Afrocentrism

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An 1812 map of Africa
An 1812 map of Africa

Afrocentrism is an academic, philosophical, and historical approach to the study of world history. Afrocentrism holds that Eurocentrism has led to the neglect or denial of the contributions of African people and focused instead on a generally European-centered model of world civilization and history. Therefore, Afrocentrism aims to shift the focus from a percieved European-centered history to an African-centered history. More broadly, Afrocentrism is concerned with distinguishing the influence of European and Oriental peoples from African achievements.

Afrocentrism also has connections to Black civil rights movements and anti-imperialist ideologies in the United States and the Caribbean.

Afrocentrists typically focus on indigenous African and African contributions and posit black, Nilotic origins for Western civilization. Philosophically, Afrocentrism is often compared to Eurocentrism; however, the validity of this comparison is heavily debated.


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Contents

[edit] History of Afrocentrism

A 1911 copy of the NAACP journal The Crisis depicting "Ra-Maat-Neb, one of the kings of the Upper Nile"
A 1911 copy of the NAACP journal The Crisis depicting "Ra-Maat-Neb, one of the kings of the Upper Nile"

The origins of Afrocentrism can be found in the work of African-American and Caribbean intellectuals early in the twentieth century. Publications such as The Crisis and the Journal of Negro History sought to counter the prevailing view in the West that Sub-Saharan Africa had contributed nothing of value to human history that was not the result of incursions by Europeans and Arabs.[1] These journals claimed that Ancient Egyptian civilisation was founded by Negroids and investigated the history of Africa. Editor of The Crisis W.E.B. DuBois researched West African culture and attempted to construct a pan-Africanist value system based on West African traditions. DuBois later envisioned and received funding from then Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah to produce an Encyclopedia Africana that would chronicle the history and cultures of black Africa, but he died before the work could be completed. Some aspects of DuBois's approach are evident in the work of Cheikh Anta Diop, who claimed to have identified a pan-African protolanguage and to have proven that ancient Egyptians were, indeed, "black" Africans.

Diop also drew from the ideas of George M. James,[citation needed]a follower of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, who emphasized the importance of Ethiopia as a great, "black civilization", and who argued that black peoples should develop pride in African history. James' book, Stolen Legacy (1954) is often cited as one of the foundational texts of Afrocentrism. James claimed that Greek philosophy was "stolen" from ancient Egyptian traditions and that these had developed from distinctively "African" cultural roots. For James, the works of Aristotle and other Greek thinkers were, in fact, poor synopses of aspects of ancient Egyptian wisdom. According to James, the Greeks were a violent and quarrelsome people, unlike the Egyptians, and were not naturally capable of philosophy. James famously claimed in his book that Aristotle had physically "stolen" his ideas and works from a "black African" Library of Alexandria, when, in fact, the Library of Alexandria was built by Greeks, during the Hellenistic period of Egypt, and well after Aristotle's death.

These ideas were not wholly new. 18th-century Masonic texts referenced ancient writings that claimed Greek philosophers had studied in Egypt. The poet William Blake had also attacked "the stolen and perverted writings of Homer and Ovid, of Plato and Cicero," asserting that they were copies of more ancient Semitic texts. Such views were associated with radical and Romantic thought that rejected classical Greco-Roman culture as the model for civilization. James' distinct contribution was to tie these claims to an opposition between white European and African identity, associating these alleged ancient appropriations of black wisdom with white, imperialist exploitation of African peoples and the theft of artifacts from black African cultures. By claiming that the Greeks were barbaric and innately incapable of philosophy, he inverted normative imperialist racial hierarchies, which made the same claims about Africans.

Other writers copied James' approach, which led to claims that black Africans originated intellectual or technological achievements that later were claimed by whites. Today, most of these writings are not considered serious scholarship, and modern "Afrocentricity" writers have abandoned James' more extreme claims to concentrate on the notion that modern black peoples should center their understanding of culture and history on Africa. Molefi Kete Asante's book Afrocentricity (1988) argues that African-Americans should look to African cultures "as a critical corrective to a displaced agency among Africans."

Other authors have adapted James' assertion that Egyptian culture's influence on the Greeks has been underestimated. Among such authors, the most influential is Martin Bernal, whose book Black Athena argued for the influence of Afro-Asiatic and Semitic civilizations on Classical Greece. Other writers simply have focused on the study of indigenous African civilizations and peoples, with the aim of counteracting the emphasis placed on European and Arab influence on the continent. These Afrocentric scholars believe that historians must shift their attention away from European accomplishments and Europe-derived racist assumptions and, instead, emphasize the black origins of mankind and black contributions to world history. They maintain that such a paradigm shift would result in significant attitudinal shifts in the West and elsewhere. Indeed, many claim that a dramatic shift already has occurred. As educational opportunities have broadened for peoples of color over the years, non-white scholars from many cultures increasingly have begun to examine anew the historical and archaeological record. Some of their findings challenge the "Eurocentric" view of world history which for so many centuries was said to have devalued and appropriated, or simply ignored achievements by blacks and other non-Europeans.

