Black studies, or Africana studies (with nationally specific terms, such as African American studies and Black Canadian studies), is an interdisciplinary academic field that primarily focuses on the study of the history, culture, and politics of the peoples of the African diaspora and Africa. The field includes scholars of African American, Afro-Canadian, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino, Afro-European, Afro-Asian, African Australian, and African literature, history, politics, and religion as well as those from disciplines, such as sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, psychology, education, and many other disciplines within the humanities and social sciences. The field also uses various types of research methods.
Intensive academic efforts to reconstruct African American history began in the late 19th century (W. E. B. Du Bois, The Suppression of the African Slave-trade to the United States of America, 1896). Among the pioneers in the first half of the 20th century were Carter G. Woodson, Herbert Aptheker, Melville Herskovits, and Lorenzo Dow Turner.
Programs and departments of Black studies in the United States were first created in the 1960s and 1970s as a result of inter-ethnic student and faculty activism at many universities, sparked by a five-month strike for Black studies at San Francisco State. In February 1968, San Francisco State hired sociologist Nathan Hare to coordinate the first Black studies program and write a proposal for the first Department of Black Studies; the department was created in September 1968 and gained official status at the end of the five-months strike in the spring of 1969. The creation of programs and departments in Black studies was a common demand of protests and sit-ins by minority students and their allies, who felt that their cultures and interests were underserved by the traditional academic structures.
Names of the academic disciplineEdit
The academic discipline is known by various names. Mazama (2009) expounds:
In the appendix to their recently published Handbook of Black Studies, Asante and Karenga note that “the naming of the discipline” remains “unsettled” (Asante & Karenga, 2006, p. 421). This remark came as a result of an extensive survey of existing Black Studies programs, which led to the editors identifying a multiplicity of names for the discipline: Africana Studies, African and African Diaspora Studies, African/Black World Studies, Pan-African Studies, Africology, African and New World Studies, African Studies–Major, Black World Studies, Latin American Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Black and Hispanic Studies, Africana and Latin American Studies, African and African-American Studies, Black and Hispanic Studies, African American Studies, Afro-American Studies, African American Education Program, Afro-Ethnic Studies, American Ethnic Studies, American Studies–African-American Emphasis, Black Studies, Comparative American Cultures, Ethnic Studies Programs, Race and Ethnic Studies.
Okafor (2014) clarifies:
What appears to drive these distinctive names is a combination of factors: the composite expertise of their faculty, their faculty’s areas of specialization, and the worldviews of the faculty that make up each unit. By worldview, I am referring to the question of whether the constituent faculty in a given setting manifests any or a combination of the following visions of our project:
- a domestic vision of black studies that sees it as focusing exclusively on the affairs of only United States African Americans who descended from the generation of enslaved Africans
- a diasporic vision of black studies that is inclusive of the affairs of all of African descendants in the New World—that is, the Americas: North America, South America and the Caribbean
- a globalistic vision of the black studies—that is, a viewpoint that thinks in terms of an African world—a world encompassing African-origin communities that are scattered across the globe and the continent of Africa itself.
A specific aim and objective of this interdisciplinary field of study is to help students broaden their knowledge of the worldwide human experience by presenting an aspect of that experience—the Black Experience—which has traditionally been neglected or distorted by educational institutions. Additionally, this course of study strives to introduce an Afro-centric perspective, including phenomena related to the culture. According to Robert Harris Jr, an emeritus professor of history at the Africana Studies Research Center at Cornell, there have been four stages in the development of Africana studies: from the 1890s until the Second World War, numerous organizations developed to analyze the culture and history of African peoples. In the second stage, the focus turned to African Americans. In the third stage, a bevy of newly conceived academic programs were established as Black studies.
In the United States, the 1960s is rightfully known as the "Turbulent Sixties." During this time period, the nation experienced great social unrest, as residents challenged the social order in radical ways. Many movements took place in the United States during this time period, including women's rights movement, labor rights movement, and the civil rights movement.
The students at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) were witnesses to the Civil Rights Movement, and by 1964, they were thrust into activism. On October 1, 1964, Jack Weinberg, a former graduate student, was sitting at a table where the Congress of Racial Equality was distributing literature encouraging students to protest against institutional racism. Police asked Weinberg to produce his ID to confirm that he was a student, but he refused to do so and was, therefore, arrested. In support of Weinberg, 3,000 students surrounded the police vehicle, and even used the car as a podium, from where, they spoke about their right to engage in political protest on campus. This impromptu demonstration was the first of many protests, culminating in the institutionalization of Black studies.
Two months later, students at UC Berkeley organized a sit-in at the Sproul Hall Administration building to protest an unfair rule that prohibited all political clubs from fundraising, excluding the democrat and republican clubs. Police arrested 800 students. Students formed a "freedom of speech movement" and Mario Savio became its poetic leader, stating that "freedom of speech was something that represents the very dignity of what a human is." The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a well-connected and organized club, hosted a conference entitled "Black Power and its Challenges." Black leaders, who were directly tied to then ongoing civil rights movements, spoke to a predominantly white audience about their respective goals and challenges. These leaders included Stokely Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and James Bevel of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Educational conferences, like that of the SDS, forced the university to take some measures to correct the most obvious racial issue on campus—the sparse black student population. In 1966, the school held its first official racial and ethnic survey, in which it was discovered that the "American Negro" represented 1.02% of the university population. In 1968, the university instituted its Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), facilitated the increased minority student enrollment, and offered financial aid to minority students with high potential. By 1970, there were 1,400 EOP students. As the minority student population increased, tension between activists clubs and minorities rose because minorities wanted the reigns of the movement that affected them directly. One student asserted that it was "backward to educate white people about Black Power when many black people are still uneducated on the matter. "The members of the Afro-American Student Union (AASU) proposed an academic department called "Black Studies" in April 1968. "We demand a program of 'Black Studies', a program that will be of and for black people. We demand to be educated realistically and that no form of education which attempts to lie to us, or otherwise mis-educate us will be accepted."
