The Bright Continent

Illuminating The Challenges, Opportunities & Promises Of A Rising Africa

By Guillaume A.W. Attia (Editor-in-Chief)

September 14, 2016         Picture: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters.


During a 2007 visit to Dakar (Senegal), the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, then newly elected and seeking to positively transform the strained relationship between France and its past colonies, made the following comments about the place of Africans in the modern world:

“The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history … They have never really launched themselves into the future…The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures and the same words… In this realm of fancy … there is neither room for human endeavour nor the idea of progress.” [Reuters, 05/11/2007].

The speech was widely condemned as condescending, ignorant, and retrograde. Some even going so far as saying it exuded a certain “smell of racism”. “Who gave him the right to talk about Africa and Africans in a manner of a master who has the habit of ill-treating his slave?” exclaimed the Cameroonian scholar, Achille Mbembe, in an op-ed about the controversy.

For Ward, Sarkozy’s comments about the scientific backwardness of Africans and their failure to make a mark on the modern world stage is reminiscent of questionable observations by early modern Enlightenment philosophers about the supposedly publicly observable cognitive inferiority of Africans and other non-European people groups. She argues in her inaugural essay for this Issue, that while John Locke (1632 – 1704) expresses racial prejudice towards Africans in his work, his is a form of cultural elitism that does not rise to the level of strong racism communicated by David Hume (1711-1776) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in their own separate writings. Ward argues for the disputed thesis that both writers evinced the kind of attitude towards non-whites that could be interpreted as a form of “biological racism”. This is roughly the view that due primarily or exclusively to their innate biological make-up, black Africans, as an arbitrary racial class, are the least morally and intellectually developed ethnic group of the human species (whites of course standing on top of the racial ladder as the most refined).

It is a mixture of this sort of ‘biological racism’ and ‘cultural elitism’ that, to some extent, animated the discriminatory attitudes and policies of South Africa’s now infamous apartheid regime. With the replacement of the internationally scorned administration with a more representative democracy, demand for all manner of reparatory justice has increasingly been correlated with the growing empowerment of black South Africans. Since late 2015 for example, there has been a burgeoning student-led movement on South African University campuses. The aim of this much-criticized on-campus cacophony has been to create lasting social change through political activism. This has taken the form of demands for a more direct reckoning with the legacy of apartheid in Southern Africa. Activists have called for the removal of incorrigibly respected symbols of apartheid from public spaces (Rhodes Must Fall), the redistribution of arable white-owned land to able-bodied black farmers (Economic Freedom Fighters), and universal access to educational and vocational opportunities for all citizens regardless of color (Fees Must Fall).

The inevitable question that has been raised by the disputants in this political struggle is whether white South Africans should be held collectively responsible for the negative impact of apartheid to this very day. The colourful autocratic President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has made a political career out of stoking resentment against local white minorities by making inflammatory comments and implementing imprudent policies that have most notably resulted in the eviction of white farmers from their land without proper care for the measures needed to uphold genuine transitional justice and increase productivity. For Mugabe and his like-minded supporters, it is almost as though all whites are responsible for the suffering of black Southern Africans, and the repossession of their properties and resources is a fair and long overdue act of moral restitution.

For Oelofsen, the outworking of justice in post-apartheid South Africa is not that simple. Although it is indeed true that certain ethnic groups should take responsibility for the harms committed under apartheid, the matter is complicated by the fact that it is not only ethnic groups as a whole that can be said to bear collective responsibility for the injustices of the regime. For example, a white person with racial prejudice towards black South Africans bears less responsibility for racial harms, such as racially motivated extra-judicial killings, than the person who actually perpetrated those crimes. Similarly, if during the prime time of the apartheid era, a majority of South Africa’s Afrikaner people did not explicitly distance themselves from the regime, then it is reasonable to think that this silent majority bears some responsibility for the resulting harms of that racist government (remember that famous quote about what it takes for evil to prosper?). That doesn’t however mean that all white South Africans ultimately shoulder the same guilt. As Oelofsen explains:

“responsibility under the solidarity model would not make all white people responsible for apartheid, but would rather hold all white people in solidarity with the apartheid government’s beliefs in racial hierarchy responsible. A white person could distance herself from attitudes of racial hierarchy, and as such would not be responsible under the solidarity model. As seen with some white struggle heroes (for example Joe Slovo), some whites need not be a part of the collective in solidarity (…) Once we understand this, it is apparent that according to this model, it would not be a racial group per se that would be collectively responsible; rather it would be those individuals who share particular goals and attitudes as a group”.

For this and other reasons, collective responsibility cannot strictly be divided only along racial lines. There are other factors, such as assent to notions of white supremacy for example, to consider.

Reparation also appears to be more complicated in regards to land ownership in Southern Africa than Mr. Mugabe and his ilk are perhaps prepared to concede. Moore explains that there are three viable means of adjudicating the problem of racial inequality in land ownership in Southern Africa: (1) Respect the property rights of the previous regime by allowing white land owners cognizant of the injustices of the past more freedom in deciding what choices to make concerning the future of their farms; and if intent on leaving, provide full compensation, (2) disgorge the benefits that white farmers have received from the original injustice through robust redistributive taxation, and finally (3) seize their farms without compensation. Of the three possibilities, Mugabe famously opted for the third. The results were devastating:

“Beginning in 2000, the government of Zimbabwe mobilized its supporters to seize and occupy white property. Most whites were expelled from their farms and many have since left the country. Since then, the story has been a deeply unhappy one: production has declined; Zimbabwe has frittered away its established access to markets and infrastructure, which most developing countries could only dream of; and the population remains impoverished and land-hungry. The land reform process was disastrous and muddled: there were bureaucratic mistakes, with some land being seized that were unfarmable, or seized more than once; and the people who were rewarded were mainly Mugabe loyalists and fighters, rather than the original farmers (or their descendants) or farm workers who could make a claim of attachment to the particular piece of land (…) The disastrous effects of the policy have recently been in the news: some land owners have taken the initiative to hire evicted white farmers in a managerial role, in joint profit-sharing arrangements; a practice that Mugabe has condemned as a form of black servitude”.

If we are inclined to agree with the moral principle that ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ then the seizure of white farms without adequate compensation does not properly serve the cause of redressing the colonial abuse of the property rights of blacks. Whether one is happy to accept this moral reality or not, white farmers who are either descendants of the original settlers, or who in the late 1990s purchased unclaimed land without engaging in theft or expulsion of any would-be owners, have over time acquired residency rights that make their unwarranted and uncompensated expulsion from said land a moral wrong. On account of such moral deliberations, Moore argues instead that disgorging the benefits that white farmers have received, while in principle allowing them to retain ownership and residency of their farms, is a more politically tempered and morally acceptable response to recent demands for racial justice in Southern Africa.

One of the ways in which benefactors from affluent countries have sought in modern times to alleviate the suffering on the continent has been to concentrate their efforts on donating resources to aid programs. But as Hassoun recognizes, the global aid regime has in recent years fallen into public disrepute. Scholars, activists and others with a stake in the development of the continent, have argued that the overemphasis on aid has made governments too reliant on foreign help, spurring corruption and handicapping the growth of the private sector, particularly the development of creative business solutions. Aid has also been criticized as a morally lazy way of fuelling a perverse White-Savior Industrial complex. Hassoun has no interest in downplaying the significance of these objections, especially given the fact that these allegations so often find instantiation in the deplorable actions of both charitable organizations and mediating governmental institutions. However, in spite of the widely recognized imperfection of the process of generous giving, Hassoun is convinced that the global humanitarian commitment to fulfilling individuals’ human rights by protecting their ability to live minimally good lives, provides sufficient reason to continue trying to help those most unfortunate to be in circumstances where such help cannot be provided by proximate local benefactors.

