I’ve been re-reading John Mbiti’s African Religions and Philosophy (Praeger, 1969), looking at Mbiti’s section on “The Concept of Time as a Key to the Understanding and Interpretation of African Religion and Philosophy.” This was hot stuff when I first read it as an undergrad philosophy major back in 1983, as multiculturalism crept slowly into the philosophy curriculum.
I got interested in the African notions of time due to my growing interest in ecological theology, specifically eco-theological critiques of Christian notions of end-time; especially where such notions are used to justify exploitation of human beings and non-human beings. If Mbiti’s account is accurate, traditional African notions of time could provide an alternate view that might lead to more nuanced understandings of Christian notions of linear time. In particular, this also raises interesting questions regarding the persistence of African thought in North America, and North Americans’ cultural access to alternative understandings of time.
However, in the past few years Mbiti has been critiqued for bringing a colonialist/Christian viewpoint to his work. So now I’m looking for other, more recent, studies on traditional African religion; yet in my limited search of relevant literature I’m not finding another book that addresses the issue of time (and of course part of my problem is that I don’t have access to an academic library…). If any of my readers happen to know of such books, please do let me know.
Of course, all this may lead nowhere. But it sure is proving to be a fascinating path to follow. And I’ll let you know if I ever get anywhere with this….