[edit] The debate over Afrocentrism

Critics counter that much historical Afrocentric research simply lacks scientific merit and that it actually seeks to supplant and counter one form of racism with another, rather than attempt to arrive at the truth. Among these critics, Mary Lefkowitz's Not out of Africa is regarded by some as the foremost critical work. In it, she contends Afrocentric historical claims are grounded in identity politics and myth rather than sound scholarship. Like most other mainstream scholars, she rejects James' views on the ground that his sources predate the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. She contends that actual ancient Egyptian texts show little similarity to Greek philosophy. She also contends that Bernal underestimates the distinctiveness of Greek intellectual culture. Asante and others, however, dispute her conclusions.

[edit] Genetics and Race

A Vanuatu man making fire using a stick
A Vanuatu man making fire using a stick

The concept of race is not based on genetics, which is a far more modern discipline, but on inexact and sometimes conflicting phenotypical categories, heredity, geography and cultural factors. Further, adjectival forms of race-related terms used to describe physical appearance commonly are conflated incorrectly to mean racial designation. For example, the term Caucasoid is confused by some with the term Caucasian. As a result, blacks and other dark-skinned peoples, paradoxically, sometimes have been called or considered "white". While the term Caucasian is a racial designation, the term Caucasoid, crosses both racial and color lines, with so-called Caucasoid peoples and peoples with Caucasoid characteristics ranging from fair-skinned Caucasians, or whites, in Iceland to very dark-skinned peoples in India, to blue-black blacks in Africa from the African Horn to Senegal. So-called Caucasoid peoples also may have hair ranging in color from black to blond to red and in texture from fine and straight, wavy to coarse and woolly. Black people range from Africa, to Australia and Melanesia, with a range of brown and wavy haired people to the darkest skinned people with the curliest hair. Similarly, the Afrocentric concept of a "global African community" has been reinforced by the findings of numerous anthropologists, historians and others, who claim the blacks of New Guinea, Melanesia, and Southeast Asia, traditionally described by numerous mainstream anthropologists as Negroid are no less black, or African, than the blacks of sub-Saharan and North Africa, some of whom have been characterized as "Caucasoid."

People generally think of themselves and others as belonging to races defined by skin colour and physiognomy and link this to ancestry. One of the impacts of this is that historical achievements are ascribed to races with which modern peoples identify themselves (and not necessarily as the historical people would have identified themselves). Some insist that this approach violates the fundamental demand of history as a discipline, which should aspire to understand events as they occurred.[citation needed]

[edit] Race and Afrocentrism argument

Afrocentrism, however, contends that race still exists as a social and political construct. They argue that racist, Eurocentrist conventions were propounded for centuries, that blacks had no civilization, no written language, no culture, and no history of any note before coming into contact with Europeans. The matter of race became an important and enduring issue, Afrocentrism argues, when whites and others pronounced an entire segment of humanity inherently inferior and, therefore, incapable on their own of civilizational advancement. While most modern scholarship, Afrocentric or not, at least nominally rejects such racist biases. Further, European history commonly receives more attention within the academy than the history of sub-Saharan African cultures or those of the many Pacific Island peoples. As a result, Afrocentricity contends, it is important to set the historical record straight within the context in which the history of human civilizations heretofore has been framed, taught and studied — and that is the context of race.

[edit] Definitions of Pan-African Black identity

The indigenous Papuans of New Guinea have Australoid and Negroid physical characteristics and are considered black in some cultures despite being gentically closer to Southeast Asians than to Africans.
The indigenous Papuans of New Guinea have Australoid and Negroid physical characteristics and are considered black in some cultures despite being gentically closer to Southeast Asians than to Africans. [2][3]

The relationship among racial, cultural and continental identities is one of the more difficult problems in Afrocentic thought. In other instances, the concept of black racial identity has been used to include among "African" peoples populations generally thought of as non-Africans, such as the Australoid (sometimes called "Veddoid") peoples of Australia and New Guinea and the Dravidians of India and the people of the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Also included by some writers in the African diaspora are the "Negritos" of Southeast Asia (Thailand, Java, Borneo, Sumatra and Malaysia, and Cambodia); the "Africoid," aboriginal peoples of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia; some Afrocentrists also claim that the Olmecs of what is now Mexico came from Africa, though this is not a widespread view among historians of Mesoamerica.[2] Afrocentrics who adopt this approach contend that such peoples are African in a racial sense, just as the white inhabitants of modern Australia may be said to be European.

