African Philosophies of Language Conference

February 17 - 19, 2021

A Conference Organized by Andrew Apter and Harold Torrence.

Friday, February 19, 2021
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM (Pacific Time)
Zoom webinar

Image for Calendar ButtonImage for Calendar Button

Register at

Why do African languages matter to philosophy, and to the human and social sciences more generally?  In pursuing this question apropos specific African languages, we invite explorations of indigenous ideas about discourse, grammar, meaning, agency, invocation, incantation and language use.  From multiple disciplinary perspectives including linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, art history, literature, religious studies, cultural studies and education, our conference addresses explicit ideas about speech and illocutionary force often associated with ritual power and secrecy in Africa.  We will also engage implicit notions of time, number, place, person, gender, thinghood, narrative, and poetic/pragmatic function embedded in grammars broadly construed.

Motivating our collective effort are the linked convictions that African philosophies of language are rich intellectual and cultural resources from which we have much to learn; that they have been systematically marginalized and overlooked by the western academy; and that meaningful inquiry into their reflexive frameworks requires a renewed commitment to the pedagogy of African languages.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Souleymane Bachir Diagne is a Professor in the Departments of French and Philosophy and Director of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University.
  • Olufemi Taiwo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Georgetown University.

Conference organized by Andrew Apter and Harold Torrence

Andrew Apter is a Professor in the Departments of History and Anthropology and Interim Director of the African Studies Center at UCLA.

Harold Torrence is an Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at UCLA.

Schedule (subject to change):

Wednesday, February 17

  • 1 – 1:20 pm  Welcome and Open Remarks
  • 1:25 – 1:40 pm  Talking Drums
  • 2 – 3 pm  Opening Keynote by Olufemi Taiwo, Georgetown University
  • 3 – 4:30/5pm  Panel 1:  Speech Acts and Textuality

Thursday, February 18

  • 9 – 11 am   Panel 2:  Afrocentric Epistemologies
  • 11 am – 12:30 pm  Panel 3:  Proverbial Logics
  • 2 – 3:30 pm  Panel 4: Creole Genealogies

Friday, February 19

  • 9 – 10:30 am Panel 5: Language Ideologies in Practice
  • 11 am – 12:30 pm Panel 6: Politics of Speech Acts in Body and Spirit
  • 2 – 3:30 pm Panel 7: African Languages and National Development
  • 4 – 5 pm Closing Keynote: Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Columbia University
  • 5 – 5:15 pm Closing Remarks


This conference will be available via Zoom; to register visit

Cost : Free and open to the public

UCLA African Studies Center323-335-9965

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center, Linguistics, Anthropology, Philosophy