As helpful as well-thought out and efficient acts of restitution and aid donation may still turn out to be for both ongoing and potential future crises on the continent, in terms of strict measured development, Ngosso is quick to remind us that “statistics of international organizations, as well as experts’ research, show that most African countries, especially sub-Saharan countries, are still very poor fifty years after the end of colonization and after extensive though unsuccessful aid programs”. Ngosso suggest that what partly makes sense of the perniciousness of poverty in Africa is the fact that the financial debt partly contracted during the colonization period continues to significantly undermine efforts by African countries to achieve lasting economic growth:

“Due to high interest rates for the repayment of these debts, some African countries have devoted and continue to devote a significant part of their financial resources and/or GDP to reimburse their financial debt. In some circumstances, they even contract other debts in order to reimburse some of their current debts. And even when some international programs like the HIPC initiative aiming at a substantial reduction of their sovereign debt are set up, some vulture funds take advantage of this apparent solvency to undermine and make more precarious the efforts of these countries to develop economically. When not cancelled, the sovereign debt of African countries prevents them from rising economically. When it is partially cancelled, it leads to an air appeal that worsens their fragile economic situation”.

In an interesting take on the issue, Ngosso considers the notion of “ecological debt” as a way for certain African nations to get rid of the burdens of financial arrears. Developed in the Latin-American context as an argument against financial debt, ecological debt refers to the dues accrued by Western powers and the conglomerate companies associated with them, for plundering Native American resources and degrading the aboriginal eco-system while enriching themselves at the expense of the environmental sustainability and prosperity of the original residents of Latin America. The ingenious idea here being that such significant ecological debt on the part of Western parties could provide an incentive for Western financial institutions to completely cancel the financial debt of developing countries— especially given that, as some proponents of this idea argue, the ecological debt of the Global North far outweighs the financial debt of the Global South. Ngosso applies this insight to the African context where he argues in his essay that “the very notion of ecological debt pleads for a complete cancellation of the financial and colonial debt of African countries under a distributive approach of justice rather than a compensatory or a corrective approach”.

Ngosso believes that cancelling Africa’s financial debt will greatly ease the overall burdens of developing countries who, lest we forget, have to shoulder not only the international expectation of realizing their old economic development goals while crippled by financial debt, but also meet the new global environmental objectives that will in no certain terms reduce their precious dependence on natural resources. With this predicament in mind, one should not be too surprised if it takes a much longer time than expected for socio-economic progress on the continent to be achieved, even after taking generous aid and growing entrepreneurial industriousness into consideration.

In addition to the economic and environmental expectations placed on African societies by political and diplomatic communities, there has also been increased moral pressure on African governments to uphold certain basic human rights. Included in these moral diplomatic campaigns is the effort to produce a decline in the practice of female genital cutting across the continent. In the past, certain Western academics working on the issue of FGC attracted the ire of African scholars for the irreverence with which they approached the cultural struggles of African women. Carried away in their absolutist zeal to eliminate the tradition, some Western feminists ended up puzzled by the apparent hesitancy on the part of some African women about directly implementing the sorts of changes they thought would lead to the cultural demise of the practice. As the scholar Obioma Nnaemeka was forced to explain in her rebuke of this sort of Western intervention:

“The resistance of African women is not against the campaign to end the practice, but against their dehumanization and the lack of respect and dignity shown to them in the process. For the Western interventionists and insurgents to lay claim to any credibility and legitimacy, they must first put respect and dignity back where they belong”

In her contribution to this Issue, Meyers avoids the trappings of previous arguments against FGC by focusing instead on how to “acknowledge the dignity of persons in unjust socioeconomic contexts and respect their agency”. Her essay emphasizes the agency of African women who work with local and foreign organizations to make decisions in the interest of their families and extended communities. The women who are highlighted in her article are not perpetual victims needing the illumination of Western feminists to understand the immorality of the practice, nor do these women idly wait by for foreign intervention to engender change in their societies. Instead, the women are portrayed as agents of progress within their communities, and larger societies, as evidenced by the positive developments in the fight against FGC in Egypt, Kenya, Senegal and elsewhere on the continent. In the Coptic Christian village of Deir El Barsha (Egypt) for example, a women committee advocacy group composed of married women, and supported by a Christian NGO, performs monthly visits to follow up on health issues, including FGC. Meyer explains that “when a women’s committee member discovered during a home visit that a family intended to have a daughter’s genitals cut, she could call upon a village leader to help persuade the family not to follow through. In the same spirit, the local clergy set an example by publicly announcing that they would not subject their daughters to FGC. Their participation in the anti-FGC proclamation together with their personal vows to refrain from the practice divested FGC of its aura of religious sanctity and encouraged other villagers to follow their lead”. These are the sorts of African-led initiatives that will determine the fate of the controversial practice in the coming decades, and if ultimately abolished, place African women and their allies at the centre of this victory, not the periphery.

A similar kind of condescension is unfortunately involved when well-intentioned helpers, often medical professionals, attempt to downplay or dismiss the atrocities that child soldiers have committed despite the insistence by these children that they feel morally responsible for the horrific things they have done. Thomason believes that this dismissive approach is wrong-headed: “In popular imagination, child soldiers are either brainwashed robotic killers or broken children traumatized by violence. As scholars have shown, neither description is accurate”. Thomason argues that the best way to understand child soldiers is to see them as “morally compromised soldiers”. On the one hand, they are indeed morally responsible for their actions, yet on the other they are also excused from the legal repercussions of their actions. The rationale for this exemption is grounded in the recognition that these are ultimately children who have suffered moral injuries as a result of their abuse and trauma.

For adults who commit such human rights violations, the story is obviously different. Everyone expects such offenders to receive some kind of punishment for their actions. This moral intuition partly explains why the current Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, has been severely criticized for his perceived leniency towards those who participated or were complicit in the Rwandan genocide. In many ways, Kagame’s post-genocide Rwanda has been a relative success, earning the praise of the international community as the rising star of central Africa. Nonetheless, questions still linger about Kagame’s handling of the transition to political stability, particularly his restrictions on political freedom and the extension of his presidential term of service beyond the timeframe originally set by the Rwandan constitution.

Given such valid concerns about the modus operandi of Kagame’s ongoing regime, Kassner believes it is important to ask “how we should assess whether a post-humanitarian crisis situation, like Rwanda, is just?” Eschewing traditional accounts of justice, Kassner opts for a Humean theory of transitional justice which places primacy on the specific circumstances that shape the very context in which the question of fairness is raised. Accordingly, “if we adopt this Humeian understanding of transitional justice, assessing the justice of a specific post-crisis situation will depend on the particular circumstances of the situation in question”. The circumstances surrounding Rwanda’s political transition out of the horrors of the 1994 genocide was one in which Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front had to first establish security and stability before attending to the business of dispensing the appropriate levels of justice required on the way to national moral recovery. With maintaining tranquility in the country as his priority, Kagame did not hesitate to limit certain civil and political rights in order to successfully engineer a moral and economic recovery. This much is understood by Kassner who writes sympathetically:

“Under the circumstances that the Rwandan government found itself in, the stability and security it had achieved was precarious. Since at the outset, the new Rwandan government had been beset by efforts by genocidaires-in-exile and their patrons to unseat the new government. This ranged from accusations that the Rwanda Patriotic Front was responsible for the death of President Habyarimana – which after a thorough investigation proved false – to continuous efforts to mount a military campaign to unseat the new government. Under such circumstances, it would be reasonable to expect that allowing for the level of dissent and criticism found in modern Western liberal democracies would prove deeply harmful to this nascent government and the progress it was achieving. As such, it would be unreasonable to expect the Rwandan government to have allowed such broad civil and political liberties”.

