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Chapter 28Afrocentricity


  1. Introduction
    1. You likely operate with an understanding of what is “normal” in your social context.
    2. Often, we embrace social norms unconsciously, meaning we don’t think about them.
    3. Molefi Kete Asante argues that Western society fails to appreciate the role of culture in shaping its sense of normalcy.
    4. The tendency to look down on other cultures due to differences lies at the heart of Asante’s concern with Western society.
    5. Asante’s scholarship offers an important alternative to Eurocentrism, a worldview that centers Western norms and civilization over non-Western counterparts.
    6. He is convinced it is impossible to understand African and African American customs, rituals, and traditions without understanding the culture that produced them. This conviction serves as the foundation for Asante’s Afrocentricity, a worldview that centers African culture in the study of the African diaspora.
  1. The Dangers of Eurocentrism
    1. Eurocentrism threatens the African diaspora (the spread of African people beyond Africa) and other non-European people because it diminishes their value, intellect, and contributions to society.
    2. Asante sees this imposition of values as cultural hegemony, the invisible domination of one culture over others.
    3. Afrocentrism is concerned with the ways that Eurocentrism implicitly devalues other cultures by asserting the intellectual superiority of the West.
    4. Asante maintains a deep suspicion of any theory that claims to be objective; he believes cultural values and assumptions always inform our ideas.
    5. The claim of objectivity only serves to obscure those values, not to eliminate them.
    6. By positioning Western values as universal, Eurocentrism pressures people of African descent to affirm Western norms as a condition of approval, imprisoning people of African descent in cultural chains.
    7. At the heart of Afrocentricity lies the goal of liberating the African diaspora from Eurocentric ways of thinking.  
  1. Afrocentrism as liberation
    1. Liberation from Eurocentrism depends on reconnecting people of African descent to African culture.
    2. Afrocentrism is built on the premise that cultural artifacts, expressions, and customs can only be understood using theories that share the culture’s values, assumptions, and beliefs.
    3. Afrocentricity, on the other hand, positions “African people in the center of any analysis of African phenomena.”
    4. Asante is not primarily concerned with who studies African phenomena, but how they study it.
    5. Afrocentrism calls for anyone who studies African phenomena to do so in an Afrocentric manner.
    6. Criticisms may suggest, inaccurately, that Afrocentricity is against Western culture. It doesn’t deny the value of theories emerging from the Western tradition, but it rejects perspectives that see these theories as universally valid beyond a European context.   
  1. Three core assumptions of Afrocentrism
    1. Within an Afrocentric paradigm, knowledge must advance the goal of liberation.
    2. Knowledge must be useful.
    3. A second major assumption of the Afrocentric paradigm is that the nature of life is spiritual.
    4. Within the European tradition, scholars often prioritize the material or physical world; Afrocentricity rejects the primacy of the material world, emphasizing knowledge gained through the spiritual realm.
    5. Afrocentricity views culture as a crucial source for shaping identity.
    6. People thrive when their sense of identity is grounded in their culture, history, and biology.
    7. Afrocentricity holds that a dearth of historical, cultural, or biological perspectives can lead to dislocation, meaning that the person will lack the conceptual resources to enjoy a fully formed sense of self.
    8. The problem with Eurocentrism is that it forces the African diaspora to live through the eyes of another.
  1. Four principles of Afrocentric communication
    1. Afrocentricity’s potential application is far-reaching.
    2. Afrocentric scholar Maulana Karenga identifies four key principles of Afrocentric communication.
      1. Afrocentric communication must benefit African people.
        1. Karenga sees communal focus as an essential trait of Afrocentric communication.
        2. Asante shares this perspective, arguing that “the stability of the community is essential, and publicly speaking, when used in connection with conflict solution, must be directed toward maintaining community harmony.
      2. Afrocentric communication must resist racism and colonialism.
        1. Karenga points to a strong emphasis on resistance in African communication.
        2. The Civil Rights Movement provides one of the most visible examples of African communication’s commitment to resistance.
