Volume 83, Issue 1, Winter 2009
J. Obi Oguejiofor
Negritude as Hermeneutics
A Reinterpretation of Léopold Sédar Senghor’s Philosophy
While highlighting the inherent tension between the quest for universalization and the unavoidable particularity in philosophical hermeneutics, this essay argues against what it regards as the uncritical characterization of Leopold Sedar Senghor’s concept of “negritude” in terms of ethnophilosophy, a derogatory
term employed in contemporary African philosophy to describe philosophy that is communal, and which can be sieved out from such genres as proverbs, wise sayings, and myths. It reviews the background and the contents of negritude, including its metaphysics and its epistemology of emotion. It calls attention to Senghor’s ideas about communalism and his universalism seen in his theory of the civilization of the universal, and concludes that Senghor’s negritude is the outcome of a particular and personal interpretation of his experience of the African condition, and is therefore eminently hermeneutical.