The 2021 Winter School – A Transcontinental Learning Experience

Months before the course started, I was often concerned whether it all would work out – the zoom environment, potential time differences of our students, internet connections of my co-lecturers. The concern was good in the sense that when we started all was well-prepared and apart from some rare freezing sound or vision, our graduate course African Philosophy in Global Times. Knowledge and Culture felt like an easily flowing river. I had underestimated the warm atmosphere that comes into being when individuals automatically form a community of learners from the start, because learning is what they all love so much – and because they commit to the topic at hand. The guest lecturers were present as much as possible, which made this intense week feel more like an expert seminar than a teaching event, and this is, of course, ideally what a graduate course should be. My hopes that this week would have potential for a future network also was not in vain, as materials and news are now still exchanged, as they are – by the way – by some members of last year’s course Intercultural Philosophy and Postcolonial Theory.

What I was particularly happy about was that we had opened the course again to professionals with enough academic background to do a philosophy course at this level, as we could welcome several participants who worked in African contexts from their different disciplines, and who brought insights and questions into the classroom that benefited those coming from a Philosophy background – and vice versa.

Although gradually I start to yearn for real life work meetings again, us all logging in from such different places as the US, Senegal Belgium and Cameroon, to mention just a few, every day at the same moment from 4 different time zones, gave another type of intimate classroom feel I wouldn’t have wanted to miss. You can see for yourself from the ‘group photo’ we made the final afternoon.

Some group members were not present at that photo moment, especially our valued co-lecturers Hady Ba and Oumar Dia from Dakar finally had to return to business at their own institution. The upside is that we hope this initiative of the VU Winterschool will have a follow up at their end, at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, in the following years.

Now let me just give the word to some of those present, to hear from different perspectives what we did and learned. Louise Müller, one of the lecturers wrote:

“In this African Philosophy course, we have discussed texts from a variety of fields such as analytical philosophy, the philosophy of history, epistemology and global ethics all with a focus on Africa. Not only were the texts philosophical and geographically very distinct, but the teachers and the students also came from various cultural and disciplinary backgrounds. This diversity resulted in an interesting group dynamic and highly in-depth discussions on the significance of African indigenous knowledge, notions of truth, black Athena, cosmopolitic consciousness, Othering and philosophical sagacity in a contemporary global context. As a Lecturer I contributed by sharing my expertise in African philosophy and history. I was pleasantly surprised that I also learned a lot from the inspiring presentations of my African and Dutch colleagues and those of our students. I, therefore, like to sincerely thank everyone for their participation in this course. Last but not least, I like to thank the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, in particular professor Roothaan, for organising this wonderful winter course.”

And Jonasz Dekkers, one of the students shared:

“This Winter School was a great succes for me! It was a prefect opportunity to learn about African Philosophy. What is unique about this winter school is that we learned not only about African Philosophy, but from African philosophers (although it’s a shame that such a characteristic of a course is unique and not more common in western academia). Another thing I very much liked about this course is that it was profoundly philosophical, but with students from all kinds of disciplines, such as Law and Medicine. This made for very fine discussions and refreshing new insights. This winter school surely paved the way for my PhD in the form of it being an affirmation of my desires to pursue a career in African Philosophy. Thank you to Angela Roothaan, the others and the philosophers from Senegal and Cameroon for instigating this wonderful week!”

Another reaction came from Kaleem Ahmid on LinkedIn, directly after we finished.

From my heart I can only say ‘thank you’ to ALL who made it a wonderful learning experience – to the students for their active participation and the teachers for making time in their busy schedules and gracefully sharing their expertise. Now if you consider following a similar course when we organize it, in Amsterdam or Dakar, online or live, you may get more information by checking out the announcement once it will be published here.

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