      3. Afrocentric communication must affirm the humanity of African people.
        1. Afrocentric communication must constantly (re)affirm the humanity and inherent dignity of Black people, which is constantly dismissed by the West.
        2. Hip-hop artists consistently celebrate Blackness in their music.
        3. Afrocentric communication should promote a sense of inherent dignity—of self-worth that transcends one’s immediate circumstances.
      4. Afrocentric communication must envision fresh possibilities for the future.
        1. Afrocentric communication refuses to accept the world as it is; rather, it continually explores what the world may be.
        2. It is committed to communication that “explore[s] possibilities in the social and human condition.”
  1. Nommo: The heart of African communication
    1. Afrocentricity sees the African diaspora as an oral culture rather than a written one.
    2. Afrocentricity’s approach to the study of African communication centers on the concept of Nommo—the generative and productive power of the spoken word.
    3. Drawn from the Dogon people of Mali, Nommo attaches spiritual power to the spoken word that is absent in the Western tradition and attributes tremendous spiritual significance to it.
    4. According to Asante, Nommo continues to operate in Black culture today, both consciously and unconsciously. 
  1. The tools of Afrocentric analysis
    1. Afrocentricity’s emphasis on oral communication leads scholars to study the ways that communication artifacts reflect (or fail to reflect) the values, traditions, and customs of African culture.
    2. Nommo manifests in numerous ways in communication.
      1. Nommo manifests in the improvisational styles that often define African communication.
        1. Speakers informed by African culture often rely on a style of delivery in which the message is only partially prepared.
        2. The unprepared portion of the message depends on the audience to co-create the message with the speaker.
        3. The speaker must be ready to respond to a variety of potential outcomes during the message.
      2. African communication often features a call-and-response style in which audience members offer verbal and nonverbal feedback on the speaker’s message.
        1. This call-and-response is commonplace in the Black church.
        2. This style allows the congregation to supply commentary on the message while it’s being delivered, allowing the primary speaker opportunities to adjust the message.
      3. African communication depends on mythoforms, which serve as a source of ideas and concepts around which people organize their lives.
        1. If you think of myths as stories we turn to—like those found in African or Greek mythology—then mythoforms capture families of similar myths.
        2. Collectively these different manifestations of the narrative operate as a mythoform, explaining and illuminating humanity’s past, present, and future.
    3. Myths offer a sense of control, contribute to the culture in deeper ways with insights on how to overcome oppression, and they establish connections among past, present, and future.  
  1. Critique: Evaluating Afrocentricity
    1. Afrocentricity endures as an important contribution to the study and liberation of the African diaspora.
    2. Asante’s contributions to rhetoric, media studies, and intercultural communication have shaped an entire generation of scholars who employ his Afrocentric paradigm to study communication artifacts produced by the African diaspora.
    3. His emphasis on culture has produced a new understanding of people.
    4. It represents an effort to reform society by liberating the African diaspora from Eurocentrism and clarifies values through its insistence that African communication be studied in a manner consistent with the values and assumptions of the culture.
    5. Asante understands any theory to be a tool or step towards emancipation.
    6. Afrocentric scholarship is not known for its aesthetic appeal, especially for readers unacquainted with Black culture.
    7. Afrocentric scholars use various forms of qualitative research in their scholarship, but they come short of totally embracing methodologies embedded with Western values.
    8. It carved out a new community of agreement that was previously hidden from the mainstream.
    9. If we take Afrocentricity seriously, then evaluating the theory according to these criteria may be problematic; Asante desires to break from the cultural hegemony of the West, which is where the criteria were developed.
    10. He would challenge us to develop new criteria for evaluating theories grounded in the cultural values, assumptions, and beliefs of African culture.


