SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Imafidon, Elvis (2018) 'Dealing with the Trauma of a Loss: Interrogating the Feminine Experience of Coping with Spouse’s Death in African Traditions.' In: Chimakonam, Jonathan O. and de Toit, Louise, (eds.), African Philosophy and the Epistemic Marginalization of Women. London: Routledge, pp. 89-106. (Routledge African Studies)

Text - Accepted Version
Download (386kB) | Preview


Dying as a human event is directly experienced by the dying subject. But death – the state of being dead – is directly experienced and dealt with by the living particularly those closest to the one who had died. Such persons are often traumatised and needs to be supported to cope with the death of a close relative. Philosophical thoughts on, and accounts of, death in the history of (Western) philosophy focus primarily on the futility of trying to make sense of the concept of death itself. Little attention is often paid to the experiences of the living dealing with the loss in death of a loved one. To be sure, this attitude toward understanding death in Western philosophy is not far-fetched from the dominant preoccupation in Western thought with the individual, the experience of the subject, or the conscious self rather than with the community of selves; the former takes priority over the latter in Western discourse I intend in this paper to shift the horizon of discourse from the former to latter specifically from an African philosophical perspective. In shifting the horizon of critical discourse on death to the experiences of the living in dealing and coping with the death of a loved one, I pursue and defend two theses in this paper. First, within African traditions, there is an obvious sexist treatment, marginalisation and gender bias against the women folk whose spouses have died when compared with the treatment of the men folk having the same traumatic experience. This is clearly seen in the requirements for mourning the death of a spouse imposed on women in African traditions. Second, the social structures available in African traditions for coping with the traumatic loss of a spouse please the men folk more than the women folk. In fact, the structures do not only marginalise the woman but may traumatise her more and hinder a much needed process of coping and recovery from the loss. In pursuance of these theses, I draw evidences from, and critically interrogate, rich cultural heritages in Africa such as those of Southern and Eastern Nigeria. In analysing these theses, I show that in the feminine existential experience of coping with a spouse’s death, there is clearly a tension between individual expectations and communal expectations. There is again the difficulty of rationalising the ideologies of mourning rites for women in African traditions particularly when viewed against the background of an epistemology of ignorance. There is also the challenge of understanding the paradox inherent in the sexist treatment of women as perpetuated by women in conformity with societal expectations for mourning. I conclude from these analyses that a philosopher in Africa researching on African thoughts and traditions is saddled with the crucial responsibility of critiquing cultures and traditions within African communities of dwelling with the primary goal of liberating persons from indefensible ideologies. I employ the methods of analysis and constructive criticism to achieve the goals of this study.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies
ISBN: 9780815359647
Copyright Statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in African Philosophy and the Epistemic Marginalization of Women (2018).
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2020 12:53

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item