AASU members asserted: "The young people of America are the inheritors of what is undoubtedly one of the most challenging, and threatening set of social circumstances that has ever fallen upon a generation of young people in history." Everyone learns differently and teaching only one way is a cause for students to not want to learn, which eventually leads to dropping out. All students have their specialties, but teachers don't use that to help them in their learning community. Instead, they use a broad way of teaching just to get the information out. AASU used these claims to gain ground on their proposal to create a Black studies department. Nathan Hare, a sociology professor at San Francisco State University, created what was known as the "A Conceptual Proposal for Black Studies" and AASU used Hare's framework to create a set of criteria. A Black studies program was implemented by the UC Berkeley administration on January 13, 1969. In 1969, St. Clair Drake was named the first chair of the degree granting, Program in African and Afro-American Studies at Stanford University. Many Black studies programs and departments and programs around the nation were created in subsequent years.
At University of California, Santa Barbara, similarly, student activism led to the establishment of a Black studies department, amidst great targeting and discrimination of student leaders of color on the University of California campuses. In the Autumn season of 1968, black students from UCSB joined the national civil rights movement to end racial segregation and exclusion of Black history and studies from college campuses. Triggered by the insensitivity of the administration and general campus life, they occupied North Hall and presented the administration with a set of demands. Such efforts led to the eventual creation of the Black studies department and the Center for Black Studies.
Similar activism was happening outside of California. At Yale University, a committee headed by political scientist Robert Dahl recommended establishing an undergraduate major in African American culture, one of the first such at an American university.
When Ernie Davis, who was from Syracuse University, became the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy in college football, it renewed debates about race on college campuses in the country. Inspired by the Davis win, civil rights movement, and nationwide student activism, in 1969, black and white students, led by the Student African American Society (SAS), at Syracuse University, marched in front of the building at Newhouse and demanded for Black studies to be taught at Syracuse. It existed as an independent, underfunded non-degree offering program from 1971 until 1979. In 1979, the program became the Department of African American Studies, offering degrees within the College of Arts and Sciences.
Unlike the other stages, Black studies grew out of mass rebellions of black college students and faculty in search of a scholarship of change. The fourth stage, the new name "Africana studies" involved a theoretical elaboration of the discipline of Black studies according to African cultural reclamation and disparate tenets in the historical and cultural issues of Africanity within a professorial interpretation of the interactions between these fields and college administrations.
Thus, Africana studies reflected the mellowing and institutionalization of the Black studies movement in the course of its integration into the mainstream academic curriculum. Black studies and Africana studies differ primarily in that Africana studies focuses on Africanity and the historical and cultural issues of Africa and its descendants, while Black studies was designed to deal with the uplift and development of the black (African-American) community in relationship to education and its "relevance" to the black community. The adaptation of the term, "Africana studies", appears to have derived from the encyclopedic work of W. E. B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson. James Turner, who was recruited from graduate school at Northwestern on the heels of the student rebellions of 1969, first used the term to describe a global approach to Black studies and name the "Africana Studies and Research Center" at Cornell, where he acted as the founding director.
Studia Africana, subtitled "An International Journal of Africana Studies", was published by the Department for African American Studies at the University of Cincinnati in a single issue in 1977 (an unrelated journal called Studia Africana is published by the Centro de Estudios Africanos, Barcelona, since 1990). The International Journal of Africana Studies (ISSN 1056-8689) has been appearing since 1992, published by the National Council for Black Studies.
Following the rise and decline of Black British Cultural Studies between the early 1980s and late 1990s, Black studies in the United States reinvigorated Black Critical Thought in the United Kingdom. Kehinde Andrews, who initiated the development of the Black Studies Association in the United Kingdom as well as the development of a course in Black studies at Birmingham City University, continues to advocate for the advancement of the presence of Black studies in the United Kingdom.
Among English-speaking countries of the Caribbean, scholars educated in the United States and Britain added considerably to the development of Black studies. Scholars, such as Fitzroy Baptiste, Richard Goodridge, Elsa Goveia, Allister Hinds, Rupert Lewis, Bernard Marshall, James Millette, and Alvin Thompson, added to the development of Black studies at the University of the West Indies campuses in Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad.
In 1980, Abdias Nascimento gave a presentation in Panama of his scholarship on Kilombismo at the 2nd Congress of Black Culture in the Americas. His scholarship on Kilombismo detailed how the economic and political affairs of Africans throughout the Americas contributed to how they socially organized themselves. Afterward, Nascimento went back to Brazil and began institutionalization of Africana studies in 1981. While at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, Nascimento developed the Afro-Brazilian Studies and Research Institute (IPEAFRO). A course for professors was provided by IPEAFRO between 1985 and 1995.
In 1991, the national chair for Black Canadian Studies, which was named after James Robinson Johnston, was created at Dalhousie University for the purpose of advancing the development and presence of Black studies in Canada. Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin was studied by the Black Canadian Studies chairman, John Barnstead.
Delores P. Aldridge developed a research method, which analyzes from the viewpoint of black women, known as Africana Womanism. Rather than the importance of the individual (e.g., needs, wants) being considered greater than the family unit, the importance of the family unit is regarded as greater than the individual.
Afrocentricity is an academic theory and approach to scholarship that seeks to center the experiences and peoples of Africa and the African diaspora within their own historical, cultural, and sociological contexts. First developed as a systematized methodology by Molefi Kete Asante in 1980, he drew inspiration from a number of African and African diaspora intellectuals including Cheikh Anta Diop, George James, Harold Cruse, Ida B. Wells, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and W. E. B. Du Bois. The Temple Circle, also known as the Temple School of Thought, Temple Circle of Afrocentricity, or Temple School of Afrocentricity, was an early group of Africologists during the late 1980s and early 1990s that helped to further develop Afrocentricity, which is based on concepts of agency, centeredness, location, and orientation.