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Chapter 28Afrocentricity


  1. Introduction
    1. You likely operate with an understanding of what is “normal” in your social context.
    2. Often, we embrace social norms unconsciously, meaning we don’t think about them.
    3. Molefi Kete Asante argues that Western society fails to appreciate the role of culture in shaping its sense of normalcy.
    4. The tendency to look down on other cultures due to differences lies at the heart of Asante’s concern with Western society.
    5. Asante’s scholarship offers an important alternative to Eurocentrism, a worldview that centers Western norms and civilization over non-Western counterparts.
    6. He is convinced it is impossible to understand African and African American customs, rituals, and traditions without understanding the culture that produced them. This conviction serves as the foundation for Asante’s Afrocentricity, a worldview that centers African culture in the study of the African diaspora.
  1. The Dangers of Eurocentrism
    1. Eurocentrism threatens the African diaspora (the spread of African people beyond Africa) and other non-European people because it diminishes their value, intellect, and contributions to society.
    2. Asante sees this imposition of values as cultural hegemony, the invisible domination of one culture over others.
    3. Afrocentrism is concerned with the ways that Eurocentrism implicitly devalues other cultures by asserting the intellectual superiority of the West.
    4. Asante maintains a deep suspicion of any theory that claims to be objective; he believes cultural values and assumptions always inform our ideas.
    5. The claim of objectivity only serves to obscure those values, not to eliminate them.
    6. By positioning Western values as universal, Eurocentrism pressures people of African descent to affirm Western norms as a condition of approval, imprisoning people of African descent in cultural chains.
    7. At the heart of Afrocentricity lies the goal of liberating the African diaspora from Eurocentric ways of thinking.  
  1. Afrocentrism as liberation
    1. Liberation from Eurocentrism depends on reconnecting people of African descent to African culture.
    2. Afrocentrism is built on the premise that cultural artifacts, expressions, and customs can only be understood using theories that share the culture’s values, assumptions, and beliefs.
    3. Afrocentricity, on the other hand, positions “African people in the center of any analysis of African phenomena.”
    4. Asante is not primarily concerned with who studies African phenomena, but how they study it.
    5. Afrocentrism calls for anyone who studies African phenomena to do so in an Afrocentric manner.
    6. Criticisms may suggest, inaccurately, that Afrocentricity is against Western culture. It doesn’t deny the value of theories emerging from the Western tradition, but it rejects perspectives that see these theories as universally valid beyond a European context.   
  1. Three core assumptions of Afrocentrism
    1. Within an Afrocentric paradigm, knowledge must advance the goal of liberation.
    2. Knowledge must be useful.
    3. A second major assumption of the Afrocentric paradigm is that the nature of life is spiritual.
    4. Within the European tradition, scholars often prioritize the material or physical world; Afrocentricity rejects the primacy of the material world, emphasizing knowledge gained through the spiritual realm.
    5. Afrocentricity views culture as a crucial source for shaping identity.
    6. People thrive when their sense of identity is grounded in their culture, history, and biology.
    7. Afrocentricity holds that a dearth of historical, cultural, or biological perspectives can lead to dislocation, meaning that the person will lack the conceptual resources to enjoy a fully formed sense of self.
    8. The problem with Eurocentrism is that it forces the African diaspora to live through the eyes of another.
  1. Four principles of Afrocentric communication
    1. Afrocentricity’s potential application is far-reaching.
    2. Afrocentric scholar Maulana Karenga identifies four key principles of Afrocentric communication.
      1. Afrocentric communication must benefit African people.
        1. Karenga sees communal focus as an essential trait of Afrocentric communication.
        2. Asante shares this perspective, arguing that “the stability of the community is essential, and publicly speaking, when used in connection with conflict solution, must be directed toward maintaining community harmony.
      2. Afrocentric communication must resist racism and colonialism.
        1. Karenga points to a strong emphasis on resistance in African communication.
        2. The Civil Rights Movement provides one of the most visible examples of African communication’s commitment to resistance.