[edit] Critic of the race theory

Critics argue that such peoples were not recent emigrants from Africa, and the entire population of the world might just as reasonably be considered part of an African race according to the Out of Africa model of human migration. Studies show that some members of these darker-skinned ethnic groups and "Mongoloid" East Asians are genetically closer to one another than they are to indigenous Africans. However, some Afrocentrists argue that such genetic similarities are due to the fact that the aboriginal peoples of Asia were "Africoid" Negritos and Australoid types, who later miscegenated and developed in isolation with populations of the eventually more dominant Mongoloid phenotype over time. This fact, they contend, does not change the fundamental black racial identity of these peoples based on the traditional metrics of the classic "Negroid" phenotype, physical similarities with other peoples classified as Negroid, presumptive patterns of prehistoric migrations and, in some cases, what they contend are cultural similarities. Arguments advancing the notion of racial similarities between a Nubian and a Dravidian, both classified as Negroid, Afrocentrists contend, are far more credible than those of between, say, a Swede and a modern-day Turk, both classified as Caucasian. Traditional racial classifications, after all, are not based on genetics, but on phenotype. In such matters, Afrocentrists adopt the pan-Africanist perspective that such people of color are all "African people" or "diasporic Africans." As Afrocentric scholar Runoko Rashidi writes, they are all part of the "global African community." This view, however, disregards how most "Mongoloid" East Asians identify themselves and the conclusions of geneticists about population relatedness.

[edit] Genetics and race theory

Human population structure can be inferred from multilocus DNA sequence data.  In Rosenberg et al. (2002, 2005), individuals from 52 populations were examined at 993 DNA markers. These data was used to partitioned individuals into K = 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 clusters. In this figure, the average fractional membership of individuals from each population is represented by horizontal bars partitioned into K colored segments.  2 cluster analysis separated Africa and Eurasia from East Asia, Oceania, and America, 3 clusters separated Africa and Eurasia, 4 clusters separated America, 5 clusters separated Oceania (green), and 6 clusters subdivided native Americans.
Human population structure can be inferred from multilocus DNA sequence data. In Rosenberg et al. (2002, 2005), individuals from 52 populations were examined at 993 DNA markers. These data was used to partitioned individuals into K = 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 clusters. In this figure, the average fractional membership of individuals from each population is represented by horizontal bars partitioned into K colored segments. 2 cluster analysis separated Africa and Eurasia from East Asia, Oceania, and America, 3 clusters separated Africa and Eurasia, 4 clusters separated America, 5 clusters separated Oceania (green), and 6 clusters subdivided native Americans.

In 2002, geneticist Spencer Wells completed a study of human out-migrations from Africa utilizing the DNA of San Bushmen of the Kalahari who, according to Wells, have the oldest distinctive DNA lineage on earth. Wells concluded from analysis of DNA specimens that the earliest human emigration from Africa of which there is definitive proof was that of ancestors of the San Bushmen to southern India and then along coastal routes to Australia (the Aborigines), while shortly afterwards a second migration from Africa, also by ancestors of San Bushmen, reached Central Asia, and thence covered most of the Eurasian continent.

The single origin hypothesis (also known as the "Out of Africa" hypothesis) posits that the Homo sapiens evolved in Africa, later migrating and populating other continents, out-competing other related species such as that exemplified by Java man.

[edit] Afrocentrism and the academy

A primary concern of Afrocentrism has been to engage what they claim to be biased methods and approaches used by European scholars, and the allegedly European dominated academy in relation to the African people, including Egypt. A seminal moment for Afrocentrism was the presentation of Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop, at the 1974 UNESCO symposium "The Peopling of Ancient Egypt and the Decipherment of Meroitic Script," [4]which attacked a long history of biased scholarship. In the words of one historian of Egypt, Jean Vercoutter, who attended:

Whilst acknowledging that the ancient Egyptian population was 'mixed', a fact confirmed by all the anthropological analyses, writers nevertheless speak of an Egyptian 'race', linking it to a well defined human type, the white, 'Hamitic' branch, also called 'Caucasoid', 'Mediterranean', 'Europid' or 'Eurafricanid'. There is a contradiction here: all the anthropologists agree in stressing the sizeable proportion of the Negroid element--almost a third and sometimes more--in the ethnic [i.e. biological] mixture of the ancient Egyptian 'population', but nobody has yet defined what is meant by the term 'Negroid', nor has any explanation been proffered as to how this Negroid element, by mingling with a 'Mediterranean' component often present in smaller proportions, could be assimilated into a purely Caucasoid race."