Afrocentricity means “African-centeredness”, and, as a unifying paradigm, it draws from and connects the foundational scholarship of Africana studies and African studies. Those who specialize in Afrocentricity, including historians, philosophers, and sociologists, bear the professional designation of "Africologist" or "Afrocentrist." Afrocentricity is rooted in the perspective and culture common to African peoples, and centers on African peoples and their experiences as agents and subjects. There are functional aspects of Afrocentricity which encourage social or political action by those engaging with the paradigm. Afrocentricity also centers African conceptions of class, ethnicity, gender, race in analyses, and uses the tools of etymology to identify shared concepts from African languages representing a shared African cultural heritage for use in scholarly practice. Afrocentricity also seeks the re-creation of classical African civilizations as a means to comprehend African culture, history, and spirituality.
Ama Mazama defined the paradigm of Afrocentricity as being composed of the “ontology/epistemology, cosmology, axiology, and aesthetics of African people” and as being “centered in African experiences,” which then conveys the “African voice.” Afrocentricity incorporates African dance, music, rituals, legends, literature, and oratures as key features of its expository approach. Axiological features of Afrocentricity include explorations of African ethics, and the aesthetic aspects incorporate African mythology, rhythm, and the performing arts into Afrocentric works. In addition, Afrocentricity seeks to integrate aspects of African spiritualities, recognizing them as essential components of African worldviews. Spirituality and other intuitive methods of acquiring knowledge and emotional responses are used in the paradigm as a counterbalance to rationality, and some Africologists rely on firsthand experience of these cultural and spiritual artifacts to inform their work. As philosophy and religion were not isolated from one another in classical African civilizations, and integrated African wisdom traditions led to the development of African cultural phenomena (e.g., art, science, design), the paradigm of Afrocentricity tries to offer a coherent way to unify these aspects of the African story. In the context of spirituality, Afrocentricity includes a foundational concept of a unity in being manifested as an inherent essence in nature.
In contrast to the hegemonic ideology of Eurocentrism, the paradigm of Afrocentricity is argued by its practitioners to be non-hierarchical and pluralistic and not intended to supplant “‘white knowledge’ with ‘black knowledge.’” As a holistic multidisciplinary theory with a strong focus on the location and agency of Africans, Afrocentricity is designed not to accept the role of subaltern prescribed to Africans by Eurocentrism. An important aspect of Afrocentricity is therefore a deconstruction and criticism of hegemony, racism, and prejudice.
People of Africa and the African diaspora are viewed through Afrocentricity's conceptual lens with an agency and centeredness of their legacies and location based on the understanding that the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora became historically decentered (not just physically, but also culturally, intellectually, and philosophically) by Europeans, as a result of enslavement and colonization, and have historically resisted becoming dislocated. As opposed to this decenteredness that locates people of Africa and the African diaspora in the objectified disposition of “the other,” Afrocentricity locates people of Africa and the African diaspora as subjects with agency. Centeredness is regarded as important based on the understanding that the African psyche has become disoriented and misoriented.
Academic works are not Afrocentric – that is, are not scholarship that falls within the scope of Afrocentricity – simply due to their focus on African or African-American topics, such as consciousness, history, politics, and social problems. Afrocentric academic works are neither works on melanist theories nor rooted in matters of color of the skin, biology, or biological determinism. Afrocentrists, who produce Afrocentric academic works, identify their professional field as Afrocentricity – not Afrocentrism. In order for academic works to be considered Afrocentric, as highlighted by Danjuma Modupe, the works must be composed of four methodological concepts – “agency, centeredness, psychic integrity, and cultural fidelity.” Thus, in order for critiques of academic works, which have been characterized as Afrocentric, to be valid, the works have to meet this criterion for being considered Afrocentric.
Midas Chanawe outlined in his historical survey of the development of Afrocentricity how experiences of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Middle Passage, and legal prohibition of literacy, shared by enslaved African-Americans, followed by the experience of dual cultures (e.g., Africanisms, Americanisms), resulted in some African-Americans re-exploring their African cultural heritage rather than choosing to be Americanized. Additionally, the African-American experience of ongoing racism emphasized the importance that culture and its relative nature could have on their intellectual enterprise. All of this cultivated a foundation for the development of Afrocentricity. Examples of the kinds of arguments that presaged Afrocentricity include pieces published in the Freedom's Journal (1827) that drew connections between Africans and ancient Egyptians, African-American abolitionists, such as Frederick Douglass and David Walker, who highlighted the accomplishments of the ancient Egyptians as Africans to undermine the white supremacist assertion that Africans were inferior, and the assertions of the Pan-Africanist, Marcus Garvey, who argued that ancient Egypt laid the foundation for civilization in world history. These would be echoed in the contexts of Black Nationalism, Negritude, Pan-Africanism, Black Power movement, and the Black is Beautiful movement that served as harbingers for the formal development of Afrocentricity.
Molefi Kete Asante dates the first use of the term, "Afro-centric", to 1964, when the Institute of African Studies was being established in Ghana and its founder, Kwame Nkrumah, said to the Editorial Board of the Encyclopedia Africana: "[T]he Africana Project must be frankly Afro-centric in its interpretation of African history, and of the social and cultural institutions of the African and people of African descent everywhere." Other antecedents to Afrocentricity identified by Asante include the 1948 work of Cheikh Anta Diop when he introduced the idea of an "African Renaissance", J.A. Sofala's 1973 treatise The African Culture and Personality, and the three 1973 publications of The Afrocentric Review. Following the example of these and other preceding African intellectuals, Asante formally proposed the concept of Afrocentricity in a 1980 publication, Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change, and further refined the concept in The Afrocentric Idea (1987). Other influential publications that helped to develop Afrocentricity include Linda James Myers' Understanding the Afrocentric Worldview (1988), Asante's Kemet, Afrocentricity and Knowledge (1992), Ama Mazama's edited compilation The Afrocentric Paradigm (2003), and Asante's An Afrocentric Manifesto (2007).