      3. Afrocentric communication must affirm the humanity of African people.
        1. Afrocentric communication must constantly (re)affirm the humanity and inherent dignity of Black people, which is constantly dismissed by the West.
        2. Hip-hop artists consistently celebrate Blackness in their music.
        3. Afrocentric communication should promote a sense of inherent dignity—of self-worth that transcends one’s immediate circumstances.
      4. Afrocentric communication must envision fresh possibilities for the future.
        1. Afrocentric communication refuses to accept the world as it is; rather, it continually explores what the world may be.
        2. It is committed to communication that “explore[s] possibilities in the social and human condition.”
  1. Nommo: The heart of African communication
    1. Afrocentricity sees the African diaspora as an oral culture rather than a written one.
    2. Afrocentricity’s approach to the study of African communication centers on the concept of Nommo—the generative and productive power of the spoken word.
    3. Drawn from the Dogon people of Mali, Nommo attaches spiritual power to the spoken word that is absent in the Western tradition and attributes tremendous spiritual significance to it.
    4. According to Asante, Nommo continues to operate in Black culture today, both consciously and unconsciously. 
  1. The tools of Afrocentric analysis
    1. Afrocentricity’s emphasis on oral communication leads scholars to study the ways that communication artifacts reflect (or fail to reflect) the values, traditions, and customs of African culture.
    2. Nommo manifests in numerous ways in communication.
      1. Nommo manifests in the improvisational styles that often define African communication.
        1. Speakers informed by African culture often rely on a style of delivery in which the message is only partially prepared.
        2. The unprepared portion of the message depends on the audience to co-create the message with the speaker.
        3. The speaker must be ready to respond to a variety of potential outcomes during the message.
      2. African communication often features a call-and-response style in which audience members offer verbal and nonverbal feedback on the speaker’s message.
        1. This call-and-response is commonplace in the Black church.
        2. This style allows the congregation to supply commentary on the message while it’s being delivered, allowing the primary speaker opportunities to adjust the message.
      3. African communication depends on mythoforms, which serve as a source of ideas and concepts around which people organize their lives.
        1. If you think of myths as stories we turn to—like those found in African or Greek mythology—then mythoforms capture families of similar myths.
        2. Collectively these different manifestations of the narrative operate as a mythoform, explaining and illuminating humanity’s past, present, and future.
    3. Myths offer a sense of control, contribute to the culture in deeper ways with insights on how to overcome oppression, and they establish connections among past, present, and future.  
  1. Critique: Evaluating Afrocentricity
    1. Afrocentricity endures as an important contribution to the study and liberation of the African diaspora.
    2. Asante’s contributions to rhetoric, media studies, and intercultural communication have shaped an entire generation of scholars who employ his Afrocentric paradigm to study communication artifacts produced by the African diaspora.
    3. His emphasis on culture has produced a new understanding of people.
    4. It represents an effort to reform society by liberating the African diaspora from Eurocentrism and clarifies values through its insistence that African communication be studied in a manner consistent with the values and assumptions of the culture.
    5. Asante understands any theory to be a tool or step towards emancipation.
    6. Afrocentric scholarship is not known for its aesthetic appeal, especially for readers unacquainted with Black culture.
    7. Afrocentric scholars use various forms of qualitative research in their scholarship, but they come short of totally embracing methodologies embedded with Western values.
    8. It carved out a new community of agreement that was previously hidden from the mainstream.
    9. If we take Afrocentricity seriously, then evaluating the theory according to these criteria may be problematic; Asante desires to break from the cultural hegemony of the West, which is where the criteria were developed.
    10. He would challenge us to develop new criteria for evaluating theories grounded in the cultural values, assumptions, and beliefs of African culture.


You can access the Outline for a particular chapter in several ways:

  • Switch to View by Theory, then select the desired theory/chapter from the drop-down list at the top of the page. Look in the list of available resources.
  • To quickly find a theory by chapter number, use the Table of Contents and link from there. It will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
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