- Jean Vercoutter [5]

As regards definitions, Afrocentrists allege that European scholars carefully define black peoples as narrowly as possible, creating an extreme "true negro" south of the Sahara, while allocating all else not meeting the extreme type to "Caucasoid" groupings, including Ethiopians, Egyptians and Nubians (C. G. Seligman's Races of Africa, 1966)[6] French historian Jean Verncoutter (quoted above) argues that selective grouping is common among scholars where the ethnicity of the ancient Egyptians is involved, with Negroid remains being routinely classified as "Mediterranean" even though they were recorded in substantial numbers by archaeological workers ( Vercoutter 1978- The Peopling of ancient Egypt)[7] Afrocentrists also point of the work of Czech anthropologist Eugene Strouhal which describes both physical, cultural and material links of ancient Egypt with the peoples of Nubia and the Sahara, ( Strouhal (1968, 1971- Strouhal, E., ‘Evidence of the early penetration of Negroes into prehistoric Egypt)[8], the analyses of Falkenburger (1947) which show a clear Negroid element, especially in the southern population and sometimes as predominating in the predynastic period[9], and the research of archealogist Bruce Williams which argues for a Nubian influence on formation of the Egyptian kingships. [10] They also cite recent mainstream restudies which confirm the "mixed" character of the Egyptian people.[11]

Afrocentrists also allege that the academy has continued to use theories of white civilizers flowing into Africa to explain the civilizations there, being unwilling to attribute any elaborate developments to blacks. Ironically, prominent Afrocentric critic Mary Lefkowitz at times finds some common ground with Afrocentrists. In her "Not Out Of Africa"[12], Lefkowitz notes that a number of earlier historical theories suggesting Caucasians initially sweeping into ancient Egypt from the north have been rendered untenable by modern research, which suggests a movement of peoples from the South, up from the Sahara into the Nilotic zone.

"Recent work on skeletons and DNA suggests that the people who settled in the Nile valley, like all of humankind, came from somewhere south of the Sahara; they were not (as some nineteenth-century scholars had supposed) invaders from the North. See Bruce G. Trigger, "The Rise of Civilization in Egypt," Cambridge History of Africa (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982), vol I, pp 489-90; S. O. Y. Keita, "Studies and Comments on Ancient Egyptian Biological Relationships," History in Africa 20 (1993) 129-54."

On the basis of this varied research, some Afrocentrists argue that the Egyptians could indeed be classified as "black." Other writers however argue that while the Egyptians clearly showed a range of types, including dark-skinned individuals others, calling them "black" was an application of the "one-drop" rule of American culture, which would have been alien to the ancient Egyptians.[12] Afrocentrists reply that they are justified in doing so since the European academy routinely uses narrow definitions of blacks, and uses subtle code for "Caucasoid" under such terms as "Mediterranean" or "Middle Eastern."[13]

Afrocentrists hold that Africans exhibit a range of types and physical characteristics, and that such elements as wavy hair or aquiline facial features are part of a continuum of African types that do not depend on admixture with Caucasian groups. They cite the nonracial approach of Hiernaux (1975)[14] and Hassan (1988)[15] which demonstrates that populations can vary based on microevolutionary principles (climate adaptation, drift, selection), and that this variation is present in both living and fossil Africans (AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 87:245-254 (1992))[16]They condemn attempts to split African peoples into racial clusters as new versions of older, discredited theories such as the "Hamitic Hypothesis" and the Dynastic Race Theory that attempted to separate out African groups like Nubians, Ethiopians and Somalians into "Caucasoid" groups that entered Africa to bring civilization to the natives. They also charge a double standard at play in the European academy which has made little attempt to define a "true white", [17]but does not hesitate to define blacks as narrowly as possibly, while allocating as much as possible to broad "Caucasoid" or other categories when it comes to Egypt or other African civilizations. Afrocentric writer C.A. Diop captures this belief in a double standard as follows:

