All the 'Africans' Are Men, All the "Sistas" Are "American," but Some of Us Resist: Realizing African Feminism(s) as an Africological Research Methodology

Article excerpt

Since its inception, Africology (Afro-American/Black/African American Studies) has had to address questions related to its vision, purpose, structure, function, nomenclature, theoretical foundation(s), and attending methodologies. The discipline has similarly been challenged in regards to its treatment of topics and issues related to gender (read: Black women). Although significant strides have been made to establish the field of Africana (Black) Women's Studies, there has been neither pervasive agreement upon nor adoption of an analytical framework with which to attend to gender/gendered issues. Indeed this discrepancy reflects arguments concerning the place for gender within the discipline, namely those that question the necessity of gendered analyses and further position them problematic. According to Asante and Mazama, co-editors of the Encyclopedia of Black Studies, "definitionally, [Africology] must deal with black people, with no regard to gender" (xxxi). While they concede that "gender is necessarily a factor to be raised in any critical, political, economic, behavioral, or cultural discussion," they also instruct that "it is not the core of [Africology]" (Asante & Mazama xxxi). Then again, in the second edition of the African American Studies Reader, Norment asserts that "[the] decision to create space and place for [our] sister's voices is both an historical corrective as well as a pedagogical measure offered to make sure that gender does not cloud our vision of the future of the discipline" (xxxvii). While Asante and Mazama argue against a separate female-centered paradigm or a separate space within which to address gender (xxxi), Norment supports the position of such scholars as Hull, Scott and Smith who argued for the an autonomous academic entity--Africana (Black) Women's Studies (xxxvii).

Variable arguments for the place of gender in Africology have led to varying models through which to approach gender within the discipline and in many ways have thwarted the emergence of a primary methodological framework with which to examine gender. In many constructions of Africology that locate Africana (Black) Women's Studies as an area of concentration/focus, the inclusion of key women in Africana history and the highlighting of Africana women's perspectives do not necessarily entail analyses of gender nor presume a guiding theory or methodological framework. Similarly, in those constructions of Africana (Black) Women's Studies as an autonomous entity, gender inclusion does not imply gender analyses. Irrespective of configuration, when it comes to questions related to which applicable theories/methodologies prove instructive to the discipline, when the consensus remains that Western (read: White) feminism(s)i, given its Eurocentric agenda, cannot adequately address the concerns of Africana communities. While many scholars of both configurations are guided by and/or rely upon any combination of Black Feminism (ala Patricia Hill Collins, Barbara Smith, Dolores Aldridge, bell hooks, and the like) Womanism (ala Alice Walker and Katie Canon) and Africana Womanism (ala Clenora Hudson-Weems and Nah Dove), many other scholars guide themselves.

As the discipline continues to search for an applicable paradigm through which to appropriately address the issue of gender for and within Africana communities, this article argues that African Feminism (s), as articulated in the works of Aidoo, Boyce-Davies, Nnaemeka, Nzegwu, Ogundipe-Leslie, Steady, and Taiwo, is an inherently African-centered methodology, and as such, one attendant to the form and function of Africology--one capable of providing us a relevant and centered investigative framework.

African-Centered Methodology: From whose Center are we Operating?

In designing research projects, researchers must approach their studies using a certain paradigm or worldview, a basic set of beliefs or assumptions to guide their inquiries. …