Decolonizing the Social Sciences in the Global South: Claude Ake and the Praxis of Knowledge Production in Africa

Seminar date: 
04 March 2008
Speaker(s): Jeremiah O. Arowosegbe (PhD Candidate in Political Science, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria)

South-driven initiatives on endogenous knowledge production owe a great debt to Claude Ake. Against this backdrop, this paper reviews the strengths and weaknesses of Ake's account of the social sciences and the question of knowledge production in Africa. It discusses his legacy and presents him as one of the most fertile and influential voices in the social-sciences community on the continent. Being a political scientist with an unusually broad intellectual horizon and formation, the paper discusses Ake's production, over the last four decades, of a wide-ranging body of works that have been instructive not only in their theoretical sophistication, methodological rigour and analytical acuity but also for being remarkable works of magisterial erudition, the products of an exceptionally great mind working at its fullest with the highest command of language and critical theory. They are written with a deftly profound authority and constitute a significant attempt to adapt the intellectual legacies of Marxist scholarship towards understanding the political economy and social history of contemporary Africa from a broadly critical perspective. The leit motif here is to establish the specific relevance of studying Ake's works. Through examining the epistemological bases of theory, practice and policy in his works, this paper establishes an important area within African social sciences and the world at large, which has been positively affected by Ake's intellectual involvement.