Temple University, the institutional home of Molefi Kete Asante and site of the first PhD program in Africology and African American Studies, is widely regarded as the leading institution for scholarship in Afrocentricity. In addition to Molefi Kete Asante, Afrocentricity developed among the "Temple Circle" (e.g., Abu Abarry, Kariamu Welsh Asante, Terry Kershaw, Tsehloane Keto, Ama Mazama, Theophile Obenga). As a result of the scholarly development of Afrocentricity, several scholarly journals and professional associations have developed throughout the United States of America and Africa. Africological conferences also developed, some which operate by invitation, and some which occur on a yearly basis, such as the Cheikh Anta Diop Conference. The theory of Afrocentricity also had subsequent impact on other academic fields and theories, such as anthropology, education, jazz theory, linguistics, organizational theory, and physical education.
Differences between Afrocentricity and AfrocentrismEdit
By way of distinction, Afrocentricity should not be confused with the variant Afrocentrism. The term “Afrocentrism” was first used by the opponents of Afrocentricity who in their zeal saw it as an obverse of Eurocentrism. The adjective “Afrocentric” in the academic literature always referred to “Afrocentricity.” However, the use of “Afrocentrism” reflected a negation of the idea of Afrocentricity as a positive and progressive paradigm. The aim was to assign religious signification to the idea of African centeredness. However, it has come to refer to a broad cultural movement of the late twentieth century that has a set of philosophical, political, and artistic ideas which provides the basis for the musical, sartorial, and aesthetic dimensions of the African personality. On the other hand, Afrocentricity, as I have previously defined it, is a theory of agency, that is, the idea that African people must be viewed and view themselves as agents rather than spectators to historical revolution and change. To this end Afrocentricity seeks to examine every aspect of the subject place of Africans in historical, literary, architectural, ethical, philosophical, economic, and political life.
Rather than seeking to understand the theory of Afrocentricity or engage in constructive discourse with the scholars of the theory, Bankole (1994) indicates that many critical academics seek to critique and discredit the theory as well as engage in intellectual militarism. Consequently, between Afrocentrism and Afrocentricity, many critical academics tend to overlook their key suffix distinction (i.e., -ism and -icity).
Stewart (1997) indicates that Afrocentricity has been made increasingly well-known inside and outside of the academy, which has resulted in non-academics developing their own forms of analysis that are not so precise or accurate and these subsequently developed forms of analysis have been incorporated into various forms of media (e.g., music, film); this form of popular culture, or Afrocentrism, has also subsequently been mistaken for the systematic methodology of Afrocentricity. As a result of the popular misconceptions of what Afrocentricity is not, Stewart indicates that this has had a negative impact in terms of public perception.
Gray (2001) indicates that, unlike Afrocentrism, the intellectual theory of Afrocentricity adds value to the field of Black studies.
Karenga (2002) indicates that distinctions exist between the public understanding of Afrocentrism that has been conveyed through mass media, which is held by some proponents and held by some critics of Afrocentrism, and the academic conceptualization of Afrocentricity held by African-centered scholars. Karenga (2002) indicates that Afrocentricity is an intellectual paradigm or methodology, whereas, Afrocentrism, by merit of the term’s suffix (i.e., -ism), is an ideological and political disposition. Additionally, Karenga (2002) indicates that, in Afrocentricity, African behaviors and African culture are subject to examination through the centered lens of African ideals.
Despite not representing the actual views within Molefi Kete Asante's intellectual work on Afrocentricity, Gayles (2008) indicates that critics of some of the more radical views in Afrocentrism have blamed Asante for these more radical views in Afrocentrism.
As the theory of Afrocentricity does not seek to have an overarching and all-encompassing scope, Monteiro-Ferreira (2008) indicates that, despite the insistence of critics, Afrocentricity is not a religion and that Afrocentricity should not be confused with Afrocentrism.
Monteiro-Ferreira (2010) indicates that misinterpretation and misunderstanding of Afrocentricity usually arises when it is confused with Afrocentrism.
Sesanti (2010) indicates that Afrocentricity is distinct from Afrocentrism and that the two should not be for mistaken for one another.
Asante (2010) indicates that Afrocentrism and Afrocentricity are not the same; additionally, that Afrocentricity has been identified by critics as Afrocentrism along with the mischaracterization of it as being the essentialist paradigm of a religion.
Karenga (2010) indicates that Afrocentrism and Afrocentricity are different from one another. Additionally, that while Afrocentrism is popular culture, Afrocentricity is an academic theory. Further, that Afrocentricity has been depicted by mass media and critics as Afrocentrism in order to attempt to mischaracterize and/or invalidate Afrocentricity. Furthermore, that critics attempt to reframe Afrocentricity, by displacing it from its academic context as a theory and method and into the context of politics and ideology, by adding the suffix -ism to it.
M’Baye (2012) indicates that Afrocentricity is distinct from Afrocentrism, and that Afrocentrism is frequently confused with ethnonationalism, simplified to black pride or romanticized black history, misconstrued by progressive/liberal academics as being a black version of white nationalism, or mischaracterized as being a black version of Eurocentrism.
Coquery-Vidrovitch (2013) indicates that Afrocentrism and Afrocentricity are distinct from one another.
Rasekoala et al. (2015) indicates that Afrocentrism and Afrocentricity are distinct from one another. While Afrocentrism is characterized as an ideology focused on cultural traits (e.g., customs, habits, traditions, values, value systems) of Africans, Rasekoala et al. characterizes Afrocentricity as a methodology that focuses on the positionality, agency, and experiences of Africans.
Stewart (2015) indicates that the ideology of Afrocentrism has been falsely equated with the theory of Afrocentricity.
Yehudah (2015) indicates that mainstream critics and scholars, who are mostly outside of the Black studies discipline, despite the efforts of Africologists to make clear the intentions and scope of Afrocentricity, have continued to identify it as Afrocentrism, which is characterized as being a derived form and type of popular culture.
