Sirkku Hellsten

“African philosophy opened my eyes to new ideas and made me see the world from a new perspective. It all started when I was on a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of South Florida and got involved in a development ethics program. I met some very distinguished African philosophers like Professor Kwasi Wiredu from Ghana. This inspired me to do some of my post-doc research at the University of Dar es Salaam. I was going to stay for a year or two, but was later asked to help set up their philosophy program. I ended up staying almost fifteen years in Africa, in different positions. I think any study about African development must start with understanding African historical, cultural and intellectual background. Especially when you are teaching philosophy and ethics you need to have a very open mind and always be open for dialogue.

In my current research related to African political ideologies I try to balance an African collective, holistic approach with western liberal, individualistic ideas. I have come to question many of my own original ideas and principles. While Africa has many challenges I have also grown more critical of how we see things here in the west. There are big gaps in our reasoning. If you look at issues like climate change and the refugee crisis we are not thinking, or acting, very logically. And our concept of development is unsustainable as long as it is based for the most part on the principle of economic growth.”

Sirkku Hellsten, Senior Researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute

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