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Emerging Perspectives on ‘African Development’

Speaking Differently

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Edited By George J. Sefa Dei and Paul Banahene Adjei

Emerging Perspectives on ‘African Development’: Speaking Differently discusses numerous areas of interest and issues about Africa, including contemporary challenges and possibilities of development. The book critically engages the many ways of presenting ‘development,’ highlighting the interplay of tradition and modernity as well as contestations over knowledge production in ‘post-colonial’ Africa. It offers cautionary words to field practitioners, researchers, and social theorists who work in development using language that is easily accessible to laypersons. This book is also for undergraduate and graduate courses on development, global education, rural development, and Africa studies. For readers looking for something new about Africa beyond the old stories of catastrophes and human misery, this book will be indispensable. It demonstrates that even in the face of many failures, tragedies, and suffering, Africa’s stories can be told with hope and a sense of possibility.
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Chapter 5. Challenging the Euro-Western Epistemological Dominance of Development through African Cosmovision

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JADIE MCDONNELL

“They have taken our land, our mineral resources and forests, our languages, our laws and jurisdictions, our religions and our system of governance and leadership. And then they blame us that we do not develop in accordance with their criteria.”

–PARTICIPANT, DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM(AS QUOTED IN HAVERKORT, MILLAR, & GONESE, 2003, P. 144)

Development, in its current form, has become a heavy weight encroaching on the continent of Africa. Dominated by Euro-Western epistemology, African development is drowning in reductionist and secular ideologies that dismiss the cultural and spiritual realities of African peoples. Overtly denigrating Indigenous African knowledges and worldviews as obstacles to development, the epistemology, ontology, and axiology of reductionist and positivist development remains incoherent and meaningless to African peoples by rejecting the very essence of local African life—a spiritualized relationship to the universe. Yet, with spirituality central to African epistemologies and worldviews, Euro-Western reductionist and positivist development has engendered a widespread African epistemicide, destroying valuable cultural and social resources necessary for the well-being and cultural continuity of African peoples (Lebakeng, 2010; Mbiti, 1969; Nyamnjoh, 2001). ← 98 | 99 → To counteract this epistemicide, there is an urgent need to revitalize African development so that it may speak to Africanized, thus spiritualized development. If development is to truly benefit African peoples, it must reflect the cosmology and beliefs of local peoples. This means exploring the ways in which development, through a spiritualized worldview, can contribute to the cultural, social, and moral survival and...

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