Gwaravanda (2016) indicates that Afrocentrism and Afrocentricity are different from one another. Additionally, that Afrocentricity, which is characterized as being a body of “responsible scholarship,” has had the term Afrocentrism imposed on it, along with “absurd or indefensible claims,” by conservative academics who mischaracterize and errantly define it.
Masaka (2016) indicates that critics often misidentify Afrocentrism as Afrocentricity so as to allow it to be attacked with increasing ease.
Akua (2017) indicates that Afrocentricity and Afrocentrism should not be mistaken for one another.
Asante (2017) indicates that critics of Afrocentricity have conflated Afrocentricity with Afrocentrism, and thus, mischaracterized it as being a "'religious' movement based on an essentialist paradigm." Consequently, as opposed to identifying it as Afrocentrism, Africologists tend to identify their professional field as Afrocentricity. Asante further indicates that Afrocentricity is not what it has been characterized by critics.
Noman (2018) indicates that Afrocentricity and Afrocentrism are not synonymous with one another. Additionally, that Edward Said’s usage of these terms, as if they were synonymous, shows a lack of comprehension of the concept of centeredness within the paradigm of Afrocentricity; hence, also shows a lack of comprehension in his view of Afrocentricity as being a counter to, or obverse of, Eurocentrism. Furthermore, that the usage of Said’s post-structuralist terms among postmodern scholars is what contributes to the epistemic problems of post-colonial studies.
Appiagyei (2019) indicates that Afrocentricity and Afrocentrism are frequently confused for one another by critics, who then attempt to falsely equate Afrocentricity with Eurocentrism and characterize it as being a form of black supremacy.
Abdullah (2020) indicates that Afrocentrism is different from Afrocentricity. Abdullah (2020) also indicates that Afrocentrism has been fallaciously characterized as being a notion based on black supremacy and as being the black equivalent of hegemonic Eurocentrism.
Rodrigue (2020) indicates that Afrocentrism and Afrocentricity should not be misidentified as being the same.
Moloi (2020) indicates that Afrocentrism and Afrocentricity should not be mistaken for one another. Additionally, that Afrocentricity is a theoretic concept of agency. Asante (2000) also indicates that Afrocentrism post-dates Afrocentricity as a concept. Moloi (2020) also indicates that the detractors of Afrocentricity intentionally mislabel Afrocentricity as Afrocentrism in order to steer people of African descent, who are not yet aware of what composes Afrocentricity, away from it; this is characterized “ongoing ideological warfare to ensure the continuation of the subjugation of African people as objects of analysis, thus discouraging them from being agents in their own history.” Additionally, Moloi (2020) indicates that detractors of Afrocentricity, who charge scholars of Afrocentricity of producing political propaganda, do so as well, while portraying it as scholarship, in order to deny the agency of Africans and to avoid critique. Hilliard (1995) and Alkebulan (2007) also indicate that, rather than the academic work of scholars of Afrocentricity being use to define Afrocentricity, mass media has shaped the public understanding of Afrocentricity using the work of journalists and the work of academics, who are not professionals in the field of Afrocentricity – such as Mary Lefkowitz and her work, Not Out of Africa, which also confuses Afrocentrism with Afrocentricity – as authoritative sources for criticisms of Afrocentricity.
Asante (2020) indicates that Afrocentricity should neither be mistaken for African-centered nor Afrocentrism. While Africa-centered may suggest a limitation in geography, Afrocentricity can be performed anywhere throughout the world. While Afrocentrism may often be framed as a system of religious beliefs, Afrocentricity is a paradigm of analysis. Additionally, use of the term Afrocentric preexisted the birth of Molefi Kete Asante and it later became incorporated into the Afrocentric methodology and paradigm created by Asante.
In 1991, the New York Times, or Newsweek, created the term Afrocentrism in opposition to Afrocentricity and critics of Afrocentricity advanced this effort. Zulu (2018) indicates that Afrocentrism was an imposed term, which was part of a deceptive grand narrative, intended to derail and curtail the momentum of the paradigm of Afrocentricity being adopted and used. Consequently, as Bangura (2017), Bangura (2020), and Kunda (2021) indicate, many confuse Afrocentricity with being a term that is synonymous with the term Afrocentrism.
Balakrishnan (2021) indicates that what has come to be known as Afrocentrism has existed among black communities for centuries as a grassroots political understanding and narrative tradition about the history of Africa and Africans, which lies in contrast to and is distinct from the theory of Afrocentricity and Africology movement that developed in the 1980s.
While there are different designations (e.g., Africanity, Gloriana Afrocentricity, Proletarian Afrocentricity) for Afrocentricity, Amo‑Agyemang (2021) indicates that Afrocentricity should not be mistaken for Afrocentrism and does not seek to replace Eurocentrism. As Afrocentricity centers African identity, and privileges the concepts, traditions, and history of Africans, Amo‑Agyemang indicates that Afrocentricity clarifies, deconstructs, and undermines hegemonic epistemologies; also, that it serves as a liberatory method that “negates/repudiates exploitations, oppression, repression, domination and marginality of indigenous cultural knowl‑edge” and seeks the “democratisation of knowledge, de‑hegemonisation of knowledge, de‑westernisation of knowledge, and de‑Europe‑anisation of knowledge.”
Criticisms and responses to criticismsEdit
Major critics of Afrocentricity have been Tunde Adeleke (e.g., The Case Against Afrocentrism, 2009), Clarence Walker (e.g., Why We Can't Go Home Again, 2001), Stephen Howe (e.g., Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes, 1998), and Mary Lefkowitz (e.g., Not Out of Africa, 1997). These major critical works were characterized in Asante (2017) as being a "misunderstanding of Afrocentricity or an attempt to relaunch the Eurocentric domination in knowledge, criticism, and literature."
