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Afrocentrism

Afrocentrism


Afrocentrism has a long and often misunderstood history. Though usually associated with the intellectual lineage that runs from Cheikh Anta Diop (19231986) to Molefi Asante (1942), the ideology actually has a pedigree that dates back to some of the most distinguished African-American intellectuals of the nineteenth century, including David Walker, Henry Highland Garnet, Martin Delany, Alexander Crummell, and Edward Wilmot Blyden. The actual term Afrocentric apparently was coined by W. E. B. Du Bois only in the early 1960s. Du Bois wrote that his proposed Encyclopedia Africana would be "unashamedly Afro-centric" in focus. Asante resurrected the term in his 1980 work, Afrocentricity, injecting new energy into an old approach to the study of Africans and their descendants. By the late 1980s, the term Afrocentric was used to describe a range of thinkers, from mainstream historians like Sterling Stuckey to more controversial scholars like Leonard Jeffries.

While the term Afrocentric has been applied to both credible and dubious attempts at scholarly analysis, at its broadest, it is simply an attempt to place Africa, instead of Europe, at the center of scholarly analysis of peoples of African descent. In his 1987 book, The Afrocentric Idea, Molefi Asante defines Afrocentricity as "the placing of African ideals at the center of any analysis that involves African culture and behavior" (p. 6). It should be emphasized that this perspective is not an explicit argument for African superiority in culture and history, although some scholars have used it to that end. Rather, it is a conceptual tool for seeing the history of African-descended peoples through their own lens, and not through the lens of Europe or the West. As a mode of analysis, Afrocentrism has remained remarkably durable over the past two hundred years; however, scholars have often reached radically different conclusions in their utilization of this analytical tool.

Black Nationalism, Afrocentrism, and the Academy

A crucial prerequisite to an Afrocentric perspective is the recognition of Africa as a common "homeland" to all peoples of African descent. The earliest expressions of this sentiment emerged out of late eighteenth-century African-American communities, where figures like Prince Hall and Paul Cuffe initiated movements to return to Africa and create settlements there. In 1787 Hall, the most prominent free black in Boston, petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts to aid African Americans "to return to Africa, our native country." For black people born in America, as well as for various African societies, the notion of a singular African homeland represented the reality of shared historical trajectories in the diaspora. By defining themselves as "Africans," rather than as "Americans," "Yorubas," or "Kongos," these early Afrocentrists played a crucial role in conceptualizing a shared history of African-descended peoples, regardless of natal background.

Because of the connections between emigration and racist slave-holding interests, many African Americans rejected emigration schemes of the early nineteenth century; however, new initiatives in the 1850s once again drew attention to the shared history of peoples of African descent. In 1858 Henry Highland Garnet called for the construction of "a great center for Negro nationality" in Africa or the Americas. One year later, in 1859, Martin Delany traveled to West Africa in the hopes of realizing his vision of "Africa for the African race and black men to rule them." Similar expressions could be found in the ideas of Henry McNeal Turner, and much later, Marcus Garvey. These "back-to-Africa" movements faded after the 1920s, but by this time the idea of Africa as the common homeland of African-descended peoples was well established.

Concurrent with emerging ideas about a singular "Africa" were new interpretations of African history and culture. Challenging racist characterizations of Africa as a dark continent lacking science and history, a number of nineteenth-century black intellectuals pointed to the achievements of Egypt and Ethiopia as evidence of Africa's rich and glorious past. In Appeal (1829), David Walker highlighted "the arts and scienceswise legislatorsthe pyramids and other magnificent buildings by the sons of Africa among whom learning originated, and was carried thence into Greece." Similar emphasis on Egypt, and especially the ancient Christian tradition of Ethiopia, can be found in the works of Frederick Douglass, James C. Pennington, and Henry Highland Garnet.

While Egypt eventually emerged as central in the debates over Afrocentrism in the mid-twentieth century (see below), these earlier imperatives were aimed at recovery and redemption of the African past. As such, Egypt represented a convenient and easily accessible entry point to deeper explorations of Africa's complex history. Nowhere is this clearer than in the evolution of Edward Wilmot Blyden. In his early writings, Blyden adopted the position of a linear connection between Egyptians and African Americans, and he repeated the argument that Egypt spawned Greek "civilization." Though he never completely abandoned this teleology, by the time of his death in 1912, Blyden had devoted himself to the study of West African languages, cultures, and histories. As a result, he moved away from static interpretations of a homogenous Africa toward interpretations that recognized the diversity of the continent, still emphasizing the strong cultural and historical connections between various peoples, becoming the first to emphasize the importance of an "African personality."

