is Necessary to Go Back to a First Convention.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr Ndumiso Dladla