The publication of Akinsola Akiwowo’s ‘Contributions to the Sociology of Knowledge from an African Oral Poetry’ in 1986 proclaimed the importance of indigenising the sociological enterprise and sought to demonstrate how this could be achieved by extrapolating sociological propositions through an interpretation of the transcribed verses of a Yoruba oral poem (translated into English). Akiwowo presents a case for the indigenisation of the sociological enterprise in terms of three key issues. The first concerns ‘the extent to which the conceptual schemes and propositions which constitute mainstream sociological theories, can be accepted as containing universal principles for the explanation of human societies everywhere’ (1988: 155). The second, focuses on whether sociological theories arising from empirical studies on Western societies can be valid and reliable when used to understand social life and social problems in other places. Third, and conversely, Akiwowo poses the question of the extent to which ‘generalisations from empirical studies from Third World societies [can] be accepted and extended to European and American societies’ (1988: 155). The project of indigenisation, for him, is not simply a project of recovering and highlighting the cultural resources of societies beyond those which regularly feature within mainstream sociology. It is also a call to address the adequacy of all theories by subjecting them to ‘tests and retests within different societal contexts’ in order to determine their empirical universal validity (1988: 155).
Akiwowo, Akinsola A. 1986. ‘Contributions to the Sociology of Knowledge from an African Oral Poetry,’ International Sociology 1 (4): 343-358
Adesina, Jimi O. 2002. ‘Sociology and Yoruba Studies: Epistemic Intervention or Doing Sociology in the “Vernacular”?’ African Sociological Review 6 (1): 91-114
Akiwowo, Akinsola A. 1988. ‘Universalism and Indigenisation in Sociological Theory: Introduction,’ International Sociology 3 (2): 155-160
Akiwowo, Akinsola A. 1999. ‘Indigenous Sociologies: Extending the Scope of the Argument,’ International Sociology 14 (20: 115-138
To what extent is indigenisation necessary for the universalisation of sociological thought?
What are the challenges posed by indigenisation to the sociology of knowledge?
Are indigenisation and universalism contradictory or can they be reconciled?
What is the place of empirical inquiry within Akiwowo’s understanding of indigenisation?
Submitted by Gurminder K Bhambra