That being said, Kagame’s primary responsibility towards the Rwandan people—to protect them from the threat of violence—did not make him underestimate the difficulty of the reconciliatory task before him either. By all accounts he was proactive in arranging for a judicial and reconciliatory process that would be sensitive to the complex needs of that particular society and at the particular time in which these trials were taking place:

“Once the Rwandan government had established stability and security, there was a growing need to address a number of moral demands related to the nation’s recovery. To be specific, the government had to find a way to enable those complicit in the genocide to live in peace – often times literally – next to their victims. In tension with this demand for reconciliation was a moral demand for retributive and compensatory justice – for the perpetrators of the genocide to be held accountable for their behavior and for those harmed during the genocide to be compensated for their loss. Kagame’s government response to these competing demands was to follow a variety of different, but simultaneously operating tracks. On the one hand the leaders of the genocide were to be subjected to prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Lower-ranking participants and those complicit in the violence would be dealt with through traditional tribal courts known as Gacaca. These local courts did not follow strict legal and evidentiary procedures, nor did they often hand down severe punishments. It is through the Gacaca system that Rwanda sought to achieve both retributive and compensatory justice, and reconciliation”.

With all of the above historical facts in plain view, Kassner is comfortable concluding that: “the choices made and policies enacted by the Rwandan government, when considered under a Humeian perspective on transitional justice and in light of the surrounding circumstances, have satisfied what can be reasonably expected of a community in such circumstances”.

If according to Kassner’s analysis Kagame more or less instituted a just form of transitional justice in Rwanda, that much cannot necessarily be said of other African leaders. For example, in 2006 the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was accused by the International Criminal Court of actively promoting genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan; evading a warrant issued for his arrest in 2010. Emerging after the dual shock of apartheid and the Rwandan genocide, the ICC has successfully prosecuted such notorious figures as former Democratic Republic of Congo Vice-president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who in 2016 was sentenced to 18 years in prison for war crimes. However, in recent times, the institution has fallen out of favour with certain African leaders who accuse the judicial courts of negative bias towards Africans. Davidovic sees the criticism directed at the ICC as an opportunity for the organization to work on reinforcing its social legitimacy at a time where this fairly young court stands as a vitally important means of holding human rights abusers accountable.

Perhaps there might come a time when African leaders do not feature so prominently in the ICC’s bad books, but such a time is not now, nor is it likely to arrive anytime soon, unless there is a radical change in the political structure of many African countries. Some political idealists have toyed with the idea of uniformly applying Western liberal democratic principles to the African context, perhaps as a viable solution to the multifaceted ills that currently afflict the continent. Ikuenobe however, is not particularly enthused with this idea. In his estimation, the odds of successfully adopting Western liberal democracy in Africa are not good. For one, many liberal theories indicate that liberal democracy cannot flourish in multi-ethnic states of the kind created by colonialism. Furthermore, Ikuenobe notes that democratic principles and values of individualism and autonomy are inconsistent with and unadaptable to traditional African principles and values of communalism. In his mind, if such a project is to ever succeed, “it must be engrafted to the traditional cultural structures and communal values” of African societies.

In the meantime, African countries continue to struggle with widespread—though declining—unemployment and poverty. Such unfriendly economic conditions often compel some of Africa’s brightest professionals, especially in the medical and legal fields, to leave their native lands for better paying job opportunities in the West. As the results of many studies in the field of sociology and economics have shown, the consequences of this elite emigration are often damaging. The most repeated effect is seen in the fact that African countries are drained of their most valuable assets, often from places in desperate need of such scarce and expensive skills, while the rich hosts—be it in Europe or North America—strengthen their already well-resourced social service sectors with a surplus of highly skilled workers. Blake outlines the moral problem with this “brain drain” as follows:

“The countries of sub-Saharan Africa, with less money to invest, have found themselves pouring resources into training medical professionals – only to see those professionals use their desirable skills to emigrate to Europe, Australia, and the United States. The outcomes have been deeply disquieting. In 2001, Zimbabwe graduated 40 pharmacists from its University system – and lost 60 to emigration. In 2000, Ghana trained 250 nurses, but saw 500 more leave. These patterns, of course, have led to continued medical shortfalls in the African continent: in Japan, there are 105 physicians per fifty thousand residents, while in Malawi, that same group must make do with only one (…) the absence of a sufficient number of physicians can lead to a predictable and large number of avoidable deaths. Lucas Stanczyk discusses this phenomenon with reference to avoidable deaths during childbirth; every tenth woman in Malawi will require a caesarian section, but with a minuscule number of physicians available, many of those women will die during the birth process. Without even looking to notions like fairness or international distribution, we can simply say: this is morally wrong. It is particularly wrong, of course, when the world actually has enough physicians in it to give everyone adequate medical care. To use the Japanese contrast again: many physicians in Japan work in secondary care – dermatology, cosmetic surgery, and the like. These practices are not unimportant; they do, however, save lives less frequently than primary care in Africa would. One way of showing that the brain drain is wrong, then, is simply by showing that it robs people of the rights to which they are entitled, in a world that could have been arranged so as to allow those rights to be protected”.

Blake reasons that although it is true that perhaps African governments might curb the outflow of highly skilled workers by delaying professional certification until a number of years of national service are undertaken, or straightforwardly banning professionals from leaving the country for a certain period of time, all of these proposals are severely vulnerable to some serious objections. As a consequence of these theoretical difficulties, Blake is candid in admitting that the problem of the brain drain of Africa is one that does not currently appear to be resolvable.

Predicting the future trajectory of emigration out of Africa seems especially difficult now that the West is experiencing a resurgence of right-wing populism. Donald Trump, for example, has promised to restrict access to H1-B and J-1 Visas on which professionals enter the United States. He has also of course famously promised to build a wall in the southern border of the United States, financed by the Mexican state, to prevent Mexican nationals from entering the U.S illegally. The idea of a Mexico-funded border wall has predictably been a cause of derision for his U.S political adversaries, not to mention the confusion of liberal European politicians who often find themselves baffled by the fact that Trump does not seem to realize the political improbability of such an ambitious plan.

As strange as Trump’s vision of American immigration policy may sound to European ears, progressive Europeans have cause not to be complacent about their own changes in the politics of immigration. As recent as September 2016, The United Kingdom’s Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, told MPs that the UK would provide financial support to French authorities for the task of building the so-called “Great Wall of Calais”, a 4 metres high, 1km long fence intended to prevent migrants and refugees camped in Calais’ jungle (many of them of African descent) from entering the UK illegally. Sager believes that such restrictions on already marginalized people find support among politicians, not merely because some of their constituents think it is reasonable and fair to adopt such policies, but more disturbingly, because some academics lend credence to those divisive ideas by defending their merit in scholarly circles. For Sager, intellectuals have a responsibility not to “provide fodder for the xenophobes, racists, and political entrepreneurs who thrive off fear and hate” and instead should “reveal the vicious nature of the migration regime” in order to “articulate and advocate for more freedom of movement to give refugees genuine options to determine their fates”.

