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MCLA Professor Releases Book On African Concept of Justice: 'Ubuntu'
08:05AM / Tuesday, February 20, 2024
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. Massachusetts College Of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Philosophy Professor Paul Nnodim has released his sixth book, "Ubuntu," A Comparative Study of an African Concept, with co-editor Austin Okigbo, associate professor of ethnomusicology, African Studies, and global health at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The book was published by Leuven University Press earlier this month and contains contributions from other scholars. "Ubuntu" will be made open access within three years of publication thanks to Path to Open, a program developed in partnership between JSTOR, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), the University of Michigan Press, and The University of North Carolina Press to bring about equitable access and impact for the entire scholarly community, including authors, researchers, libraries, and university presses around the world.
According to a press release, Ubuntu is an African philosophical tradition that embodies the ability of one human being to empathize with another. It is the quintessence of African humanism, communalism, and belonging. As the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu anticipated, Ubuntu resonated with the moral intuition of the majority of black South Africans in the 1990s. As a result, it became the foundational ethical basis for articulating a new post-apartheid era of reconciliation and forgiveness in the face of a history marked by brutal racial violence. Yet Ubuntu, as a philosophy or ethical practice that has arguably come to represent African humanism and communalism, has not been sufficiently assimilated into contemporary philosophical scholarship.
This anthology interweaves interdisciplinary perspectives into the discussion on African relational ethics, engaging with Western normative ideals across a diverse array of issues such as justice, sustainable development, musical culture, journalism, and peace. It explains the philosophy of Ubuntu to both African and non-African scholars. Although the book is positioned as scholarly, it remains accessible to a wide audience, encompassing both academic and non-academic readers.
Nnodim began working on the book in 2021 and it's his fourth scholarly publication outside of two children's books, numerous articles, and book chapters.
"I feel gratified," he said. "One of the primary motivations for writing the book was to introduce the philosophy of Ubuntu to scholars and readers in the West. It's an incredible philosophy, truly remarkable."
"It's truly remarkable and merits our attention here in the West, especially given the circumstances we find ourselves in, characterized by extreme individualism," Nnodim noted. "While individualism can be beneficial to some extent, its extreme forms can lead to feelings of alienation and isolation."
Contributors include: Aboubacar Dakuyo (University of Ottawa), Brahim El Guabli (Williams College), Leyla Tavernaro-Haidarian (University of Johannesburg), Damascus Kafumbe (Middlebury College), Joseph Kunnuji (University of the Free State), David Lutz (Holy Cross College, Notre Dame), Thaddeus Metz (University of Pretoria), Emmanuel-Lugard Nduka (media practitioner), Levi U.C. Nkwocha (University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne).
 Professor Paul Nnodim holds a doctorate in Philosophy, with minors in English and American Studies from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany. He also has a masters in creative writing (novel) from Middlesex University, London, UK.
Nnodim's research interests include contemporary theories of justice, especially John Rawls, continental philosophy, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and  African philosophy.
His scholarship has been honored with both international and local awards. His other book, "Beyond Justice as Fairness: Rethinking Rawls from a Cross-cultural Perspective," won the 2021 American Library Association's CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title. Nnodim's current ongoing project includes literary fiction, having recently completed his debut novel, "Dangerous Paths." The novel details the journey of African migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe on a dilapidated fishing boat.
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