If Blyden was a pioneer in seriously considering the depth and diversity of West Africa, others quickly followed. Hubert Henry Harrison, a socialist and Garveyite who emigrated from the Virgin Islands to New York in 1900, was renowned for his knowledge of Africa, applying a sophisticated Afrocentric analysis to the history of African-descended peoples. In When Africa Awakes (1920), Harrison implored African Americans to:

go to Africa, live among the natives and LEARN WHAT THEY HAVE TO TEACH US (for they have much to teach us). Let us begin by studying the scientific works of the African explorers and stop reading and believing the silly slush which ignorant missionaries put into our heads about the alleged degradation of our people in Africa. Let us learn to know Africa and Africans so well that every educated Negro will be able at a glance to put his hand on the map of Africa and tell where to find Jolofs, Ekoisi, Mandingoes, Yorubas, Bechuanas or Basutos and can tell something of their marriage customs, their property laws, their agriculture and system of worship. For not until we can do this will it be seemly for us to pretend to be anxious about their political welfare. (Harrison, 1920, pp. 3435)

Here, Harrison clearly evokes the depth and diversity of Africa. Moreover, he appeals to African Americans to learn about "our people," not from Europeans, but through the eyes of Africans themselves.

The idea that African-American culture was essentially African soon gained currency in the mainstream academic world. Carter G. Woodson's The African Background Outlined (1936) demonstrated African survivals in religion, folklore, art, and music in African-American communities. Perhaps the most enduring contribution to modern-day Afrocentrism is Melville Herskovits's The Myth of the Negro Past (1941). Herskovits emphasized West African cultural survivals in the Americas, particularly in South America and the Caribbean. Though he has been criticized in recent years for applying his argument for cultural survivals too broadly and for homogenizing West Africa, Herskovits's research influenced the works of many Afrocentric scholars, including Roger Bastide, Robert Farris Thompson, St. Clair Drake, and Sterling Stuckey. Among these, Stuckey makes the most eloquent and forceful argument for African survivals in the United States. In Slave Culture (1987), Stuckey argued that the organizing sociocultural principle of African-American communities is the African-derived "ring shout," a religious ritual performed in a circle of dancing, with singing participants moving in a counterclockwise motion that culminates in spirit possession. Stuckey traced elements of this religious ritual from West and West Central Africa, to North American slave communities, and finally to contemporary African-American culture. The approach of Herskovits, Stuckey, and more recently Michael Gomez, Paul Lovejoy, and John Thornton, has not gone unchallenged. Anthropologists and historians such as Sidney Mintz, Richard Price, Ira Berlin, and Philip Morgan have criticized the emphasis on African survivals, claiming that the agency and creativity of the enslaved were more important than the African past. Thus, they challenge the Afrocentric mode of analysis and the centrality of Africa to the African-American past.

Egyptocentrism and Populist Afrocentrism

Since the 1950s, another stream of Afrocentric thought has emerged that builds on earlier attempts to trace a direct lineage between ancient Egyptians, sub-Saharan Africans, and Africans in the diaspora. This stream of thought has tended to dominate popular and even some scholarly understandings of Afrocentrism ever since. The "grandfather" of this school of Afrocentrism, the intellectual fore-father of Molefi Asante, Leonard Jeffries, and Martin Bernal, was Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop. In his The African Origin of Civilization, first published in French in 1955, Diop argued that Africa was the cradle of humanity and civilization. Not only did the letters and sciences emerge in Egypt; black Egyptians spawned the greatest of human social attributes, distinguishing themselves from the "ferocity" of Eurasians in their "gentle, idealistic, peaceful nature, endowed with a spirit of justice and gaiety" (Diop, 1974, pp. 111112). Climate played a prominent role in Diop's formulations: Egypt's warm, favorable climate, as opposed to Eurasia's cold and forbidding climate, went far in explaining the benevolence of the African personality. Diop also repeated the assertion that ancient Greece drew all of the important elements of its civilization from Egypt and Africa, a claim that was made even more forcefully in American George James's Stolen Legacy (1954).