Sager’s conception of the public role of academics, particularly political philosophers, in the contentious sphere of immigration politics will understandably not be satisfactory to scholars who think there is not only nothing ethically amiss with defending some version of a close-border policy regarding the current migration crisis, but also believe that such a policy is in fact a sensible one to take given the current situation. Sager’s plea will also, incidentally, not be very persuasive to those who think philosophers should not get involved in politics at all.

Either way, there is bound to be disagreement about how best to help the migrants in Calais, whose welfare some members of the European public do not feel morally responsible for—-precisely because of their intrusion as foreign citizens. Yet, when reflecting on people’s general attitude towards the migrants waiting in limbo in the jungle of Calais, it is instructive to contemplate the fact that when the Dominican Republic not only denationalized but also deported thousands of people of Haitian descent as far back as August 2015, there did not appear to be as much quarrelling outside the heated circles of Dominican punditry about the iniquity of such actions. It seemed pretty clear to most Westerners reading about the case on NPR and other first-world news sources, that what the Dominican Republic was doing was evidently wrong because, for the most part, the people being deported were Dominican citizens who had a right to stay in their country.

Still, people do not seem to have any qualms about the fact that The United States, for example, routinely deports another group of people—immigrants. A defender of closed borders might criticize this line of thinking by arguing that there is nothing puzzling here because there is a relevant difference in this case between the moral obligations that a state has towards citizens and those that it has towards immigrants. Be that as it may, as Hidalgo forcefully points out, the same reasons that condemn the Dominican Republic’s policy of denationalization, namely that it harms the interests of people without adequate justification, also help explain why immigration restrictions on foreigners are unjust. Hidalgo articulates this apparent tension by saying:

“Deportation inflicts harms on migrants. But so do border controls. Immigration restrictions that prevent people from entering other states help trap people in situations of poverty, insecurity, and violence. These restrictions enable harm to potential immigrants by stopping them from improving their lives. The standard arguments for immigration restrictions say that states can permissibly restrict entry because citizens have rights to self-determination or because these laws are necessary to protect citizens from the costs of immigration. If restrictions on entry are justified for these reasons, then it is unclear how we can rule out compatriot deportation in principle. The arguments that justify coercing and harming potential immigrants can likewise justify deporting and denationalizing citizens”.

In the unfortunate case of Dominicans of Haitian descent, in addition to being separated from everything that they know and adore (including friends and family), the harm of deportation will be that many of them will return to an environment that is now completely foreign to them and not equipped with the same sorts of social mechanisms that would have enabled them to thrive back in the Dominican Republic. To give you an example, the economic situation in Haiti is far more degraded than it is in the DR; which was fortunate enough to be spared a major earthquake and a lethal cholera outbreak. In such a harsher social environment, and without the social connections needed to get ahead in many third world countries, the deported population of Haiti would likely see a breakdown in their standards of living.

Calamities such as natural disasters and widespread sickness are also familiar to the people of Sierra Leone, who stoically endured eleven years of civil war, only to find themselves twelve years later at the centre of a global health crisis. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa spread furiously across the region, leaving a record number of deaths and precipitating an economic downturn. In response to this aggravating tragedy, several NGOs—bringing with them many heroic medical professionals—-rushed to Sierra Leone, Liberia and other seriously affected areas to help the tormented residents, often at the cost of their own lives. So it was with Doctor Kent Brantly, who contracted the disease while engaged in missionary work in Liberia, but lived to tell the tale. Dr. Brantly was the primary care taker of his elderly parents in the United States, but did not hesitate to go beyond financial donations and leave his parents in the care of others in order to more directly help the people of Liberia. Crisp calls this kind of compassion “agent-focused and impartial (AFI)”: “This conception, in its pure form, places no normative weight on personal relationships, and is hence impartial”.

He also proposes two other conceptions of the virtue of compassion to help answer the question “when is it appropriate to feel compassion and to act on that compassion?” They are “agent-focused and partial (AFP) compassion” and “outcome-focused and impartial (OFI) compassion”. With AFP a person feels compassion “in proportion to her connection with or relation to others. If one of her close relatives or friends is ill, for example, she may be deeply moved, and exert herself considerably to provide assistance”. With OFI on the other hand, “compassion is also impartial, but it puts no weight on the agent providing the help herself”. That is to say that a person expressing OFI is open to helping in anyway possible, whether it requires her direct involvement or not. Hence, she might self-fund a trip to West Africa and assist strangers dying from Ebola (AFI-compassion), or might rush to the aid of sick ex-colleagues living in Liberia to help them recover from the sickness (AFP- compassion). However, she doesn’t necessarily have to “get her hands dirty”; this same person might be satisfied with simply giving money to “Doctors Without Borders” as a contribution to efforts to alleviate the suffering in West Africa. Either way, she is focused on achieving a positive outcome whatever the means involved. Crisp explains that of the three conceptions of the virtue of compassion, the sort of AFI-compassion displayed by Dr. Brantly and others tends to receive the most praise because it often involves great sacrifice.

Sacrifice is indeed was what required from many people affected by the Ebola disease. Many local communities had to grapple with the societal implications of the many fatalities produced at frightening rate by the disease, especially as it tore families apart. So-called “Ebola Orphans”, for example, presented a unique set of problems for governmental authorities. Those were children who lost parents through Ebola, and were now facing social isolation for not only surviving this ordeal but also proactively seeking help from other adult relatives. As Holtman explains “having lost parents and other adult relatives to the disease, many now faced life without adequate physical, emotional and educational support because these deaths have also undermined or overwhelmed the community practices and state systems that typically provide for orphaned children”. Adopting a Kantian approach to this sensitive issue, Holtman asks what moral obligations do individuals, states or institutions have towards these orphaned children? Her take on this issue is that, at least from a Kantian perspective, the welfare of these children is primarily the responsibility of caring adults in the community who must use their discernment to ensure that in the process of caring for these children, they do not put themselves and others at risk of infection. This is where both local and international organizations must band together to facilitate the process of care giving by providing educational information, medical support, and resources to help caregivers set the orphaned on the right track.

Since the outbreak of the epidemic, Christian churches have been at the forefront of the fight against Ebola, with many parishioners rising above local fears to attend to the needs of those—such as Ebola orphans—most neglected by society. The Wall Street Journal featured a story about a Liberian church in Joe Blow town where parishioners had been dying in the process of caring for the sick. Many of the caretakers opted for “hands-on” healing by divine intervention rather than using the tools of modern medicine. This created a clash of faith and science, leading some to ask how responsible it is to resort to prayer when medical solutions are available. Mumford laments such deaths, as in his mind at least, there does not appear to be any inconsistency between believing in the supernatural power of God and believing in the efficacy of medicine. As he notes “There are many people who are both religious and trust in science, including medical science”.

However, in cases where science and religion are obviously in conflict, due to the insistence of some religious folks to rely solely on prayer, then abandoning science can be a very unwise and dangerous course of action. Ultimately, one must ask of people what they want in such situations. Is the end goal the survival and rehabilitation of the sick? If so, Mumford suggests that perhaps in deciding how to help the sick we should look to which approach gets the best results:

“Statistically, there is no doubt that those who trusted in science had the best chance of surviving and preventing the Ebola disease from spreading wider among their communities. The scientific approach succeeded, controlling and containing the virus. The disease was stopped, so surely this was a huge success for science. In contrast, those who ignored the scientific approach, trusting in the power of prayer, were not protected and did not survive an exposure to the illness in as big numbers. Isn’t this a proof of who was right?”