Esonwanne (1992) critiqued Asante’s Kemet, Afrocentricity and Knowledge (1990) and characterized its discourse as “implausible,” its argumentation as “disorganized,” its analysis as “crude and garbled,” its perceived lack of seriousness in study as harmful to the “serious study of African American and African cultures,” as being part of a “whole project of Afrocentrism,” and as being “off-handedly racist.” Esonwanne (1992) indicates that the redeeming quality and “intellectual value” of Asante's earlier work is its “negative value” and that it is a prime example of what researchers in African studies and African-American studies “would do well to avoid.” Esonwanne (1992) further characterizes Asante’s Afrocentricity as being a “post-Civil Rights individualist version of the pan-Africanist doctrine” that merits not giving into “temptation to dismiss the notion of Afrocentricity completely in abeyance.”
Asante (1993) critiqued Esonwanne (1992) and the critical review that was given to his earlier work. Asante indicated that scholars who considered using Esonwanne (1992) as a means to comprehend his earlier work would have a limited comprehension of his earlier work. Esonwanne’s characterization of Asante’s work as “off-handedly racist” was characterized by Asante as “gratuitous mudslinging” that lacked specificity about what was being characterized as “off-handedly racist.” Additionally, Asante indicated that, due to the lack of specific example cited from his earlier work to support the characterization of it as “off-handedly racist,” it was “not only a serious breach of professionalism but a grotesque and dishonest intellectual ploy.”
Esonwanne (1992) indicated that grouping Cheikh Anta Diop, Maulana Karenga, and Wade Nobles together was a “strange mix” due to each of the scholars having different methodological approaches to African studies and African-American studies. Based on this characterization of Asante’s earlier work as a “strange mix,” Asante (1993) viewed this as indication of Esonwanne (1992) showing a lack of comprehension and familiarity with his earlier work, with the works of Diop, Karenga, and Wade, as well as the theory of Afrocentricity. Asante (1993) went on to clarify that Cheikh Anta Diop, Maulana Karenga, and Wade Nobles, despite differences in professional backgrounds or academic interests, were all scholars in the theory of Afrocentricity.
Asante (1993) went on to clarify that, similar to the use of the term “European”, the use of the composite term “African” is not used it in reference to an abstraction, but is used in reference to ethnic identity and cultural heritage; as such, there are modal uses of terms such as “African civilization” and “African culture,” which do not deny the significance of the discrete identities and heritages of more specific African groupings (e.g., African-American, Hausa, Jamaican, Kikuyu, Kongo, Yoruba). Asante (1993) indicates that usage of such terms, in reference to Ma’at, was addressed in a chapter of his earlier work, but that the shortcomings of the critiques presented in Esonwanne (1992) show that Esonwanne may not have read as far as that chapter.
Hill-Collins (2006) characterized Afrocentrism as essentially being a civil religion (e.g., common beliefs and values; common tenets that distinguish believers from non-believers; views on the unknowns of life, on suffering, and on death; common places of gathering and rituals that establish one as a member of an institutionalized belief system). Some aspects that she defined and related to Asante’s Afrocentricity was a fundamental love for black people and blackness (e.g., negritude) and common black values (e.g., Karenga’s established values and principles of Kwanzaa); another aspect was black centeredness as a form of grace or relief from white racism; another aspect was the “original sin” of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade as the major reasoning for the suffering and death of black people, Africa as the promised land, and a form of salvation through self-redefinition and self-reclamation as an African people as well as rejection of what is perceived as being of white people and white culture (which are viewed as bearing evil qualities in relation to black people). Another aspect of the characterization of Afrocentrism as a civil religion involves the homophobic and sexist exclusion of black GLBTQ individuals, black women, biracial and multiracial individuals, and wealthy black individuals.
Asante (2007) characterized Hill-Collins (2006) as following a similar approach as Stephen Howe and Mary Lefkowitz of not providing a clear definition for the concept of Afrocentricity that they are attempting to critique and then, subsequently, negatively and incorrectly characterizing Afrocentricity as Afrocentrism (i.e., a black form of Eurocentrism). Asante indicates that Afrocentricity is not an enclosed system of thought or religious belief; rather, he indicated that it is an unenclosed, critical dialectic that allows for open-ended dialogue and debate on the fundamental assumptions that the theory of Afrocentricity is based on. Asante further critiqued and characterized Hill-Collins (2006) as being “not only poor scholarship”, but a “form of self-hatred” that is typically “engaged in by vulgar careerists whose plan is to distance themselves from African agency.” Asante highlighted Hill-Collins' intellectual work on the centeredness of women of the African diaspora to contrast with her characterized lack of understanding of the intellectual work on the centeredness of African people that Afrocentricity focuses on. As a follow-up to Hill-Collins' Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism?, she authored Ethnicity, Culture, and Black Nationalist Politics, which Asante characterizes as having vaguely defined notions of black nationalism, Afrocentrism/Afrocentricity, civil religion, and African-American ethnic identity. Asante characterized her critiques of Afrocentricity as being supportive of a manufactured intellectual agenda and predicated on the reactionary politics surrounding modern American history.
Asante (2007) highlights that Hill-Collins' perspective on black nationalism, rather than being distinct from usual approaches, derives from the same origin as these approaches (e.g., black feminist nationalism, cultural nationalism, religious nationalism, revolutionary nationalism). Within the context of racialized American national identity, Asante characterizes Hill-Collins' notion of civil religion as the reverence for American civil government and its political principles; along with this notion is the characterized view of immigrating Afro-Caribbeans choosing how to not become “black” Americans (who later join with African-Americans and partake in the UNIA movement), immigrating Europeans choosing how to become “white” Americans, the European-American social power of whiteness to erase their racial identity and become any other identity (e.g., Native American, of Irish descent, of Italian descent) except an identity of African descent, the European-American social power to operate as individuals rather than as a monolithic racial identity (e.g., Black American), and a tradition of racism operating in the modern context of color-blindness, desegregation, and the illusion of equality.
