Intercultural Philosophy and Postcolonial Theory: Discourse and Dialogue

We live in a time of increasing contact between different cultures. The opportunities, as well as the problems this brings are traceable in all academic disciplines, but especially in the social sciences and in the humanities. This course aims to guide you to a deeper reflection on the historical conditions of intercultural encounters, the philosophical conditions of intercultural dialogue, and the framework of post-coloniality that determines the need to politically negotiate the conditions of such a dialogue.

Course level
Master, PhD candidates and professionals from all disciplines
Session 2
11 January to 18 January 2020 
Coordinating lecturer                                     Dr. Angela Roothaan
Other lecturers
Dr. Louise Müller (Leiden), Dr. Pius Mosima (Cameroon)
Form(s) of instructionLectures, text-reading seminars, self-study assignments
Form(s) of assessmentPresentations, detailed writing assignment
ECTS3 credits
Contact hours25 contact hours - 5 hours a day (2 hours lecture, 3 hours text reading & discussion)
Tuition fee

€800 - non-VU students and staff

€500 - VU students and staff

This course is beneficial for PhD students engaging in research in Intercultural Philosophy, and who want to add the perspective of Postcolonial Theory (or vice versa); PhD students and Master’s students studying Philosophy, Political Theory, Cultural Anthropology, Development Studies, and History of Globalization, who want to broaden their view by adding a critical and intercultural perspective to their professional work. If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please contact us: graduatewinterschool@vu.nl.
Strong skills of engagement while reading academic philosophical texts, strong command within academic writing.
We live in a time of increasing contact between different cultures. The opportunities, as well as the problems this brings are traceable in all academic disciplines, but especially in the social sciences and in the humanities. This course aims to guide you to a deeper reflection on the historical conditions of intercultural encounters, the philosophical conditions of intercultural dialogue, and the framework of post-coloniality that determines the need to politically negotiate the conditions of such a dialogue.

The historical conditions of interculturality are determined by the North-Western enslavement and colonization of Southern and Eastern peoples. Modern Western philosophy, while articulating the conditions of a free and autonomous life for the peoples of its own societies, simultaneously provided the ideological foundation for the violent extraction of human and non-human resources from other continents. In this course we will look into the philosophical canon insofar as it provided such ideology (Hume, Kant, Hegel), into the voices from those who addressed colonialism and moved beyond (Césaire, Fanon, Emmanuel Eze), and into key texts of intercultural philosophers (Wimmer, Kimmerle, Mall).

Intercultural philosophy is a young branch on the philosophical tree. Just decades ago it was developed by thinkers such as Ram Adhar Mall, Heinz Kimmerle and Franz Wimmer. The intercultural approach was not developed ex nihilo, as renewals in philosophy always reflect the need to adapt to changes in the sciences, in society, or in philosophy as a practice itself. In the instance of intercultural philosophy one might distinguish two major factors for its originating: the growing presence of academic philosophical thought and thinkers from formerly colonized countries in the increasingly globalizing discipline, and the concomitant realization that the time of a hegemonic, Western-centered philosophy that took the upper hand since the Enlightenment was finally over.

Over the past decades, a strong focus on culture and on cultures, its interactions and comparisons, has prevented the decolonial view (that questions the power relations that historically dominate demarcations of reason and valid knowledge) to take an important place in intercultural philosophy. The founding texts of postcolonial theory, such as those of Frantz Fanon and Edward Said, although they are as well at work to decenter and deconstruct a hegemonic Western/Northern centered philosophy, will be brought into contact with the texts of intercultural philosophy. In this course it will be shown how this can be done, and how the practices of dialogue, deconstruction and negotiation of epistemological boundaries can be combined to inspire a new globalizing philosophy, inspiring students to have powerful engagements and productive perspectives.

According to availability, we will take the Black Heritage Tour in Amsterdam, or the African History Walk in Leiden (cost of the Amsterdam tour is 50 Euros per person).

At the end of the course, students will:

• Thoroughly comprehend key texts in intercultural philosophy and postcolonial theory;
• Have an improved capability of critically reading the relevant texts;
• Have learned about intercultural dialogue and its conditions in the classroom;
• Engage in writing a short academic essay that combines the different philosophical currents discussed within this course.

A digital reader with texts of the above mentioned authors will be made available.
Dr. Angela Roothaan teaches at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her work focuses on African and Intercultural philosophy, politics of epistemology and shamanistic ontologies. Her most recent publication is ‘Indigenous, Modern and Postcolonial Relations to Nature. Negotiating the Environment’ (Routledge 2019).

“In our globalizing times it is more than ever necessary to uncover the root causes of intercultural misunderstandings, and the power systems that sustain them.”

Dr. Louise Müller is a Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kwazulu Natal, a guest researcher at Leiden University, and a Research Fellow at the African Studies Center in Leiden. Her work focuses on African History and Intercultural Philosophy, especially in relation to the religion, politics and culture of African societies. Recent publication: ‘Akan ethics for Neoliberal bankers in search of a soul’. (Journal of World Philosophies, vol. 4 No.1, 2019)

“Indigenous Religion could be an indicator of the expression of the resistance of indigenous people to the use of artificial cultural categorizations that were created during the colonial era.”

Dr. Pius Mosima lectures at University of Bamenda in Cameroon, and is a Research Fellow at the African Studies Center in Leiden. He specializes in African and Intercultural Philosophy, with a focus on the potential contributions of African thought to a globalizing philosophy. Recent publication: ‘Philosophic Sagacity and Intercultural Philosophy: Beyond Henry Odera  Oruka’ (African Studies Center, 2016).

“We must affirm local wisdom in African cultural domains, but we should also find ways to negotiate these local wisdoms into a wider context in a bid to contribute to other global wisdom traditions.”