Perhaps it is, but as Wiebe indicates in his essay contribution, belief in the supernatural, whether in the existence of benevolent or malevolent spirits, can be incorporated into a critical scientific study of paranormal phenomena. It is possible to have an open-mind about the existence of immaterial entities and their causal involvement in the physical world while relying on retroduction and other indirect methods to test such speculative theories. Again, this scientific study of religious phenomena might be possible, but why believe in the existence of a world beyond the observations of the physical sciences, when in the case of so many Africans—not simply those in West Africa who just defeated the most destructive epidemic of modern times—- the reality of gratuitous suffering in the world provides evidence against the existence of God? McBrayer explains that a possible reason why Africans are currently the most religious people in the world despite the unique pain that they have suffered in the past two centuries, is because their conception of morality is inextricably bound to the divine order. Without God, morality and therefore evil in the world are meaningless. But then again, this begs the question: why should it be so? Why think there is a God in the first place to give meaning to moral actions? Shouldn’t Africans disabuse themselves of such superstition in light of the continual suffering they endure at the hands of both human and natural agents of destruction? In answering this question, McBrayer appeals to the character enhancing bi-product of hardship:

“Some philosophers have argued that experiences of evil either provide a kind of special insight into the world or remove a blinder to the world that results from a life of pleasure. Christian scriptures are filled with examples of God revealing himself to the lowly and the suffering instead of the well-positioned and comfortable (…) The idea is that creature comforts mask a genuine need for God in our lives. Constant pleasure is a constant distraction from what ultimately matters. Orienting human lives towards things of lasting importance requires disruption. And pain is one of the most powerful disruptions you could ask for. For myself, I find something plausible about this reply. As a father of two sons, I think I would fail them if I arranged things so that they were in states of constant pleasure. Learning to be mature, virtuous people who rightly prioritize things of ultimate significance requires that they endure hardships, struggles, and shortcomings. Perhaps even pain. And if this is right, then it would come as no surprise that people who experience more pain might be attracted to theism and the promises that come with it”.

Two thinkers who were well acquainted with Africa’s history of suffering were the Marxist pan-Africanists George Padmore (1903 – 1959) and C.L.R. James (1901 – 1989). James and Høgsbjerg close this discussion of Africa and the diaspora with an exploration of the political philosophy of both men, and the insights they may be able to bring to current Afro-Caribbean movements for justice and equality; projects themselves dedicated to ending black suffering in the world.


Article #1: “The Roots Of Modern Racism: Early Modern Philosophers On Race” by Julie K. Ward (Loyola University).

Contemporary European and American politicians continue to make speeches about Africa and Africans containing negatively charged allusions and ideas that seem to belong to past centuries’ thinking about non-Europeans. The use of derogatory images of ‘the other’ is, of course, not new: in 5th cen. B. C. E. period, classical Greek thinkers strove to define themselves in contradistinction from the Persian ‘barbarian.’ Later in the 17th and 18th cen. Enlightenment period, various European and English thinkers attempted a similar task, describing the inhabitants of Africa and the Americas in ways that compromised their status as human beings. The present essay seeks to examine the ways in which racial concepts about non-European ‘others’ entered the thinking of three leading Enlightenment thinkers, John Locke, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant.

Dr. Julie Ward is currently Professor in the Philosophy Department at Loyola University, Chicago, where she teaches Greek philosophy, ethics, and political philosophy. Along with her research in Greek philosophy, she has a long-standing interest in philosophical race theory. She has co-edited Philosophers on Race: Critical Essays with Tommy Lott (Blackwell, 2002), authored Aristotle on Homonymy: Dialectic and Science (Cambridge, 2008), and edited Feminism and Ancient Philosophy (Routledge, 1996), as well as articles on Greek philosophy, feminism, and history of race theory.

Article #2: “On Collective Responsibility: Who Is Responsible For The Legacy Of Apartheid?” by Rianna Oelofsen (University of Fort Hare).

In the South African context, a question which has recently resurfaced with student and political organizations such as the Fees Must Fall (FMF) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), is whether ‘whites’ can and should be held collectively responsible for the legacy of apartheid. With calls by these organizations demanding that white people “give back the land”, it is necessary to ask who should take responsibility for the harms committed under apartheid which still affect the South African social and political landscape today. This article suggests that though it is right that certain race groups ought to be held responsible for the apartheid legacy, the matter is complicated as it is not only race groups that can be said to bear collective responsibility.

Dr Rianna Oelofsen is a lecturer at the University of Fort Hare. She was the secretary for the International Society for African Philosophy and Studies (ISAPS) from 2014 – 2016. She is also secretary for the South African Centre of Phenomenology since 2012. Oelofsen completed her PhD dissertation, entitled ‘Afro-Communitarianism and the Nature of Reconciliation’ in 2013. She held research positions during the duration of her PhD studies at the Centre for Applied Public Policy and Ethics (CAPPE) at the Australian National University in Canberra, as well as at the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in Ireland.

Article #3: “Zimbabwe Land Reform & Corrective Justice: Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right” by Margaret Moore (Queen’s University).

This essay argues that the basic terms in which the debate on land reform has been conducted in Zimbabwe – solely in terms of property rights – is insufficient, because it fails to capture the full nature of the wrongs of colonialism.  The essay considers three views often held concerning what to do about white farmers, who unjustly held land there:  full compensation; no –compensation; and a disgorge the benefit (of injustice) view. It presents reasons why the first two views are not appropriate, and argues in favour of the third.  Along the way it discusses problems connected to compensation; whether that value ought to include (white) improvement, whether people can be expected to know the illegitimate provenance of their land holdings; and the requirements of distributive justice and individual residency rights, which constrain the corrective justice remedy that is appropriate.

Margaret Moore is Professor in the Political Studies department at Queen’s University, where she teaches political philosophy. She is the author of A Political Theory of Territory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), which has been the subject of a number of workshops, panels and journal discussions.  She has published two earlier books, both with Oxford University Press:  Foundations of Liberalism and Ethics of Nationalism, as well as edited or co-edited three volumes and a special journal issue. She has written articles in journals such as Political Theory, Political Studies, Philosophical Studies, International Theory, Journal of Social Philosophy and Ethics & International Affairs. Her current work is on norms of the international system, such as sovereignty, human rights, boundary-drawing, and territorial claims.  She currently holds a SSHRCC Insight grant on corrective justice and land.

Article #4: “On Aid For Africa: Overcoming The Challenges And Realizing The Opportunity” by Nicole Hassoun (Binghamton University).

The tide has turned against aid to Africa but, despite the challenges, there is reason to try hard to help those in need. Doing so is necessary to fulfill individuals’ human rights and help everyone live a minimally good life. Understanding why we should give aid is not only important for making the case for aid to Africa; it is also important for realizing aid’s promise.