"But it is only the most gratuitous theory which considers the Dinka, the Nouer and the Masai, among others, to be Caucasoids. What if an African ethnologist were to persist in recognising as white only the blond, blue-eyed Scandinavians, and systematically refused membership to the remaining Europeans, and Mediterraneans in particular--the French, Italians, Greek, Spanish, and Portuguese? Just as the inhabitants of Scandinavia and the Mediterranean countries must be considered as two extreme poles of the same anthropological reality, so should the Negroes of East and West Africa be considered as the two extremes in the reality of the Negro world. To say that a Shillouk, a Dinka, or a Nouer is a Caucasoid is for an African as devoid of sense and scientific interest as would be, to a European, an attitude which maintained that a Greek or a Latin were not of the same race." [18]

Afrocentrists claim a growing acceptance of Egypt as an African culture with its own unique elements, citing mainstream scholars like Bruce Trigger of the Oriental Institute of Chicago who decries many approaches of the past as 'marred by a confusion of race, language, and culture and by an accompanying racism'.[19] and the approach of Egyptologist Frank Yurco, who sees the Egyptians, Nubians, Ethiopians, Somalians, etc as one localized Nile valley population, that need not be artificially clustered into racial percentages.[20] Afrocentric critic Mary Lefkowitz also argues against applying racial categories or terminology, holding that the ancients should stand by themselves in the context of their own times.[21]

[edit] Afrocentricity

For the book of this name, see Afrocentricity (book).

Afrocentricity is an academic approach to data that places Africa and the experiences of diasporic peoples of African ancestry in the center of academic inquiry. Adherents of Afrocentricity argue that scholarship dealing with diasporal peoples should be properly centered in order to reflect the agency of diasporal peoples, in order to situate those peoples within a specific space and time, and in order to better reflect the truth. The concept of centering refers to the dual process of placing Black diasporan life in the center of academic inquiry as a research topic, and acknowledging the central influence of African processes on that topic. It should be differentiated from Afrocentrism in that the latter refers to an ideology-philosophy that has its basis in scholarship but is not itself driven by scholarship. (A similar distinction exists between Postmodernity and Postmodernism.)

The following example may be helpful. Linguists have long studied the roots of the African American English Vernacular (AAEV for short). Historically, the assumption was that the AAVE was the combined product of Southern culture and poverty. This assumption implies not only that the AAEV was developed solely in the United States, but that it is a broken derivation of English, rather than a dialect with its own rules and structure. Taking the Afrocentric approach, a scholar would first ask to what degree AAEV shares common rules and words with West African languages—working on the assumption that enslaved Africans kept and transmitted West African cultural traits. Scholars might then ask how the AAEV itself transformed what we understand to be the southern dialect. As scholars studying the AAEV now recognize, it is not simply broken English but rather a dialect that does share the same grammatical structure as many West African languages. Taking this approach not only restores a degree of agency to enslaved Africans (who even while enslaved were still able to transmit aspects of their home language to their progeny) but it is more.

The scholar most associated with the Afrocentric school of thought is Molefi Kete Asante. Asante, who is responsible for bringing the term into common usage, has developed the concept through his works Afrocentricity (ISBN 0-86543-067-5), The Afrocentric Idea (ISBN 1-56639-595-X), and Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge (ISBN 0-86543-189-2). Other scholars associated with the Afrocentric school include Maulana Karenga, Theophile Obenga, Cheikh Anta Diop, and Marimba Ani. The academic journal most associated with the Afrocentric method is the Journal of Black Studies.

To many Afrocentric writers, Egypt represents the center of African cultural inquiry. While previous generations of scholars focused on the race of Ancient Egyptians, modern day Afrocentric writers concentrate on recapturing Egypt as a site for the study of African life and culture. The influence of the Afrocentrists has been important in leading mainstream Egyptologists to consider Egypt as a part of Africa, rather than as an isolated entity.

A number of critiques continue to be levelled against Afrocentricity. The most credible critiques posit that there is no center in Africa. Rather, African diasporal cultures emanate from a variety of different places and sources, making it difficult to locate a composite African source. Some also critique the focus on Egypt as opposed to other African civilizations as reflecting a desire to mimic European orientations towards Greece. Another common critique is of the United States-centered nature of the Afrocentric project. Although the largest African diasporic population exists in Brazil rather than in North America, the scholarship is overwhelmingly concentrated on the latter, and the experience and values of Black Americans have been taken as normative.

[edit] Egypt and the argument of African cultural unity

The ancient pyramids of Egypt
The ancient pyramids of Egypt

One of the most common claims of afrocentrist historians is that dynastic Egypt was an indigenous African civilization. Although modern Egypt is geopolitically located in the Middle East, the majority of Egyptian territory falls within the African continent, and afrocentrist historians argue that Egypt should be understood, in historical terms, as an African state.

