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Editors' Note and Acknowledgments Afrocentrism and Feminism: Is There a Connection? There are those rare occasions in history when cultural blinders fall and the world never looks quite the same way again. Feminists of the second wave are familiar with this phenomenon, having experienced it ourselves. "The personal is political" unmasked the sexism that existed in the home and the office, resulting in what Ms. Magazine referred to as those "clicks" when suddenly the truth is revealed. Now another veil has fallen, and we see that ancient Egypt was an African state. It seems so obvious—sitting right there, squarely on the African continent. Yet, Americans were taught that the Nile River valley's greatness was somehow Middle Eastern and Caucasian in both form and substance. Africans and African Americans have long pointed to black African pharaohs and black Africa's contributions to Egyptian culture; but, not surprisingly, given Euro-American racism, it took a white male scholar to make the case for the influence of Africa, including black Africa, before academia took notice.1 Of course, ancient Egypt was a multiracial society; and one must keep in mind that race did not have the same salience to the ancients that it has to moderns. Nevertheless, if Egyptian civilization had a defining role in the origins of ancient Greek civilization, then European civilization is to a large degree also indebted to black Africa. Considering the racism which has long permeated Euro-American societies, this interpretation of cultural dissemination "turns the world upside down." Beyond falling veils what, you may ask, does this have to do with feminism? Certainly Afrocentrism and feminism currently find themselves listed together under the category of multiculturalism in national debates, but they have more in common than simply offending those who complain of "political correctness." Essentially speaking, there are striking similarities . Afrocentrism and feminism are broad perspectives which encompass a variety of positions. All scholars of people of African descent are Afrocentrists today, recognizing the importance of Africa upon their subjects . Similarly, all scholars of women's history today are feminists, at least in the sense that they view their subject as important in its own right rather than in relation to men. But within these perspectives are radical Afrocentrists and radical cultural feminists who idealize their subjects as bearers of essential characteristics resulting from their race or sex. 1993 Editors' Note and Acknowledgments 7 In attempting to construct an epistemology to explain difference, both radical Afrocentrists and radical cultural feminists converge, constructing models which are remarkably similar in their values: opposition to positivism , because it places the knower and the subject to be known in an adversarial relationship; and elevation of emotionalism over rationalism by emphasizing connectedness to community. In its most extreme form radical Afrocentrism divides the western world into "Ice People" and "Sun People" based on the independent variable, melanin (skin pigmentation). "Ice People" (Europeans and their descendants) are greedy and warlike; "Sun People" are generous and community oriented.2 Radical cultural feminists, using Carol Gilligan's ethic of caring, have constructed an essentialist view of women which conceptualizes us as inherently kinder and gentler than men.3 The contradictions between the characteristics contained in these models and the notion that Africa was a primary influence on the ancient Greeks, celebrated as they are for advancing human civilization by means of rationality, have yet to be explored. Martin Bernal's Black Athena, despite its title, scarcely mentions women. The hold of views which correlate civilization with man and nature with woman remain dominant even in this pathbreaking book. What the historical picture will look like in the future, however, remains to be seen. But, certainly, it will never be the same again. Placing Egypt in Africa has shattered the long-reigning paradigm of the rise of the West and with it our understandings of the essential male and female, Aristotle to the contrary not withstanding. Christie Farnham Joan Hoff NOTES 1 For a discussion of Pan-Africanists' reexamination of Egyptology, see the essay on this subjection in St. Clair Drake, Black Folk Here and There: An Essay in History and Anthropology, vol. 1 (Los Angeles: Center for African-American Studies, 1987), 309-332...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 6-8
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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