Research / Theory

What is African psychology the psychology of?

Below is the abstract of an article by Augustine Nwoye published in the journal Theory & Psychology. I think the article was first presented at the 1st International Conference on African Psychology held in 2014 at the University of Limpopo. It was also his professorial inaugural lecture at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN), South Africa, where professor Nwoye teaches on African psychology. Among other previous roles, he was a professor in the Department of Psychology of the University of Dodoma in Tanzania as well as Chairman of the Department of Psychology and Director of the University Counselling Centre at Kenyatta University in Nairobi.

Augustin Nwoye

Professor Augustine Nwoye

The article has an interesting title: What is African psychology the psychology of? Indeed. What is this thing called African psychology? Isn’t psychology the same everywhere? Is he suggesting that Africa has a unique psychology?

These are critical questions which a reading of the article will be clarify – but not ultimately settle. I consider, as one of many African psychologists, these orientations – which is what I think African psychologies are, even though I know why others might understand African psychology as a thing or a field – raise the simple but consequential fact that African psychology (or psychologies) is or are not American psychology. Psychology, as some scholars have long observed, is actually a divided field, even without introducing African psychologies. And, yes, Nwoye argues that Africa has a unique psychology.

Nwoye makes an interesting contribution. It will benefit anyone who wants an introduction to African psychology. However, I should add that there are fundamental issues with which we have to disagree with Nwoye about what is African psychology. That is, to be sure, a very good thing. These positive differences should become clearer in later posts on this blog. For now, here is the abstract.

Throughout the past half-century, the formal study of psychology in African universities has been colonized by mainstream Western psychology. This situation was inimical to any early efforts to entrench African Psychology as an academic discipline in African universities. However, this negative state of affairs did not last indefinitely. But with the recent emergence of African Psychology it soon became necessary to trace the history of its emergence and evolution, formulate its definitive core of reference, engage the question about its relationship to Euro-American psychology, foreground its claims to Africanity, determine the topics it embraces as an academic subject field, and discuss the epistemological and ontological foundations on which it is grounded. This article is an attempt to contribute to this need.

The full paper by Nwoye can be accessed here, for those who can get behind the pay walls of the publisher.

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