The basis of this argument is the belief that the salient cultural characteristics of ancient Egypt are indigenous to Africa and that these features are present in other African civilizations.[22] Critical of much of mainstream Egyptology, Afrocentrists are of the opinion that the study of ancient Egyptian culture artificially disconnects it from other early African civilizations, such as Kerma and the Meroitic civilizations of Nubia—particularly in light of the fact that archaeological evidence clearly indicates a confluence among this cultural triad.[23] This perspective, championed by the Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop, is known formally as the Cultural Unity Theory. This theory has proponents outside Afrocentric circles, among them Bruce Williams of the Oriental Institute of Chicago. Afrocentrists also claim that these civilizations made significant contributions to ancient Greece and Rome during their formative periods.

The more conventional belief among archaeologists and Egyptologists such as Frank J. Yurco and Fekri Hassan and historians is that the ancient Egyptian civilization was a unique mix of indigenous Nilotic peoples, related, in terms of culture and language, to the Afro-Asiatic language family spoken across northern Africa, Chad and the Horn of Africa and by the Beja of the Sudan. people.[24] The conventional belief in a non-Negroid Egypt has been challenged by scholars who believe the cultural similarities between Egypt and the Levant are due to the exportation of cultural elements from the Nilotic civilizations, rather than the reverse.

[edit] Egypt's Sphere of influence Debate

The controversial and contested rendering of Tutankhamun exhibiting hazel eyes and a "mid-range" skin tone, as shown on the cover of National Geographic in 2005.
The controversial and contested rendering of Tutankhamun exhibiting hazel eyes and a "mid-range" skin tone, as shown on the cover of National Geographic in 2005.

This Afrocentric view finds itself in direct opposition to the conclusions of Eurocentric scholars such as British historian Arnold Toynbee, who regarded the ancient Egyptian cultural sphere as having died out without leaving a successor, and who derided as "myth" the idea that Egypt was the "origin of Western civilization." However, there are numerous accounts in the historical record dating back several centuries wherein scholars have written of an Egypt and its contributions to Mediterranean civilizations. The Greek historian Herodotus described the ancient Egyptians as "swarthy with woolly hair" (Histories Book 2:104). Francois Champollion described in his book L'Egypte the characteristics of the Egyptian people and their similarities to Nubians. In addition, Afrocentricity has growing popular support in academia. Increasingly, American colleges are treating Afrocentrism as a rigorous discipline of study open to peer review.

[edit] Critic of theory

Afrocentricsm is generally rejected in the academic community owing to the fact that it generally not regarded as an academic thoery or idea but rather a social and political one, teaching invented history for the sake of the induvidual and the political rather than the historical. The claims against "Euro-centricm" are often so broad and unsupported as to be tantamount to conspiracy theory; often, they cannot be proved or disproved.

One of Afrocentrism's most prominent critics, Mary Lefkowitz defending the view has characterized Afrocentricity as "an excuse to teach myth as history." Likewise, African-American History professor Clarence E. Walker has proclaimed it to be "a mythology that is racist, reactionary, and essentially therapeutic." Afrocentrists, however, level similar charges at what they charge is a pronounced Eurocentrism in mainstream historical scholarship, and argue that the Afrocentrist approach merely attempts to set the historical record straight by overturning a false, racially skewed paradigm.

[edit] General Critic

Book Cover The African origins of civilization
Book Cover The African origins of civilization

A number of critiques continue to be levelled against Afrocentricity. The most credible critiques posit that there is no center in Africa. Rather, African diasporal cultures emanate from a variety of different places and sources, making it difficult or impossible to locate a composite African source. Some also critique the focus on Egypt as opposed to other African civilizations as reflecting a desire to mimic European orientations towards Greece. Another common critique is of the United States-centered nature of the Afrocentric project. Although the largest African diasporic population exists in Brazil rather than in North America, the scholarship is overwhelmingly concentrated on the latter, and the experience and values of Black Americans have been taken as normative.

Afrocentrists say most Brazillians with African blood do not consider themselves black even with prominent African features. Brazil has never produced a black civil rights movement that asserted its African roots. Similarly, modern day Egyptians vary in skin tone and phenotype, including the Copts, who prefer to be classed as North African Caucasoid or caucasian. According to Afrocentrist authors, the eurocentric paradigm has taken hold of the social fabric of diasporic African peoples, thereby the need for Afrocentrism to counteract the paradigm with the greatest civilization Africa has produced.

