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The Case against Afrocentrism

The Case against Afrocentrism

Tunde Adeleke
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Case against Afrocentrism
    Book Description:

    Postcolonial discourses on African Diaspora history and relations have traditionally focused intensely on highlighting the common experiences and links between black Africans and African Americans. This is especially true of Afrocentric scholars and supporters who use Africa to construct and validate a monolithic, racial, and culturally essentialist worldview. Publications by Afrocentric scholars such as Molefi Asante, Marimba Ani, Maulana Karenga, and the late John Henrik Clarke have emphasized the centrality of Africa to the construction of Afrocentric essentialism. In the last fifteen years, however, countervailing critical scholarship has challenged essentialist interpretations of Diaspora history. Critics such as Stephen Howe, Yaacov Shavit, and Clarence Walker have questioned and refuted the intellectual and cultural underpinnings of Afrocentric essentialist ideology.

    Tunde Adeleke deconstructs Afrocentric essentialism by illuminating and interrogating the problematic situation of Africa as the foundation of a racialized worldwide African Diaspora. He attempts to fill an intellectual gap by analyzing the contradictions in Afrocentric representations of the continent. These include multiple, conflicting, and ambivalent portraits of Africa; the use of the continent as a global, unifying identity for all blacks; the de-emphasizing and nullification of New World acculturation; and the ahistoristic construction of a monolithic African Diaspora worldwide.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-294-8
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction: Afrocentric Essentialism
    (pp. 3-22)

    In a lengthy presidential address delivered to the National Emigration Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in August 1854, Martin R. Delany (1812–1885) emphasized the pervasiveness and virulence of racism in the United States and urged black Americans to consider immigrating to external locations such as Africa and the Caribbean, where they would have unfettered opportunities to develop and realize their full potentialities.¹ In Delany’s judgment, race had become perhaps the single most critical factor in human relations, both within the United States and on the international scene. As he poignantly declared, “It would be duplicity longer to disguise the fact...

  6. 1 Africa and the Challenges of Constructing Identity
    (pp. 23-58)

    InThe Roots of African-American Identity(1997), Elizabeth Raul Bethel identifies two critical events that shaped black American consciousness and identity in the nineteenth century. The first was the Haitian revolution of 1791–1804, which resulted in the overthrow of French plantocratic hegemony by black slaves. The revolution represented, for blacks in the United States and elsewhere, both a “model of political agency and racial achievement” that was denied to them and the potency and possibilities of nationalism in the context of New World experience. It consequently nurtured optimism on the prospect of transcending enslavement.¹ The second was the 1807...

  7. 2 Conceptual and Paradigmatic Utilizations and Representations of Africa
    (pp. 59-93)

    Africa has been a crucial component of black Diaspora struggles from the very beginning. How blacks in Diaspora perceived, conceived, and utilized Africa is a reflection of both the prevailing and dominant images and constructions of Africa, and the dynamics of the ever-changing experiences of blacks over historical time and space. Five paradigms/perspectives defined and shaped black Diaspora perceptions of, reactions to, and utilization of Africa. These paradigms reflect the functions Africa served and continues to serve (negatively and positively) in the black Diaspora struggle through historical times. They provide insights into how blacks conceptualized, utilized, and responded to Africa....

  8. 3 Essentialist Construction of Identity and Pan-Africanism
    (pp. 94-133)

    In July 1992, at a symposium organized by the African Students Union of Tulane University, a black American male asked the panelists, all of them Africans, to suggest how black Americans and Africans could best develop and sustain a viable Pan-African relationship as a strategy against threats posed by the political and cultural dominance of white Americans and Europeans. In April 1993, the Pan-African Movement U.S.A. (PAMUSA) held its annual convention in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference focused attention on the necessity and strategies for revamping Pan-Africanism. In December 1993, the epochal Seventh Pan-African Congress took place in Kampala, Uganda. Delegates...

  9. 4 Afrocentric Consciousness and Historical Memory
    (pp. 134-150)

    Several scholars have documented and exhaustively analyzed the historical roots of Afrocentric consciousness.¹ Based on these studies, it is reasonable to suggest that Diaspora blacks had historically manifested strong African consciousness and professed strong affinity for Africa. Some scholars of the Afrocentric genre affirm not only the historical depth of “Afrocentric consciousness” but also a legitimacy derived from deeply rooted shared historical and cultural ethos of mutuality.² These scholars have often represented African consciousness among black Americans as positive and as a deep and authentic manifestation and representation of the consanguineous ethos that defined black American conceptions of, and relations...

  10. 5 Afrocentric Essentialism and Globalization
    (pp. 151-171)

    The last two decades have witnessed a deepening of the crisis of black American alienation. Reacting to the conservative upsurge that continues to erode significant gains of the civil rights movement, black cultural nationalism, according to some scholars, has assumed a heavily “hyper-politicized” character, extending black alienation beyond the boundaries of the United States into the global arena. Leading black cultural nationalists portray globalization as a force for perpetuating the hegemonic aspirations of Europeans, and thus inimical to the racial and cultural survival of blacks. They are consequently suspicious of, and opposed to, the prospect of a global cultural citizenship....

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 172-189)

    The use of Africa by blacks in America to construct an essentialist ideological worldview is grounded in their historical experiences. It is a reflection of, and a legitimate response to, alienation. It is a historical and existential quest for validation in the context of objectification and negation. It resulted in the construction and affirmation of a countervailing monolithic protest identity. Unfortunately, the identity is one-dimensional and ahistorical and is more reflective of the alienation of blacks in America than a true representation of the historical process. That black Americans are of African ancestry is undeniable; however, that they remain essentially...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 190-201)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 202-217)
  14. Index
    (pp. 218-223)