Molefi Kete Asante

"Afrocentricity is a frame of reference wherein phenomena are viewed from the perspective of the African person. The Afrocentric approach seeks in every situation the appropriate centrality of the African person."

"the afrocentric idea in education." journal of negro education (spring 1991)

Elements of Diop's arguments can be found in nearly all of the populist and Egyptocentric scholarship of the late twentieth century. In fact, very little in the recent scholarship goes beyond Diop's central claims, other than the application of the term Afrocentric to this particular mode of inquiry. In 1980 Molefi Asante reintroduced the term Afrocentric to the scholarly world in his book Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change. In this book and his Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge (1990), Asante set out to define what he claimed was an entirely new discipline of academic inquiry. Despite these claims of originality, much of what Asante argued was drawn from scholars going back to the 1800s, and more particularly from Diop. According to Asante's theory of Afrocentricity, humanity developed and was perfected in Africa, therefore endowing Africans with a head start on other humans. Egypt, or Kemet, was the first great civilization, forming the foundation for all of the great African cultures that would follow it. Moreover, Egyptians passed on to other African peoples "an African orientation to the cosmos" that resulted in common spiritual values. The arts, letters, and sciences of Egypt were stolen by ancient Greece, and ultimately transferred to all of Europe. Europeans then conspired to hide Egypt's greatness from Africans, convincing them that Europe was the source of all civilization. The lineage of intellectual greatness and African personality was passed down to all peoples of African descent, including those in the diaspora, and it is their obligation to reclaim the glories of this common African past.

Notwithstanding the lack of originality in Asante's major works, his charisma and energy injected new life into the Egyptocentric stream of Afrocentrism. As chair of the Department of African American Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia from 1984 to 1996, Asante developed a graduate curriculum that produced dozens of Ph.D.s. He has spoken at numerous public events and at more than a hundred different colleges and universities. Asante has lobbied for curriculum changes in America's public schools, particularly around the issue of African-American speech and language, or Ebonics. Asante also has been a prolific writer, publishing dozens of books and articles. Afrocentricity has been widely read by mainstream scholars, as well as the broader public. While many have criticized the teleology and hagiography that characterize much of Asante's approach to Afrocentrism, there is little doubt that the energy and attention he has brought to the Afrocentric paradigm have made an immense contribution to scholarship, forcing scholars of all stripes to be more serious in their considerations of the African past. In this way, his contributions far surpass those of his intellectual predecessors in the nineteenth century, and even Diop.

Perhaps the most controversial contribution to this new stream of Afrocentric scholarship relates to the question of Egypt's influence on ancient Greece. The idea of the "stolen" Egyptian legacy received serious consideration from the scholarly community with the publication of Martin Bernal's Black Athena (19871991). Indeed, Bernal's book became a lightning rod for controversies surrounding Afrocentrism, dominating much of the debate. Bernal, a white professor at Cornell University, made arguments that were strikingly similar to those made by earlier African-American intellectuals, such as Marcus Garvey, Cheikh Anta Diop, and others. In short, Bernal argued that the Greeks were indebted to Egyptian influences in the building of Western civilization. However, Bernal went one step further when he argued that portions of the ancient Greek population were actually derived from Egyptians who colonized the region. He shows that until the late eighteenth century, even European scholars acknowledged the influence of the Egyptians on Greece. Only with the emergence of pseudoscientific racism was this "Ancient Model" replaced by the "Aryan Model" that views ancient Greece as almost entirely "white" and European.

What separated Bernal from scholars who preceded him was his expertise in ancient history and languages, as well as the rigorous methodology he employed in researching his book. Evocative and dramatic in its rendering, Black Athena has been criticized by some classicists as being too imaginative in its use of archaeological and linguistic evidence. Nevertheless, other scholars of ancient Greece find Bernal's arguments provocative and compelling.

