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).


Essential Reading:

Akiwowo, Akinsola A. 1986. ‘Contributions to the Sociology of Knowledge from an African Oral Poetry,’ International Sociology 1 (4): 343-358


Further Reading:

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

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3 thoughts on “Transnationalism”

  • As a recent recipient of the graduate school certificate in African studies at ASU, my final drew from or focused in part on the settler narrative movement of the antebellum era. Despite the discovery of over 100 burials from this era that came to light recently, it was all treated in a quite troubing manner. Settler Colonial mentality was pervasive. It is clear, the slave labor narrative must be preserved at all cost. Local professional organizations and offices were disrespected and ignored as if the descended community did not exist. People wear the continuance of mixed relationships from this history and it is only now that they are finding their voice and their heritage in some cases. Global social theory is spot on.

  • I’m interested in colonialism,settler colonialism and decolonisation as it speaks to the original ownership of the land/country[?].
    I was interested to read ‘the tendency among some scholars of settler colonialism to treat settlement as inevitable, simultaneously relieving settler societies and states of the burden of reconciling with indigenous peoples, and placing the burden of accommodating settler sovereignty onto those same indigenous peoples'[above]
    I have been tentatively searching for references to the morality/legality of colonialisation,which could possibly have huge ramifications,and they are scarce.

  • Interesting. Could you please add Maria Lugones’s work in the further reading section please? She not only engaged with Quijano’s concept but revised it significantly to demonstrate the coloniality of gender. Thank you.

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