Nicole Hassoun is a residential fellow with the Hope & Optimism Project at Cornell University and an associate professor in philosophy at Binghamton University. From 2006-2012 she was an assistant professor in philosophy at Carnegie Mellon University, affiliated with Carnegie Mellon’s Program on International Relations and the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Bioethics and Health Law. In 2009-2010 she held a postdoctoral position at Stanford University and visited at the United Nation’s World Institute for Development Economics Research in Helsinki. She has also been a visiting scholar at the Center for Poverty Research in Salzburg, The Franco-Swedish Program in Philosophy and Economics in Paris and the Center for Advanced Studies in Frankfurt. She has published more than fifty papers in journals like the American Philosophical Quarterly, Journal of Development Economics, The Journal of Applied Ethics, The American Journal of Bioethics, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Public Affairs Quarterly, The European Journal of Philosophy, Environmental Ethics, the Journal of Social Philosophy, Utilitas, and Philosophy and Economics. Her first book Globalization and Global Justice: Shrinking Distance, Expanding Obligations was published with Cambridge University Press in 2012 and her manuscript Global Health Impact: Extending Access on Essential Medicines for the Poor is under contract with Oxford University Press. Professor Hassoun also heads the Global Health Impact project intended to extend access to medicines to the global poor (Global Health Impact). The project launched at the World Health Organization in January 2015 and has been featured on National Public Radio (New effort ranks drugmakers by impact). The Wall Street Journal (A New Index Measures Impact Pharma Has on Infectious Diseases) and Capital New York (SUNY professor indexes pharma companies’ impact). The project is intended to assist policy makers in setting targets for and evaluating efforts to increase access to essential medicines.

Article #5: “Ecological Debt Versus Financial Debt In The African Context: What Type Of Justice Is Required?” by Thierry Ngosso (University of St. Gallen).

In this article I argue that if the strategy of connecting ecological debt and financial debt inherited by colonized countries from the South, especially African countries, appears a priori attractive, it will nonetheless be fraught with problematic consequences that could render it counter-productive. But this seemingly precarious link, which could be a kind of “original sin” of the concept of ecological debt, does not deprive us of an effective “redemption strategy” that will help us question this idea of ecological debt from the standpoint of justice. Although the idea of ecological debt is not the best argument against the odious financial debt contracted during colonization, it remains an interesting philosophical concept to assess both the significant connection between economic development and intergenerational justice in Africa, and the necessity to cancel the colonial financial debt of Africans.

Dr. Thierry Ngosso is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Business Ethics. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Louvain (Belgium). The title of his dissertation was “Purposes and Moral Obligations of Firms” where he advocates the need to move from Business Ethics to a political philosophy of firms that connects corporate social responsibility to the idea of justice. Ngosso’s research focuses particularly on business ethics, moral philosophy and political philosophy. He is currently writing a habilitation on “Firms and Climate Responsibility” at the Institute for Business Ethics of the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Thierry Ngosso is also visiting professor of Moral and Political Philosophy at the Catholic University of Central Africa in Yaoundé (Cameroon) as well as visiting professor of Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Ethics at EDHEC Business School at Lille (France).

Article #6: “Contesting Female Cutting In Africa: Successful Strategies & Future Hopes” by Diana Tietjens Meyers (University of Connecticut, Storrs).

Female genital cutting remains widespread in Africa, for it is embedded in the gender norms and religious beliefs of diverse cultures. Yet, because African governments and civil society leaders rightly consider it harmful, it is imperative to identify FGC abandonment programs that are effective and that respect the dignity of the individuals who are subject to FGC. Mindful that autonomous agency and realized human rights are always situated in particular social contexts, I defend anti-FGC programs that pivot on women’s self-determination and that frame FGC as a human rights issue. The essay has three parts. Section 1 sketches some conceptual issues concerning FGC in Africa, examines the weakness of law as an antidote to FGC there, and flags some discursive obstacles anti-FGC activists must overcome. Section 2 outlines several programs that have had notable success in prompting women and men to abandon FGC – one in Kenya, one in Senegal, and one in Egypt. Section 3 identifies and defends four philosophical assumptions that underwrite these successful anti-FGC initiatives – the plasticity of culture, the competencies needed for autonomy, the adaptability of human rights to diverse socioeconomic contexts, and the indivisibility of human rights.

Diana Tietjens Meyers is Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. She has held the Laurie Chair in Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University and the Ignacio Ellacuría Chair of Social Ethics at Loyola University, Chicago. She currently works in four main areas of philosophy – philosophy of action, feminist ethics, aesthetics, and human rights. Her most recent monograph is Victims’ Stories and the Advancement of Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2016). Her most recent edited collection is Poverty, Agency, and Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 2014). Her website is

Article #7: “Seeing Child Soldiers As Morally Compromised Warriors: The Ambiguous Moral Responsibility Of Child Soldiers” by Krista K. Thomason (Swarthmore College).

In popular imagination, child soldiers are either brainwashed robotic killers or broken children traumatized by violence. As scholars have shown, neither description is accurate. Yet questions about whether and how we should hold child soldiers responsible for their actions remain. Although legal responsibility often seems to be the more pressing issue, in this article I take up the question of moral responsibility. It can seem cruel to suggest that child soldiers are morally responsible for their actions, but when we examine the first-person accounts of former child soldiers, we often find that they hold themselves responsible for their actions. It is tempting to think that their feelings are simply misguided or a result of their trauma. I argue instead that child soldiers, like adult ex-combat soldiers, suffer moral injury. As such, their feelings of responsibility are part of the process of redrawing the boundaries of their moral agency. 

Krista K. Thomason is an assistant professor of Philosophy and a member of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Swarthmore College. Her main areas of research are moral psychology, Kant’s practical philosophy, and issues in human rights. Some of her other work appears in Kantian Review, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, and Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. You can follow her on Twitter @kkthomason.

Article #8: “Transitional Justice & Rwanda: David Hume & The Limits Of Jus Post Bellum” by Joshua Kassner (University of Baltimore).

Over two decades have passed since Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Front brought an end to the genocide that left over 800,000 Tutsis and Tutsi-sympathizers dead. Much has changed in Rwanda, and the Kagame government continues to be lauded for its successes. However, just as frequently, Kagame faces criticism from many in the international community for failing to respect the human rights of Rwandans, and for not holding those who participated in or were complicit in the genocide or the subsequent revenge killings fully accountable. But how should we assess whether a post-humanitarian crisis situation, like Rwanda, is just? Here I answer both the more abstract philosophical/ethical question and apply the approach defended to the circumstances of Rwanda. I begin by rejecting approaches grounded in either jus post bellum or orthodox accounts of political justice, and then defend the proposition that we ought to adopt a philosophical understanding – in particular a Humeian one – in our assessment of justice post-humanitarian crisis. Finally, I apply this Humeian understanding to post-genocide Rwanda. Concluding that much depends on what Kagame and his government do now that they have amended the constitution to allow him to run for a third term.

Joshua Kassner earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Maryland (2007). In 2008 he joined the faculty of the Division of Legal, Ethical, and Historical Studies at the University of Baltimore where he teaches courses in ethics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of law. His research is focused on the global arena with specific interests in the self-determination of peoples, global justice, and the role normative principles (moral and legal) ought to play in the practical deliberations of states. He has published articles on global justice and international political theory, and has published a book with Edinburgh University Press arguing that humanitarian intervention can be morally obligatory – Rwanda and the Moral Obligation of Humanitarian Intervention (2012). Currently, he is working on a number of projects including a book on the moral nature and limits of state sovereignty.

Article #9: “The International Criminal Court & Africa: Is The ICC’s Alleged Negative Bias Towards African Countries Undermining Its Legitimacy?” by Jovana Davidovic (University of Iowa).

