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African philosophers on Development in new book

4 April 2023
Beauty in African Thought: Critical Perspectives on the Western Idea of Development

The book "Beauty in African Thought: Critical Perspectives on the Western Idea of Development", compiled by scientists Bolaji Bateye, Mahmoud Masaeli, Louise Müller and VU philosopher Angela Roothaan, explores how the concept of beauty in African philosophy and related qualitative social sciences can contribute to a richer intercultural exchange about the idea of development.

This collection explores branches of thought from wisdom, oral traditions to political thought and cultural philosophy. Roothaan: "This book is an urgent reading material for any policymaker, scholar or student who wants to hear the voices of African thinkers looking for alternative approaches to global development questions in a time of climate change and increasing socioeconomic inequality."

African thinkers on development 
While working within frameworks created in the postcolonial and arguably neo colonial era, African thinkers have responded to the prevailing view limiting the meaning and scope of good development to Western-style economic growth and education. These thinkers have worked to create a critical self-understanding of the possibilities inherent in cultural, spiritual, and political traditions since pre-colonial times.

The book was originally conceived by Canadian Professor of International Development and Global Studies Mahmoud Masaeli. Roothaan: "He approached me for my expertise in African philosophy and my network of African philosophers. To my delight, Bolaji Bateye, senior lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria) and Louise Müller, senior researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) and also affiliated with Leiden University, agreed to function as co-editors."

Access to Western publishers restricted 
The project took a long time, partly because the publisher was struggling with delays due to the pandemic, but also because we went through a complete double peer review process with the book. "That was also our wish, because many good African scientists do not have easy access to Western academic publishers, and sometimes they cannot always easily meet the requirements of such a publisher due to a lack of material infrastructure. We wanted to play a mediating role in this, so that their voices would be better heard in this area of Development Studies and the policy inspired by it," says Roothaan.

Second book 
A second book with the same editorial team, titled "Wellbeing in African Philosophy: Insights into Global Ethics of Development," is currently in production at the same publisher. It is a challenge to connect many authors from different disciplines and from countries with different publishing cultures, but it has become a convincing coherent study with an interesting wealth of perspectives. Roothaan: "Incidentally, it is not only African authors who contributed, but also authors of other origins, also from the Netherlands, who have done research in Africa, or who collaborate with African researchers."