Under the Shadows of the Names:
An Akbari Approach to Systemic Oppression Beyond Liberal Individualism and Marxian Structuralism

Oludamini Ogunanike

The general problems of theodicy have been compellingly addressed in the works of the likes of Plotinus and in the Islamic context, Ibn al-‘Arabī and others, but colonial modernity has introduced unprecedented formations of evil, including the denial of the very notion of evil. Modernity has also produced unique philosophical responses to the gross social inequalities and evils to which it has given birth, the two most prominent of which can roughly be described as the historical-materialist and the liberal individualist, each of which prescribe different kinds of individual and collective responses to these evils. Taking the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic as a case study, this paper will first demonstrate its origins and imbrication in dynamics of colonial oppression, and then will explore the limitations of both historical-materialist and liberal individualist models for addressing this crisis and its roots. Finally, based on the works of Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Ibn al-‘Arabī, this paper will develop an alternative model of the nature of the modern evil of colonial oppression, and therefore what individual and collective responses to it should look like.

About the Presenter

Oludamini Ogunanike is an Assistant Professor of African Religious Thought and Democracy at the University of Virginia. His research examines the philosophical and artistic dimensions of postcolonial, colonial, and pre-colonial Islamic and indigenous religious traditions of West and North Africa, especially Sufism and Ifa. His research falls into two general areas: the intellectual history and literary studies of the Islamic and indigenous traditions of West Africa (redressing the general neglect of Sub-Saharan Africa as an important center of Islamic scholarship and literary production and the neglect of the intellectual dimensions of indigenous African religious traditions), and employing the insights and ideas from these traditions to contribute to contemporary philosophical debates relevant to a variety of disciplines.

He has published two books— Deep Knowledge: Ways of Knowing in Sufism and Ifa, Two West African Intellectual Traditions (Penn State University Press) and Poetry in Praise of Prophetic Perfection: West African Madīḥ Poetry and its Precedents (Islamic Texts Society). He has also begun working on another project comparing and contrasting the work and decolonial projects of Frantz Fanon and Amadou Hampâté Bâ who represent two distinct and important traditions in Black Atlantic and global decolonial thought.