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has recently come under criticism due to its alleged negative bias toward African countries. ICC has so far opened ten investigations into various situations in the world, nine of which are of African countries. Some call ICC’s focus on Africa an obsession and see it as yet another tool that the West uses to oppress Africa and the developing world. Some world leaders have even called for states to abandon the Court and its mission. I think and argue that such calls are premature. I argue that the ICC is a relatively young court with an incredibly important mission. I further argue that alternatives to the ICC face many of the same problems as the ICC, if not more. Finally, I argue that the ICC and its proponents should nonetheless take the above criticism seriously, in part because of the unparalleled importance of social legitimacy for a court like the ICC.

Jovana Davidovic is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Iowa, working in the fields of military ethics, philosophy of law and political philosophy. Before coming to the University of Iowa, Jovana was a Research Associate at the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics in Canberra, Australia, where she worked on the Australian Research Council Discovery project “Jus Post Bellum and Transitional Justice”. Her publications include works on humanitarian military interventions, international law, transitional justice, human rights and the legal and moral status of combatants. She is particularly interested in questions regarding proportionality in war, international criminal law and conceptual questions regarding human rights.

Article #10: “The Prospects Of Western Liberal Democracy In Africa: Exorcizing The Ghost Of Colonialism And Going Back To Communal Tradition” by Polycarp Ikuenobe (Ken State University).

This essay argues that the prospects of successfully adopting Western liberal democracy in Africa are not good. I indicate that colonialism has contributed to some fundamental African problems that have made liberal democracy difficult to adopt. These problems include immobile colonial social structures, anomalous attitudes and values, and lack of national integration. Many liberal theories indicate that liberal democracy cannot succeed in multi-ethnic states, which colonialism created in Africa. Moreover, the liberal democratic principles and values of individualism and autonomy are inconsistent with and unadaptable to traditional African principles and values of communalism. I critically examine some liberal democratic principles, such as, tolerance and the distinction between public and private realms that could address African problems; I argue that they are implausible. I suggest that elements of Kymlicka’s idea of ‘liberal multiculturalism’, and Taylor’s idea of ‘politics of recognition’ might be plausible solutions. However, I argue that in order for democracy to succeed in African states, it must be engrafted to the traditional cultural structures and communal values.

Polycarp Ikuenobe is a Professor of Philosophy at Kent State University. He obtained his Ph.D in philosophy at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA. He has more than thirty years of University teaching experience in Nigeria, Botswana, and the United States. His areas of teaching and research are African philosophy, Philosophy of Law, Social and Political philosophy, Moral philosophy, Informal Logic, and Critical Thinking. He has published in all these areas extensively in reputable philosophy journals and book chapters. Notably, he is the editor of six books and author of Philosophical Perspectives on Communalism and Morality in African Traditions, Lexington Books, 2006.

Article #11: “Leaving Africa: Justice, Development, And The Brain Drain” by Michael Blake (University of Washington).

Emigration from Africa has had profound, and frequently negative, consequences for African development; the emigration of medical professionals has been particularly damaging, as many health workers take their scare (and expensive) skills and use them in already well-developed societies in Europe and North America. The moral question that must be asked is whether or not we are permitted to stem this tide, and if so, what means are open to us in the effort. This article surveys some positions about how we might mark out the limits of permissible restrictions on emigration, and asks whether or not the future of African development is likely to make this question more or less relevant in the future. The conclusions of the article are not positive; despite some positive signals, African development is likely to make the moral question of the brain drain relevant – and thorny – for many years to come.

Michael Blake is Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy, and Governance at the University of Washington. He received a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Toronto, and a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford University. He obtained some legal training from Yale Law School, before running away to become a philosopher. He writes on global justice, migration, and the relationship between the two. His most recent book is Debating Brain Drain: May Governments Restrict Emigration? (Oxford: 2014, with Gillian Brock).

According to the UN, 65.3 million forcibly displaced people languish in camps and slums or make desperate journeys toward safety. The global community has not only failed to help many of these people; in many cases it has actively obstructed them from finding security and a new home for themselves and their families. Moral responsibilities to refugees are not exhausted by policies and actions. They also extend to how to think about the refugee crisis. Pundits, politicians, and political philosophers have failed to live up to these responsibilities by perpetuating populist myths about the causes of refugees’ flight, and the policies that prevent them from resuming their lives.

Alex Sager is Associate Professor of Philosophy and University Studies at Portland State University. His main research program is in applied political philosophy on topics surrounding migration. He seeks to develop and defend a cosmopolitan account of the ethics of migration that moves beyond methodological nationalism and Eurocentrism. His edited collection The Ethics and Politics of Migration: Core Issues and Emerging Trends (Rowman & Littlefield International) appears in October.

Article #13: “On The Ethics Of Deporting Citizens: The Case Of The Dominican Republic” by Javier Hidalgo (University of Richmond). 

The Dominican Republic has recently denationalized and deported thousands of people of Haitian descent and this policy has attracted widespread criticism from human rights groups. It may seem obvious that the denationalization and deportation of citizens is unjust. However, states routinely deport another group of people—immigrants. Moreover, many people think that states have rights to exclude foreigners and remove them from their territories. In this essay, I argue that the same reasons that condemn the Dominican Republic’s policy of denationalization also ground an objection to immigration restrictions. The deportation and denationalization of citizens is unjust because it inflicts harm on people without adequate justification. But immigration restrictions can also inflict wrongful harm on foreigners. I consider some possible differences between a policy of deporting citizens and immigration restrictions, and I contend that these differences fail to explain why compatriot deportation is objectionable while the deportation and exclusion of immigrants is permissible.

Javier Hidalgo is an assistant professor in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. He specializes in political philosophy and applied ethics with a focus on the ethics of immigration. He earned his PhD at Princeton University in 2011.

Article #14: “On Compassion For Suffering & The Fight Against Ebola: When Is It Appropriate To Feel & Act On Compassion?” by Roger Crisp (Oxford University). 

Compassion is unusual among feelings or emotions, in that the same English word is used for the feeling and for the corresponding virtue. That may be because it is generally thought good to feel compassion. That’s doubtful, as one can be ‘over-compassionate’. I want to suggest in this essay that this excessive vice may be exemplified in some of the responses we have seen to Ebola. I will explore three conceptions of the virtue of compassion as a way to figure out when it is appropriate to feel compassion and to act on that compassion, especially in response to the moral demands of the Ebola crisis.

Professor Roger Crisp is Uehiro Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University. He is the author of multiple scholarly articles and books, including How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues (Clarendon Press, 1996), Virtue Ethics (Clarendon Press, 1997 edited with Michael Slote), Mill on Utilitarianism (Routledge, 1997) and Reasons and The Good (Oxford University Press, 2006).

Article #15: “Kant & Moral Responsibility Towards Ebola Orphans: What Moral Obligations Do We Have To The Children Orphaned By Ebola?” by Sarah Holtman (University of Minnesota).

The recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa has left thousands dead and wrought havoc on systems and practices that serve basic human needs. Ebola orphans are victims of both aspects of this tragedy. For having lost parents and other adult relatives to the disease, many now face life without adequate physical, emotional and educational support because these deaths have also undermined or overwhelmed the community practices and state systems that typically provide for orphaned children. Appealing to insights gleaned from Immanuel Kant’s moral and political theories, I here examine the nature of individual, state and international obligations to these children and apply conclusions to a particularly vexed question. My arguments are not ones the historical Kant would have endorsed in all respects but are, I think, in the spirit of his larger theory. My Kant-based conclusions apply not only to the Ebola epidemic, but also to issues of responsibility for children’s welfare more generally.