Unfortunately, some of Bernal's critics refused to engage his research on its merits, preferring instead to resort to broadside assaults. Foremost among these critics was Mary Lefkowitz. Her Not Out of Africa (1996) bears on its dust cover a bust of Socrates wearing a Malcolm X baseball cap. Its contents are no less subtle. Rather than trying to understand the historical imperatives that inspire claims of Socrates' or Cleopatra's blackness, Lefkowitz smugly refutes all claims that the ancient world was anything other than "Aryan." In her high-handed attempt to dismiss the evidentiary basis for Egyptian and African claims to the ancient world, she unwittingly feeds into the very marginalization and exclusion that initiated these inquiries in the first place.

Take, for example, her claim that the Egyptian "stolen legacy" theory "robs the ancient Greeks and their modern descendants of a heritage that rightly belongs to them" (Lefkowitz, 1996, p. 126). Here, she tacitly excludes Africans and their descendants from what most would consider the human heritage of Greek achievement. In yet another passage, Lefkowitz writes:

Any attempt to question the authenticity of ancient Greek civilization is of direct concern even to people who ordinarily have little interest in the remote past. Since the founding of this country, ancient Greece has been intimately connected with the ideals of American democracy. Rightly or wrongly, since much of the credit belongs to the Romans, we like to think that we have carried on some of the Greeks' proudest traditions: democratic government, and freedom of speech, learning, and discussion (Lefkowitz, 1996, p. 6).

Again, Lefkowitz belies her own racialized assumptions. Not only does she fail to recognize that for most of the country's history African Americans have been excluded from the "ideals of American democracy," she implicitly reinscribes this exclusion in her use of the word we, a we that, given her overall argument, can only be interpreted as "we white Americans." Thus, democracy remains a peculiarly "white" historical legacy. Unfortunately, Lefkowitz fails to recognize that it was precisely this exclusion that first prompted Afrocentric inquiries as early as the nineteenth century. And, erroneous as some Afrocentric conclusions might be, reactionary tracts like hers only confirm the deepest suspicions of those who claim a stolen legacy. As Wilson Moses noted in his fine examination of the history of Afrocentrism, Afrotopia (1998), "the appearance of Lefkowitz's book has been heralded with jubilation by paranoid black nationalists and Egyptocentrists. What better proof [of the stolen legacy] could they have desired than such a volume?" (p. 8).

The deepest irony of Lefkowitz's attack on Afrocentrism is that it unwittingly replicates some of the very same essentialist, separatist racism that can be found on the furthest fringes of Afrocentrism. Building on Diop's ideas about climatology, Leonard Jeffries, one-time chair of the Black Studies Department at the City College of New York, has argued that white "Ice People" are biologically inferior to black "Sun People." In Jeffries's views, white people's lack of melanin and their underdeveloped genes are products of the ice age, resulting in cold, callous, and selfish people. Meanwhile, the abundance of melanin in African-descended peoples results in creativity, communalism, and a love of humanity. Jeffries is not alone in this biological essentialism. Psychologist Frances Cress Welsing replicates Jeffries's arguments regarding the benefits of high levels of melanin in black people. Yet in her book, The Isis Papers (1991), she goes one step further when she argues that white males, obsessed with their lack of melanin, engage in a series of self-negating behaviors aimed at manufacturing more melanin. As an example, she argues that homosexuality is "a symbolic attempt to incorporate into the white male body more male substance. [Thus] the self-debasing white male may fantasize that he can produce a product of color, albeit that the product of color is fecal matter. This fantasy is significant for white males, because the males who can produce skin color are viewed as the real men" (p. 47). Though easy to reject, some have assumed that the ideas of people like Jeffries and Welsing are synonymous with Afrocentrism, writ large. At the risk of sounding like an apologist for such extremism, it bears repeating that Afrocentrism is not a set of fixed ideas; rather, it is a method of inquiry that centers Africa and African-descended peoples in their own cultures and histories. How that method is applied can result in radically different sets of conclusions.