[edit] List of prominent Afrocentric authors

  • Molefi Kete Asante, professor, author: Afrocentricity: The theory of Social Change; The Afrocentric Idea; The Egyptian Philosophers: Ancient African Voices from Imhotep to Akhenaten
  • Ishakamusa Barashango, college professor and lecturer; founder, Temple of the Black Messiah, School of History and Religion; co-founder and creative director, Fourth Dynasty Publishing Company, Silver Spring, Maryland
  • Hakim Bey, leader of the Moorish Science Temple, author of the "Journal of the Moorish Paradigm"
  • Jacob Carruthers, Egyptologist; founding director of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilization; founder and director of the Kemetic Institute, Chicago
  • Cheikh Anta Diop[3],[4], author: The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality; Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology; Precolonial Black Africa; The Cultural Unity of Black Africa: The Domains of Patriarchy and of Matriarchy in Classical Antiquity; The Peopling of Ancient Egypt & the Deciphering of the Meroitic Script
  • H.B. ("Barry") Fell, Harvard professor, linguist, author: Saga America, 1980 [5]
  • Drusilla Dunjee Houston, lecturer, syndicated columnist, author: Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire, 1926.
  • Yosef Ben-Jochannan, author: African Origins of Major "Western Religions"; Black Man of the Nile and His Family; Africa: Mother of Western Civilization; New Dimensions in African History; The Myth of Exodus and Genesis and the Exclusion of Their African Origins; Africa: Mother of Western Civilization; Abu Simbel to Ghizeh: A Guide Book and Manual
  • Runoko Rashidi[6], author: Introduction to African Civilizations; The global African community: The African presence in Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific
  • J.A. Rogers, author: Sex and Race: Negro-Caucasian Mixing in All Ages and All Lands : The Old World; Nature Knows No Color Line; Sex and Race: A History of White, Negro, and Indian Miscegenation in the Two Americas : The New World; 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof: A Short Cut to the World History of the Negro
  • Ivan van Sertima, author: They Came before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America, African Presence in Early Europe; Blacks in Science Ancient and Modern; African Presence in Early Asia; African Presence in Early America; Early America Revisited; Egypt Revisited: Journal of African Civilizations; Nile Valley Civilizations; Egypt: Child of Africa (Journal of African Civilizations, V. 12); The Golden Age of the Moor (Journal of African Civilizations, Vol. 11, Fall 1991); Great Black Leaders: Ancient and Modern; Great African Thinkers: Cheikh Anta Diop[7]
  • Chancellor Williams, author: The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D.
  • Théophile Obenga, author: Ancient Egypt and Black Africa : a student's handbook for the study of Ancient Egypt in philosophy, linguistics, and gender relations
  • Asa Hilliard, III, author: SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind; The Teachings of Ptahhotep

[edit] In Fiction

The award-winning alternate history novel "Lion's Blood" (2002) by Steven Barnes, and its sequel "Zulu Heart", present an alternate world where African and Middle Eastern states are the dominant superpowers of the world. In this history, it is Blacks who have colonised America, and Whites from a largely tribal and backward Europe are being sold into slavery across the Atlantic, to work on Black-owned plantations. All of this would seem to entitle the books to be considered as Afrocentric fiction.

[edit] References

  1. ^ The African Origin of the Grecian Civilisation, Journal of Negro History, 1917, pp.334-344
  2. ^ http://www.atlapedia.com/online/countries/papuanew.htm
  3. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:DNAtree.gif
  4. ^ The Peopling of Ancient Egypt and the Decipherment of Meroitic Script: Proceedings of the Symposium Held in Cairo from 28 January to 3 February 1974 by UNESCO, Review author[s]: Bruce G. Trigger, The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2 (1980), pp. 371-373
  5. ^ (24) Jean Vercoutter at the 1974 UNESCO conference. Quoted in Shomarka Keita, 'Communications', American Historical Review (October 1992), pp. 1355-6.
  6. ^ C. G. Seligman's Races of Africa, (Oxford University Press: 1966)
  7. ^ Jean Vercoutter, The Peopling of Ancient Egypt and the Deciphering Meroitic Script. Paris: UNESCO, pp. 15-36.
  8. ^ [http://www.search.com/reference/Badarian Strouhal, E., 1971, ‘Evidence of the early penetration of Negroes into prehistoric Egypt’, Journal of African History, 12: 1-9)
  9. ^ Falkenburger F. (1947) La composition racialel’ hcienne Egypt. L’Anthropologie 51239-250
  10. ^ Bruce Williams, 'The lost pharaohs of Nubia', in Ivan van Sertima (ed.), Egypt Revisited (New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction, 1993).
  11. ^ S.O.Y. KEITA, "Studies of Ancient Crania From Northern Africa", AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 83:35-48 (1990)]
  12. ^ Lefkowitz, Mary "Not Out of Africa" Basic Books, 1997
  13. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete, Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge. (Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1990)
  14. ^ Hiernaux J (1975) The People of Africa. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons
  15. ^ Hassan FA (1988) The predynastic of Egypt. J. World Prehist. 2: 135-185
  16. ^ S. Keita, AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 87:245-254 (1992)
  17. ^ Keita, op. cit
  18. ^ Evolution of the Negro world' in Presence Africaine (1964)
  19. ^ Bruce Trigger, 'Nubian, Negro, Black, Nilotic?', in Sylvia Hochfield and Elizabeth Riefstahl (eds), Africa in Antiquity: the arts of Nubia and the Sudan, Vol. 1 (New York, Brooklyn Museum, 1978).
  20. ^ Frank Yurco, "An Egyptological Review", 1996 -in Mary R. Lefkowitz and Guy MacLean Rogers, Black Athena Revisited, 1996, The University of North Carolina Press, p. 62-100
  21. ^ Lefkowitz, Mary "Not Out of Africa" Basic Books, 1997
  22. ^ Cheik Anta Diop, Evolution of the Negro world' in Presence Africaine (1964)
  23. ^ Bruce Williams, 'The lost pharaohs of Nubia', in Ivan van Sertima (ed.), Egypt Revisited (New Brunswick, NJ, Transaction, 1993).
  24. ^ [1]

