Alexandre Kimenyi

Ethnic Studies 171
African Religions and philosophy
GE: C3 Introduction to the Humanities
Kimenyi. Amador Hall 562B. or,

916-278-6802 Office Hours: MWF 12:00-12:50

Course Description:

A study of the African's concept of God with particular emphasis to His work, His relationship to his creations, and His worship. Also covers the concept of evil, ethics, justice and various metaphysical ideas.

Learning Outcomes:

1.To describe, compare and contrast African religions and philosophies with other major world's religions and show differences and similarities.
2.To learn the uniqueness of African religions and their contributions to other world's religions.
3.To show how these religions affect African people's daily life.

Assessment Strategies:

Students will be evaluated in three ways: 2 written essays, an oral presentation.
The students will given between 10 to 15 minutes for oral presentation on any topic of their choice.
3. The essays will test the students' comprehension of concepts, issues and theories.

Course Outline:

Week 1: People of Africa (lecture): Geographical and genetic classification.
(chap.10: Mbiti); Africa and the Africans (Mosley chap.1 Mosley).
Week 2: Characteristics of African religions (lecture and handout).
Week 3: Nature of God and Deities (chap.4)
Oral presentations on the name and concept of God in different African countries
Week 4: Works of God and Nature: (chap.5 and chap.6).
Week 5: God worship and ancestor worship: (chap.7)
First midterm
Week 6: African cosmology: (chap.8 and chap.14); The particular and the universal
(Mosley p.172); The "stolen legacy" and Afrocentrism (Mosley p.128).
Week 7: Holy men: medicine-men, priests, kings and rain-makers (chap.15).
Oral presentations on the religious meanings of rituals in different African countries
Week 8: Birth, initiation, and marriage as religious experiences: (chap.11).
Week 9. African philosophy and ethnophilosophy. Paulin Hountondji. p. 172; Oyekan
Owomoyela p. 236
Week 9: African world view (epistemology): (lecture); p.62 Bantu Philosophy by Placide
Tempels, .,
Week 10-11: Ethnicity, race and mind (lecture and handout); p.116 The psychology of
the African Negro (Mosley); Contemporary thought in French speaking Africa (in
Mosley , Jeffrey Crawford, W.E.B Dubois, Kwame Anthony Appiah
p.263); The Akan conceptual scheme (Mosley p. 339).
Second midterm
Week 12: Concept of time and space (chap.3).
Oral presentations on religious meanings of African names and symbols.
Week 13: Values (chap. 20); Morality, art and African philosophy (Mosley p.407);
Traditional African aesthetics: A philosophical perspective (Mosley p. 421);
On the distinction between Modern and Traditional African Aesthetics (Mosley p. 428).
Week 14: Ethics and concept of evil/Influence of outside religions especially Islam and
Christianity : (chap.17); ); Moral Philosophy p.147 Mosley; p. 389 Custom and
Morality (Mosley).
Week 15: Oral presentations and paper submission


Mbiti, John. 2nd Edition. African Religions and Philosophy. 1999. Chicago: Heinemann.
Mosley, G. Albert. 1995. African Philosophy. Selected Readings. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


Parrinder, E.G. 2nd Edition. 1969. Traditional African Religion. New York: Harmondsworth.
K. Anthony Appiah. 1990. In my Father's House. New York: Oxford University Press.


Class attendance and participation: 10%
Essays: 70%
Oral presentation: 10%
Final exam: 10%


A: 100%-95%; A-: 94%-90%; B+: 89%-87%; B: 86%-83%; B-: 82%-80%;
C+: 79%-77%; C: 76%-73%; C-: 72-70%; D+: 69%-67%; D: 66%-63%; D-: 62%-60%

GE requirements:

IA, B and C. See course outline.
II A. The course doesn't need a prerequisite. Any student can take it whether they are undergraduate or graduate, freshman or senior.

B. The course on African Religions and Philosophy covers the whole continent of Africa which consists of 53 countries, with more than a thousand ethnic groups and languages.
C. Videos, slides of African art, rituals, and architecture, examples from Oral literature such as the use of proverbs, names, myths and legends will be provided to show how traditional religions and philosophy affect the whole life of African people. This will help students develop a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of African belief system.
D. The course is precisely about African thought, values, religions and philosophy. It also examines how they are reflected in oral literature and art.
E. The course shows a diversity of world views and religions within African cultures themselves but a comparison is also made to see how African religions and philosophy are similar and different from Western religions and philosophies.
F. Africa is not monolithic, it has different social groups: nationalities, ethnicities, castes, clans, social classes, traditional religions and imported religions, etc. The course will examine how this complex social organization affects and is affected by these religions and philosophy.
G. The students are required to write essays spread all over the semester, which test their comprehension of concepts, issues and theories. Each essay is worth 14%, thus 70% of the course grade.
A guideline for writing good essays is given in the beginning of the semester. Each paper is read and corrected and written comments are given on each essay.