Continuity and Discontinuity in Traditional African Narrative Ethics

Simon Kofi Appiah


There is much agreement today about the varied and important human functions of the act of narrating, and there is a long history of research behind storytelling. This paper joins the discussion from the perspective of the relation between ethics and narrative in the context of West African storytelling. The paper sketches the theory of narrative ethics generally and then focuses on West African narrative ethics. The main thesis concerns the existence of two parallel narratives of and about West Africa or the whole of Africa for that matter. There is what the paper calls the “traditional” narrative, which as a result of historical experiences of domination and colonialism has been progressively replaced by a “conventional” narrative. The paper argues that becoming the story about and by Africans, the conventional narrative engendered a loss of cultural memory among many African peoples. This is seen as a discontinuity of the “traditional” African (self-reflexive) narrative. Given the major role of narrative in Africa and the significance of narrative for ethics, the paper suggests that understanding the nature of the discontinuity of West African narrative can provide a paradigm for explaining some ethical challenges in the sub-region.

Keywords: narrative ethics, identity, West African narrative, otherness

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484

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