Must African Communitarianism Occlude Difference?

In Elvis Imafidon (ed.), Handbook of the African Philosophy of Difference. Springer (forthcoming)
Authors
Thaddeus Metz
University of Johannesburg
Abstract
There has been the recurrent suspicion that community, harmony, cohesion and similar relational goods as understood in the African ethical tradition threaten to occlude difference. Often it has been Western defenders of liberty who have raised the concern that these characteristically sub-Saharan values fail to account adequately for individuality, although some contemporary African thinkers have expressed the same concern. In this chapter, I provide a certain understanding of the sub-Saharan value of communal relationship and demonstrate that it entails a substantial allowance for difference. I aim to show that African thinkers need not appeal to, say, characteristically Euro-American values of authenticity and autonomy to make sense of why individuals should not be pressured to conform to a group's norm. A key illustration involves homosexuality.
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