Appointed As

Leslie Center for the Humanities


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


Dartmouth College

PhD Field of Study

PhD, Philosophy, Texas A&M University

Dissertation Abstract

“The Power of Knowledge and Knowledge of Power: Envisioning the Discourse of Black Epistemology in Africana Philosophy”

From its inception in the early 70s, formalized discourse in Africana philosophical scholarship in the United States has been plagued by a derelictical crisis—a crisis of knowledge. The first dimension of this crisis stems from the systems of knowledge generated within philosophical scholarship that does not primarily center the ideas and thought systems produced by Black thinkers as the groundwork for representing Blackness or cataloging the Black experience. The second concerns the tendency to project negative epistemic ascriptions to Black subjects in current scholarship in social epistemology. This work engages with this problem by visualizing a new sub-disciplinary focus within Africana philosophy, namely “Black Epistemology,” which offers a positive view of Blackness within the discourse of knowledge. The Black epistemological perspectives considered in this work explores the history of knowledge production within the Black intellectual tradition while drawing connections between ascriptions of agency and epistemic power about how the knowing Black subject is characterized as the ground for shaping reality, truth, and the world as we know it.
In this work, Black thinkers are not considered as mere commentators, critics, revolutionaries, or insurgents offering “mere ideological” critiques to hegemonic systems of knowledge and practices, but primarily as epistemologists—who are writing about the importance of knowledge towards achieving both individual freedom and social transformation in an anti-Black world. In this case, the two broad categories of Black epistemological thought that are explored in this work are (1) Black epistemologies as self or personal epistemologies, and (2) Black epistemologies as political epistemologies. It raises the question concerning what it means to think of Black thinkers as epistemologists, especially concerning the creation and dissemination of knowledge in particular areas of inquiry. This indicates that epistemological considerations are not the prerogative of thinkers within western philosophical praxis; it is something that Black thinkers have given a great deal of consideration as well within Black intellectual history. Therefore, this necessitates the evolution of a Black epistemological inquiry within Africana philosophy.
This work is an attempt to expand the frontiers of knowledge within Africana philosophy through a novel epistemological intervention. It examines questions concerning what it means to conceive of the Black subject as a knowledgeable being within systems that do not even categorize them as human. It also examines how the uniqueness of the Black experience both in African and African diasporic contexts, shaped social knowledge production as well as the formation of political epistemologies to shape the destinies and improve social outcomes for Black folks between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the manner Black epistemology is considered in this work, the Black subject was made alive to its social context of knowledge-formation (the situatedness of knowledge), as well as offering a perspective of what the expression of subjectivity looks like expressed in liberated in terms as an existential embodiment. This work, through its advocacy of Black epistemology as a new sub-disciplinary focus in Africana philosophy, makes a case for a different approach to doing Africana philosophy in the twenty-first century. This approach favors a strategic move in Africana/Black scholarship to focus on Black thinkers as important scholars, whose philosophical deliberations deserves serious intellectual consideration.

(Photo credit: Temi Oluwayomi)