Ultimately, Afrocentrism defies many of the simplistic assumptions that have been applied to it. As an approach to the study of African and African-descended peoples, it has a long and distinguished lineage. Indeed, scholars continue to utilize the Afrocentric "survivals" paradigm in their analysis of African contributions to the Americas. The best of these studies go well beyond the homogenous Africa of Egyptian teleology to note the specific ethnic and even family histories of Africans in their journeys through the diaspora. Yet most of the scholarly mainstream still insists on labeling Afrocentrism an essentially anti-intellectual, methodologically flawed endeavor. While there is little doubt that there is a vast gulf between those who romanticize the African past and those who study Africans and their descendants on their own terms, there is also little doubt that the imperatives driving these approaches are common onesan attempt to raise questions that emanate out of the black experience, centering African-descended peoples in their own temporal and historical realities.

See also Anthropology and Anthropologists; Black Arts Movement; Black Power Movement; Blyden, Edward Wilmot; Civil Rights Movement, U.S.; Garnet, Henry Highland; Garvey, Marcus; Turner, Henry McNeal

Bibliography

Asante, Molefi K. Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change. Buffalo, N.Y.: Amulefe, 1980.

Asante, Molefi K. The Afrocentric Idea. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987. Rev. ed., 1998.

Asante, Molefi K. Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1990.

Bastide, Roger. African Civilisations in the New World. Translated by Peter Green. New York: Harper, 1971.

Berlin, Ira. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. Cambridge, Mass.: Balknap, 1998.

Bernal, Martin. Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. 2 vols. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 19871991.

Diop, Cheikh Anta. The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality. Translated by Mercer Cook. New York: Lawrence Hill, 1974.

Diop, Cheikh Anta. Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology. Translated by Yaa-Lengi Meema Ngemi. New York: Lawrence Hill, 1991.

Drake, St. Clair. Black Folk Here and There: An Essay in History and Anthropology. 2 vols. Los Angeles: UCLA Afro-American Studies Center, 19871990.

Gomez, Michael A. Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

Harrison, Hubert Henry. When Africa Awakes: The "Inside Story" of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World. New York: Porro, 1920.

Herskovits, Melville J. The Myth of the Negro Past. New York: Harper, 1941.

Howe, Stephen. Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes. London: Verso, 1998.

James, George G. M. Stolen Legacy. New York: Philosophical Library, 1954.

Lefkowitz, Mary. Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History. New York: Basic Books, 1996.

Lovejoy, Paul E. "The African Diaspora: Revisionist Interpretations of Ethnicity, Culture, and Religion Under Slavery." Studies in the World History of Slavery, Abolition, and Emancipation 2 (1997): 123.

Mintz, Sidney, and Richard Price. The Birth of African-American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective. Boston: Beacon Press, 1992.

Morgan, Philip D. Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

Moses, Wilson Jeremiah. Afrotopia: The Roots of African American Popular History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Stuckey, Sterling. Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Thompson, Robert Farris. Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. New York: Random House, 1983.

Thornton, John K. Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 14001680, 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Welsing, Frances Cress. The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors Chicago: Third World Press, 1991.

Woodson, Carter G. The African Background Outlined, or, Handbook for the Study of the Negro. Washington, D.C.: Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, 1936.

james h. sweet (2005)

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"Afrocentrism." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Afrocentrism." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/afrocentrism

"Afrocentrism." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. . Retrieved June 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/afrocentrism

Afrocentrism

Afrocentrism

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Over the last three decades or so, the production, validation, legitimation, and mediation of knowledge about peoples African and of African descent were subjects of often very heated debate. A significant number of the generations of black academics, independent scholars, and teachers who came of age during the civil rights and black power movements became especially aggressive in their efforts to subject knowledge-production and knowledgemediation to guiding norms of Afrocentrism. While many of the concerns now linked with Afrocentrism have older rootsfor example, in the antiracist writings of W. E. B. Du Bois (The Negro, 1915; The Souls of Black Folk, 1903), the rehabilitative historiography of J. A. Rogers (Worlds Great Men of Color, 1946-1947), and the works of George Washington Williams (History of the Negro Race in America, 1882)the predominant steward of Afrocentrism in its modern form has been Molefi Kete Asante, of Temple Universitys department of African American studies.

