The relevance of psychology in Africa is increasingly debated by psychologists. The
subject stands accused of continuing a colonial tradition of oppression through its Eurocentrism
and failure to attend to the needs of African societies. The relevance debate raises questions
around the relationship between power, knowledge, psychology, and African history. This study
attempts to excavate the conditions of possibility of the debate, by construing an archaeology of
psychological knowledge as technology of power in the African context. It assumes a
constructivist stance, employs textual and narrative analogies, and follows Foucault's
conceptualisation of the relation between power and knowledge.
Five strata of knowledge emerging historically in Africa, each embodying distinctive
approaches to knowledge, are described: Indigenous African knowledge, African Islamic
knowledge, African Christianity, knowledges of Enlightenment, and knowledges of resistance.
These knowledges, their psychological dimensions, as well as the circulation of power within
and between them, are explored, and historical processes of subjugation and resistance
highlighted. Western psychology, as technology of modern power, is situated within modernism
and the narratives ofEnlightenment, which also provided the conditions of possibility of
colonialism. The dominant narratives of relevance are related to those of African resistance and
the limitations of psychology are conceptualised in terms of those pertaining to modernism.
Possible postmodern avenues to the liberation of both psychology and its subjects, that are
relevant to African contexts, are suggested.