Following her characterized view of black nationalism, Asante (2007) indicates that Hill-Collins conflates black nationalism (e.g., Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam) with Afrocentricity (e.g., Molefi Kete Asante and Afrocentricity). Asante indicates that black nationalism, as a political ideology, is distinct from Afrocentricity, which is a philosophical paradigm, and that both serve distinct purposes and operate in distinct spheres. Rather than being a reformulation of black cultural nationalism and being a civil religion, Asante indicates that Black studies derived and developed from black nationalism and that the development of Afrocentricity post-dates the development of Black studies. Asante indicates that the correct understanding that Hill-Collins has is that “Afrocentricity is a social theory in the sense that it explains the dislocation, disorientation, and mental enslavement of African people as being a function of white racial hegemony.” In relation to this view, Asante indicates that mutilating one’s own people is one of the greatest forms of dislocation and that revering the instruction of a "slave master" to intellectually attacking one’s own people is a form of dislocated behavior.
The centerpiece of Hill-Collins’ approach, as Asante (2007) characterized it, is that “Afrocentricity took the framework of American civil religion and stripped it of its American symbols and substituted a black value system.” Asante indicates that the earliest Africologists (e.g., Nah Dove, Tsehloane Keto, Ama Mazama, Kariamu Welsh, Terry Kershaw) of the "Temple Circle" or contemporaneous scholars (e.g., Maulana Karenga, Wade Nobles, Asa Hilliard, Clenora Hudson-Weems, Linda Myers) had no conscious intention of creating a civil religion as Hill-Collins claims.
List of AfricologistsEdit
- Abu Abarry
- Kariamu Welsh Asante
- Molefi Kete Asante
- Aisha Blackshire-Belay
- Nah Dove
- Charles Fuller
- Terry Kershaw
- C. Tsehloane Keto
- Ama Mazama
- Theophile Obenga
- James Ravell
- Thelma Ravell
Black Male Studies (BMS)Edit
Black studies scholars have often explored the unique experiences of black boys/men; this line of research dates back to the analyses of black male training done by W.E.B. Du Bois in his book, The Souls of Black Folk (1903). Though Black studies, as its own discipline, has been in decline, its perpetuation as a sub-discipline in various social science fields (e.g., education, sociology, cultural anthropology, urban studies) has risen. This rise has coincided with the emergence of men's studies (also referred to as masculinity studies). Since the early 1980s, there has been an increasing interest in black males among scholars and policy makers, which has resulted in a marked rise in the sub-discipline, Black Male studies. There has been development of numerous books, research articles, conferences, foundations, research centers and institutes, academic journals, initiatives, and scholarly collectives[full citation needed] that emphasize or focus entirely on the status of black boys and men in society.
James B. Stewart developed the research method and methodological framework, known as Blues Culture, which examines the traits (e.g., versatility, vibration) of Africana culture utilizing various means from an assortment of disciplines (e.g., economics, history, sociology).
W.E.B. Du Bois developed the research method and conceptual framework, known as Double Consciousness, to analyze how Africana people (and phenomena) exist in a dual racialized (black-white) world and subsequently develop a dual consciousness. Rather than succumb to various forms of external pressure (e.g., assimilation, harassment, prejudice, racism, sexism, surveillance), Africana people discover how to steer through them.
Four Basic Tasks of the Black Studies ScholarEdit
James Turner developed the research method and social scientific framework, known as Four Basic Tasks of the Black Studies Scholar, which investigates the problems that affect the experiences of Africana peoples and addresses four related criteria (e.g., defend, disseminate, generate, preserve new knowledge) utilizing various means of examination from an assortment of disciplines (e.g., conceptual history, economics, political science, sociology).
Maulana Karenga drew from the concept of Nguzo Saba to develop his research method, known as Kawaida Theory. Seven factors (e.g., creative production, ethos, history, religion, economic organization, political organization, social organization) are utilized to examine the Africana experience, which is set within a Pan-Africanist context.
Miseducation of the NegroEdit
Carter G. Woodson developed the research method of and conceptual framework for the Miseducation of the Negro, which analyzes and assesses the history and culture of Africana people, and notates their notable loss of such is due to Africana people being decentered from their own historic and cultural contexts.
William E. Cross Jr. developed the research method, known as Nigrescence, as a psychological framework; with the framework, he analyzes Africana culture and the behavioral dimensions of its psycho-adaptive traits as well as analyzes a timeline of Black culture (which is composed of five steps).
Optimal Worldview of PsychologyEdit
Linda Meyers developed the research method, known as the Optimal Worldview of Psychology, which utilizes investigates the African mind through a cultural framework (e.g., surface-level structure of culture, deep structure of culture); its sub-optimal viewpoint highlights the demerits of an African mind that has an assimilated mentality and its optimal viewpoint corresponds with an African mind that has an Africana mentality.
Paradigm of UnityEdit
Abdul Alkimat developed the research method known as the Paradigm of Unity, which has a considerable focus on relationships between social classes, via Marxist analysis, and utilizes gender as a determining factor as well as utilizes an undefined notion of Afrocentricity.
Michael Frisch developed the research method, known as Shared Authority, to investigate orature, which recognizes the personhood (e.g., subject, agency) and experiences of the Africana individual. Through this methodological recognition, information that may not have been captured in prior publications is able to be optimally acquired.
Winston Van Horn developed a research method and methodological framework (composed of three steps), known as Social Legitimacy, which analyzes the experiences of Africana peoples and Africana phenomena in their political and sociological contexts.
Two Cradle TheoryEdit
Cheikh Anta Diop drew from anthropology, archaeology, history, and sociology to develop a research method and cultural metric, known as Two Cradle Theory, to assess the differences between African and European cultures – between what are characterized and viewed as the southern cradle and the northern cradle.
James L. Conyers, Jr. drew from the concept of Nguzo Saba to develop the research method known as Ujimaa; the methodological framework draws from philosophy, sociology, and conceptual history, with the understanding that culture is utilized to analyze and assess Pan-Africanist phenomena from around the world, and is utilized to analyze social responsibility and the work of the collective.