Asantes call to become Afro-centric that is, African centeredwas shaped by twin forces: the politics of knowledge production, mediation, and appropriation, and resurgent black nationalism. The initial focus was on intellectual and political struggles over black studies : that is, on how to define, implement, and sustain systematic studies of black peoples (that is, Africans and peoples of African descent) through the disciplines of history, sociology, political science, psychology, economics, the arts, religion, and literature. Such studies were to be corrective of the denigrating distortions of the histories, lives, achievements, contributions, and possibilities of black peoples perpetuated through centuries of racist, Eurocentric scholarship. Foundational to this corrective work, Asante and others concluded, was the necessity of ensuring that producers and consumers of knowledge of black peoples be centered on the values and agendas of black peoples, especially those that originated within the classical African civilizations. A corollary conviction was that the production and consumption of such knowledge must be devoted unequivocally to the liberation of black peoples from Eurocentric constrictions and denials of their humanity. A distinctive contribution made by Asante is his ongoing effort to specify epistemological norms and strategies by which to produce knowledge that is fully and properly Afrocentric.

Thus, Afrocentrism (and its evolving cognates Afrocentricity and Afrology ) became a name with multiple references serving several related agendas. On one hand, it referred to epistemological and methodological norms and strategies by which to guide the production of knowledge by, about, and for black peoples. At the same time, the agenda was not merely scholarly: Afrocentric knowledge-production was to give guidance to history-making living in all dimensions of black lifepolitical, sociological, and cultural.

Afrocentrism thus became a complex intellectual, social, political, and cultural movement with substantial impact on proponents and practitioners of black/African/Africana studies. While the Afrocentric orientation is by no means the only or even predominant guiding commitment, it has been an intellectual and political force to be reckoned with, especially by knowledge-workers of African descent. These scholars have felt compelled either to establish their Afrocentric credentials, or to declare their independence from or opposition to Afrocentrism. Furthermore, Afrocentric critiques of what has passed, and continues to pass, for knowledge about black peoples have compelled more than a few scholars, black and white, to undertake reviews and counter-critiques of their own. Moreover, the Afrocentric movement in the United States has spread well beyond college and university campuses and contestations among professional academics. It has challenged curricula and teaching in primary and secondary schools, with notable impact in a number of cities and states (Portland, Oregon, and New York state, for example).

In reaction to Afrocentrisms influence, critics have posed a number of important questions: Do Afrocentric commitments render what is produced more ideology and propaganda than objective truth? Is Afrocentric knowledge-work limited by the strictures of racialized episte-mology and self-defeating methodological circularity? To answer these challenges, and to address Afrocentrisms potential weaknesses, a number of scholars have sought to refine the concept. Asante has contributed to this refinement through his reworking of the concept of Afrocentricity as Africalogy in Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge (1990). So, too, has Maulana Karenga, in his Introduction to Black Studies (1993). And works by strenuous critics such as Stephen Howe (1998) and Mary Lefkowitz (1997), along with the work of disciplined and deft intellectual historians such as Wilson Jeremiah Moses (1998) have helped to foster healthy reconsiderations and refinements of Afrocentrism.

Irrespective of the excesses and deficiencies of the Afrocentric quest in its various guises, one core insight remains cogent: All modes of knowledge-production and mediation are centered on particular historically and culturally conditioned values and interests. Proponents of Afrocentrism have sought to make such interests, values, and commitments explicit in terms of the agendas and communities they serve, while disclosing the racist investments in whiteness and imperialism that have distorted so much of supposedly interest-free, objective knowledge-production and mediation.

Here, then, is Afrocentrisms historic contribution: It has compelled us to become more mindful of, and honest about, our centerings, and, hopefully, inspired us to work much more openly and diligently for the achievement of a true objectivity free of the distorting limitations of invidious ethnocentrisms and racisms.

SEE ALSO African American Studies; African Diaspora; Black Nationalism; Black Power; Blackness; Du Bois, W. E. B.; Ethnocentrism; Racism

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Asante, Molefi K. 1980. Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change. Buffalo, NY: Amulefi.

Asante, Molefi K. 1987. The Afrocentric Idea. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Asante, Molefi K. 1990. Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.

Howe, Stephen. 1998. Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes. New York: Verso.

Karenga, Maulana. 1993. Introduction to Black Studies. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press.

Lefkowitz, Mary. 1997. Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History. New York: Basic Books.

Moses, Wilson Jeremiah. 1998. Afrotopia: The Roots of African American Popular History. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lucius T. Outlaw Jr.

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