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The Case against Afrocentrism

Tunde Adeleke

Publication Year: 2009

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.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

The decision to write this book was made, rather subconsciously, in 1992 at the Annual Symposium in the Humanities jointly organized and hosted by the College of Humanities, the Center for African Studies, the Department of Black Studies, and the Columbian Quincentenary Committee of the Ohio State University. The theme of that...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book has benefited, directly and indirectly, from the contributions of many individuals, institutions, and organizations. Over the past decade and a half, I have had the opportunity to encounter scholars who shared their perspectives and engaged me in critical discourses that helped to refine the ideas and themes in this book. Chapter 1, “Africa...

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Introduction: Afrocentric Essentialism

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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...

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1. Africa and the Challenges of Constructing Identity

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pp. 23-58

In The 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...

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2. Conceptual and Paradigmatic Utilizations and Representations of Africa

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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...

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3. Essentialist Construction of Identity and Pan-Africanism

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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...

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4. Afrocentric Consciousness and Historical Memory

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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...

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5. Afrocentric Essentialism and Globalization

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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...

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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...


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pp. 190-201


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pp. 202-217


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pp. 218-223

E-ISBN-13: 9781604732948
E-ISBN-10: 1604732946
Print-ISBN-13: 9781604732931
Print-ISBN-10: 1604732938

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2009