Recent challenges and criticismsEdit
One of the major setbacks with Black studies programs or departments is that there is a lack of financial resources available to students and faculty. Many universities and colleges around the country provided Black studies programs with small budgets and therefore it is difficult for the department to purchase materials and hire staff. Because the budget allocated to Black studies is limited, some faculty are jointly appointed, therefore causing faculty to leave their home disciplines to teach a discipline with which they may not be familiar. Budgetary issues make it difficult for Black studies Programs and departments to function and to promote themselves.
Racism perpetrated by many administrators is alleged to hinder the institutionalization of Black studies at major universities. As with the case of UC Berkeley, most of the Black studies programs across the country were instituted because of the urging and demanding of black students to create the program. In many instances black students also called for the increased enrollment of black students and financial assistance to these students. Also seen in the case of UC Berkeley is the constant demand to have such a program, but place the power of control in the hands of black people. The idea was that Black studies could not be "realistic" if it were taught by someone who was not accustomed to the black experience. On many campuses directors of Black studies have little to no autonomy—they do not have the power to hire or grant tenure to faculty. On many campuses an overall lack of respect for the discipline has caused instability for the students and for the program.
In the past thirty years there has been a steady decline of Black studies scholars.
Universities and colleges with Black studies departments, programs, and coursesEdit
- American University
- Amherst College
- Baruch College
- Brandeis University
- Brown University
- Carleton College
- Cleveland State University
- College of William and Mary
- Columbia University
- California State University, Dominguez Hills
- California State University, Fullerton
- California State University, Northridge
- Dartmouth College
- Davidson College
- Dominican University
- Duke University
- Emory University
- Eastern Kentucky University
- Eastern Michigan University
- Fordham University
- Guilford College
- Georgetown University
- Georgia State University
- Indiana University
- Ohio State University
- Oberlin College
- Loyola Marymount University
- Luther College
- Mount Holyoke College
- Middle Tennessee State University
- Pennsylvania State University
- Portland State University
- Princeton University
- Purdue University
- Syracuse University
- San Jose State University
- Temple University
- The College of New Jersey
- Tufts University
- University at Albany
- University at Buffalo
- University of Arkansas
- University of Arizona
- University of California Irvine
- University of California Los Angeles
- University of California Davis
- University of California Santa Barbara
- University of California, San Diego
- University of California Berkeley
- University of Florida
- University of Houston
- University of Louisville
- University of Massachusetts Amherst
- University of Michigan
- University of Montana
- University of Nebraska at Omaha
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- University of North Carolina at Greensboro
- University of North Texas
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Oregon
- University of Puget Sound
- University of South Carolina
- University of Texas at Austin
- University of Texas at Arlington
- University of Virginia
- University of the Virgin Islands
- University of Wisconsin
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- Valdosta State University
- Vassar College
- Washington University in St. Louis
- Wesleyan University
- Western Illinois University
- Wright State University
- Yale University
- University of Kansas
- University of Rochester
- University of Oklahoma
- Wright State University
- Nassau Community College
- York University
- Dalhousie University
- Brock University
- Queen's University
- Concordia University
Universities with Ph.D. programs in Black studiesEdit
- Ohio State University
- Brown University
- Columbia University
- Cornell University
- Harvard University
- Indiana University
- Michigan State University
- Northwestern University
- Pennsylvania State University
- Temple University
- University of California, Berkeley
- University of Massachusetts Amherst
- University of Texas at Austin
- University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
- Yale University
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Louisville
Prominent academics in Black studiesEdit
- Maulana Karenga
- Kwame Anthony Appiah
- Molefi Kete Asante
- M.K. Asante Jr.
- Houston A. Baker Jr.
- Horace Campbell
- Hazel Carby
- Bill Cole
- Patricia Hill Collins
- Edward W. Crosby
- Allison Davis
- Angela Y. Davis
- St. Clair Drake
- W. E. B. Du Bois
- Michael Eric Dyson
- Melissa Harris-Perry
- Tricia Rose
- Gerald Early
- Shawn Alexander
- John Hope Franklin
- E. Franklin Frazier
- Henry Louis Gates Jr.
- Paul Gilroy
- Farah Griffin
- Nathan Hare
- Melville Herskovits
- bell hooks
- Charles S. Johnson
- Glenn C. Loury
- Manning Marable
- Janis Mayes
- Micere Mugo
- Mark Anthony Neal
- Robin D.G. Kelley
- Adolph Reed
- Cedric Robinson
- Milton Sernett
- Renate Simson
- Robert B. Stepto
- Akinyele Umoja
- Cornel West
- William Julius Wilson
- Carter G. Woodson
- Sylvia Wynter
- Walter Rodney
- Geneva Smitherman
- Oliver Cromwell Cox
- C.L.R. James
- Maulana Karenga
- Kwame Ture
- Vincent Harding
- Cynthia A. Young
- Fred Moten
- Saidiya Hartman
- Christina Sharpe
Scholarly and academic journalsEdit
- African American Review
- Africana  – Journal of Ideas on Africa and the Diaspora
- Africana Online: Journal of the Africana Center for Cultural Literacy and Research
- Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies  (since 1987)
- Afro-Americans in New York Life and History  (since 1976)
- The Black Scholar (since 1969)
- Electronic Journal of Africana Bibliography  – coverage includes any aspect of Africa, its peoples, their homes, cities, towns, districts, states, countries, regions, including social, economic sustainable development, creative literature, the arts, and the Diaspora.
- The Griot: The Journal of African American Studies 
- International Journal of Africana Studies  – designed to interrogate and analyze the lived experiences of Africana people.
- The Journal of African Civilizations (since 1979)
- Journal of African American History
- Journal of African American Males in Education (JAAME) 
- Journal of Black Studies
- Journal of Negro Education
- Journal of Negro History
- Western Journal of Black Studies 
- Negro Digest
- Negro Educational Review 
- Negro History Bulletin
- Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art  – focuses on publishing critical work that examines the newly developing field of contemporary African and African Diaspora art within the modernist and postmodernist experience, thereby contributing to the intellectual dialogue on world art and the discourse on internationalism and multiculturalism in the arts.
- Race & Class
- Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 
- Transition Magazine
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