[edit] Bibliography

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  • Bailey, Randall C. (editor) (2003). Yet with a steady beat: contemporary U.S. Afrocentric biblical interpretation. Society of Biblical Literature. 
  • Berlinerblau, Jacques (1999). Heresy in the University: The Black Athena Controversy and the Responsibilities of American Intellectuals. Rutgers University Press. 
  • Binder, Amy J. (2002). Contentious curricula: Afrocentrism and creationism in American public schools. Princeton University Press. 
  • Browder, Anthony T. (1992). Nile Valley Contributions To Civilization: Exploding the Myths, Volume 1. Washington, DC: Institute of Karmic Guidance. 
  • Crawford, Clinton (1996). Recasting Ancient Egypt In The African Context: Toward A Model Curriculum Using Art And Language. Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press. 
  • Henderson, Errol Anthony (1995). Afrocentrism and world politics: towards a new paradigm. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. 
  • Henke, Holger and Fred Reno (editors) (2003). Modern political culture in the Caribbean. University of the West Indies Press. 
  • Howe, Stephen (1998). Afrocentrism: mythical pasts and imagined homes. London: Verso. 
  • Houston, Drusilla Dunjee (1926). Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire. Oklahoma: Universal Publishing Company. 
  • Kershaw, Terry (1992). ""Afrocentrism and the Afrocentric method." Western Journal of Black Studies" 16 (3): 160-168. 
  • Konstan, David. "Inventing Ancient Greece: [Review article]", History and Theory, Vol. 36, No. 2. (May, 1997), pp. 261–269.
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  • Lefkowitz, Mary R. and Guy MacLean Rogers (editors) (1996). Black Athena Revisited. University of North Carolina Press. 
  • Lewis, Martin W. (1997). The myth of continents: a critique of metageography. University of California Press. 
  • Magida, Arthur J. (1996). Prophet of rage a life of Louis Farrakhan and his nation. New York: BasicBooks. 
  • Morton, Eric. "Race and Racism in the Works of David Hume." Journal on African Philosophy. (2002) ISSN: 1533-1067. Africa Resource Center. Retrieved on 2006-11-06.
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  • Sniderman, Paul M. and Thomas Piazza (2002). Black pride and black prejudice. Princeton University Press. 
  • Spivey, Donald (2003). Fire from the soul: a history of the African-American struggle. Carolina Academic Press. 
  • Walker, Clarence E. (2000). We Can't Go Home Again: An Argument about Afrocentrism. Oxford University Press. 
  • Wells, Spencer (2002). The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey. Princeton University Press. 
  • Osei-Yaw, Emmanuel. D.(2006)
  • Ani, Marimba (1994). Yurugu: An African-centered Critique of European Thought and Behavior. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press. ISBN 0-86543-248-1. 
  • Asante, Molefi Kete (1988). Afrocentricity, rev. ed., Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press. ISBN 0-86543-067-5. 
  • Asante, Molefi Kete (1990). Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press. ISBN 0-86543-188-4. 
  • Asante, Molefi Kete (1998). The Afrocentric Idea. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 1-56639-594-1. 
  • Karenga, Maulana (1993). Introduction to Black Studies, 2nd ed., Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press. ISBN 0-943412-16-1. 

[edit] See also

[edit] External links