ACEPS the Decoloniser

The African Centre for Epistemology and Philosophy of Science is housed in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Johannesburg. ACEPS fosters intra-African and global conversation in the areas of Epistemology and Philosophy of Science by bringing African insights, questions and values into meaningful conversation with other philosophical traditions. Our groundbreaking philosophical work is organised around three umbrella projects:

  • Indigenous Knowledge Systems;
  • Health and Medicine in Africa; and
  • Rationality and Power.

The “A” in ACEPS

We pursue all our projects with an African conscience, through encouraging work that is distinctly African in nature and salient to African challenges and concerns. We consider as fundamental the issues, the consciousness, the perspectives, the concepts, the struggles and the exclusions that come with where we are situated, and this informs the kind of research we do.

Our conception of our Africanness is pluralistic and non-parochial, but we take immense pride in respecting and studying the knowledge of Africa’s previously devalued peoples, cultures and traditions. We strive to develop the critical thinking skills required to contribute to the continent’s knowledge production in the modern global environment and to positively shape public discourse, particularly about science and philosophy. ACEPS is inspired by the vitality and energy inherent in the African spirit and we strive to emulate this vibrancy in our research and teaching.

What makes ACEPS special?

You cannot be a conscientious philosopher in Africa without being aware of where you are. This awareness has many forms: of a recent history of injustice and subjugation, of a deeper history going back to the roots of humankind, of cultures other than your own (whatever that is), of both the connections and the isolations of the region and its thought, and beneath all of these, of huge untapped potential.

Our key advantage, the opportunity we hope to exploit, lies in the fact that we are on the outside. This is so from the perspective of the Global North, and also from a subordinate perspective that often goes unchallenged within the African academy. This gives us an opportunity to shift that perspective.

Our philosophical interests are in knowledge, knowledge claims, ways of knowing, kinds of understanding, methods for achieving and verifying these, as well as their ethical dimensions. These are the deepest ways that cultures can clash, and the places where they can learn most from each other. These are also the areas in which it is often assumed that Africa has least to offer, with “way of life” insights being the kind that are most commonly both offered to and expected by the rest of the world. We will show this assumption to be mistaken. Africa can offer the rest of the world, and itself, epistemological insights that cannot be arrived at anywhere else.

Our Mission

To be a leading centre in Philosophy of Science and Epistemology, bringing African perspectives and contributions to global prominence.

How we want to get there

  • Nurture and develop young talent, especially black African talent, in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science
  • Promote interest in and understanding of Philosophy of Science and Epistemology among undergraduate students
  • Train excellent postgraduates to the highest international standards
  • Establish high-profile research projects
  • To identify and develop links between traditional concerns in African knowledge systems and analytic Epistemology and Philosophy of Science
  • Release research results, especially by means of publications, the web and papers at conferences
  • Reshape modes of academic engagement: decolonize the conference
  • Host symposia, conferences, seminars and work sessions
  • Deliver commissioned research, advice and submissions to interested bodies
  • Establish and develop an information bank regarding relevant research sources
  • Cultivate the sort of cosmopolitan environment in which students and project-leaders can thrive qua members of their own culture while being on easy terms with the rest of the world
  • Create research platforms and networks that set the agenda for future generations of critical thinkers in Africa and outside