Sarah Holtman is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She holds a JD from the University of Virginia and a PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A specialist in Kant’s practical philosophy, and in moral, political and legal philosophy more generally, the principal questions on which she works lie at the borders of moral, legal and political theory and draw inspiration from Kant’s normative theory. Holtman’s published articles have appeared in anthologies including The Blackwell Guide to Kant’s Ethics and in journals such as Ethics, Kant-Studien, American Philosophical Quarterly, Kantian Review, Social Theory and Practice and Utilitas. Many of these address the nature and limits of Kant’s moral and political theories, offer Kant-based extensions of these theories or provide in-depth discussion of questions more briefly considered here.

Article #16: “Miracles & Ebola: Can We Trust In God’s Wisdom When Facing A Desperate Health Situation?” by Stephen Mumford (University of Nottingham). 

Prayer is no simple matter. A request for a Godly intervention is asking for a miracle, where a miracle is a natural event that has a supernatural cause. A prayer, then, would be a natural event that has a supernatural effect. But when it comes to health, how responsible is it to resort to prayer if other solutions are on offer?

Stephen Mumford is Professor of Metaphysics in the Department of Philosophy and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Nottingham, UK, as well as Professor II at Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB). He is the author of Dispositions (Oxford, 1998), Russell on Metaphysics (Routledge, 2003), Laws in Nature (Routledge, 2004), David Armstrong (Acumen, 2007), Watching Sport: Aesthetics, Ethics and Emotion (Routledge, 2011), Getting Causes from Powers (Oxford, 2011 with Rani Lill Anjum), Metaphysics: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2012) and Causation: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2013, with Rani Lill Anjum). He is editor of George Molnar’s posthumous Powers: a Study in Metaphysics (Oxford, 2003) and co-editor of Metaphysics and Science (Oxford, 2013 with Matthew Tugby). His PhD was from the University of Leeds in 1994 and he has been at Nottingham since 1995 having served as Head of the Department of Philosophy and Head of the School of Humanities.

Article #17: “Devils & The Supernatural: Is Belief In “Spooky Stuff” Reasonable For Western Minds?” by Phillip Wiebe (Trinity Western University).

This paper outlines a defense for the existence of spirits, including devils and benign beings. It highlights the significance of retroduction as methodology, of theories that postulate objects that might not be observable, and of indirect methods of testing such speculative theories. It is empirically based, and features several phenomena from both medieval and modern times. It offers an overview of theories in the natural and social sciences, and finds a place for Religion in a conceptual framework that is usually used to defend physicalism. It places Religion in the context of a critical study of paranormal phenomena.

Phillip. H. Wiebe is the author of Visions of Jesus: Direct Encounters from the New Testament to Today (Oxford UP 1997) & God and Other Spirits: Intimations of Transcendence in Christian Experience (Oxford UP 2004), and “Religious Experience, Cognitive Science, and the Future of Religion,” in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science, pp. 502-22, ed. Philip Clayton and Zachary Simpson (Oxford UP, 2006).

Article #18: “Africa & The Problem Of Evil: Is It Reasonable For Africans To Believe In God?” by Justin McBrayer (Fort Lewis College). 

The dominance of Islam and Christianity in Africa indicates that most Africans, whether Muslim or Christian, likely believe in God. The rate of African theism raises two questions: why is it so and should it be so? The first is descriptive: why is belief in God so widespread despite the poverty, sickness, exploitation, violence, and post-colonial racism that plague the continent? The second is normative: is belief in God reasonable for Africans, especially given what seems like a powerful argument from evil?

Justin McBrayer is an associate professor of philosophy at Fort Lewis College. He joined the college in 2008. Dr. McBrayer presents and publishes widely in such journals as International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Religious Studies, and Philosophical Studies, and at conferences and programs around the world, such as the Central European University Summer Program on Moral Intuitionism, Epistemological and Methodological Aspects, the American Philosophical Association national and regional meetings, and the Rocky Mountain Ethics Conference. He is the past chair of the Mountain-Pacific regional committee of the Society of Christian Philosophers and is an ad-hoc reviewer for many journals, including American Philosophical Quarterly, Episteme, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, and Journal of Analytic Theology. He was named Fulbright Scholar at the University of Innsbruck, Austria for fall term 2016.

Article #19: “Activating The Past: George Padmore And The Historical Present” by Leslie James (University of Birmingham).

This article examines the political philosophy of the pan-African Marxist, George Padmore. It relates Padmore’s thinking about education, the use of history in the present, leadership and pan-African unity to the issues raised by the Rhodes Must Fall, Fees Must Fall, and Black Lives Matter movements around the world. While Padmore’s political and intellectual work grappled with similar overarching questions and issues, the article suggests that the most relevant aspect of his political philosophy for Africa today is less any specific argument, idea, or programme, but his practice. Padmore’s philosophy, which married dialogue with action, also stands as one of Africa’s greatest strength today.

Leslie James is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Birmingham. She has recently published articles on British racism and black anti-colonial activism in Callaloo [], and on black radical print networks in African Print Cultures []. She is the author of George Padmore and Decolonization from Below (Palgrave, 2015) and co-editor of Decolonization and the Cold War (Bloomsbury, 2015).

Article #20: “A Mine Of Ideas Advancing Far Ahead Of Its Time: Reflections On C.L.R. James’s History Of Pan-African Revolt And Its Legacy For Africa Today” by Christian Høgsbjerg (University of Leeds).

This essay examines C.L.R. James’s pioneering 1938 anti-imperialist work, A History of Negro Revolt, which analysed various social movements and struggles across the African diaspora from a Marxist perspective, and explores what the relevance of this work might have been for liberation struggles in post-colonial Africa today.

To mark seventy-five years of pioneering anti colonial and historiography-shifting work, C.L.R. Jamesâ??s The Black Jacobins, a major international two-day conference at the International Slavery Museum and Bluecoat Arts Centre, Liverpool was organised. Ever since The Black Jacobins transformed the way colonial history was written, this single work has for seventy-five years dominated all studies of the Haitian Revolution and decolonization.

Christian Høgsbjerg is a historian who works at the University of Leeds. He is the author of ‘C.L.R. James in Imperial Britain’ (Duke University Press, 2014) and has edited and co-edited various works relating to or by C.L.R. James, including the forthcoming The Black Jacobins Reader (Duke University Press, 2016)


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  • Karl Young

    Though I’m sure this is hopelessly naive, why couldn’t there be a connection between two of the issues discussed above, i.e. less paternalistic aid going towards less coercive methods to address the brain drain. E.g. requiring some sort of compensation, perhaps going toward educational fees and increased pay in the country suffering the drain, from countries that benefit from the drain, might provide slight but less individually coercive barriers against the drain. I assume that one of the problems with something like that would be powerful resistance from the institutions that benefit from the drain but I assume that there are probably other show stoppers as well.

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Trinidad-born journalist Cyril Lionel Robert James (1901 ? 1989), 1989. (Photo by Steve Pyke/Getty Images)Committee chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) holds a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the George W. Bush presidency, called "Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitation", on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 25, 2008.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst   (UNITED STATES) - RTX84D9