Africana Studies and Research Methodology: Revisiting the Centrality of the Afrikan Worldview1

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Abstract

This essay engages questions of methodology and philosophical assumptions as they impinge upon discipline-specific scholarship in Africana Studies and ultimately on arguments in Africology. Through an investigation of the worldview concept as discussed within the scholarship of Vernon Dixon, the Afrikan/Black psychologists and other Afrikan-centered scholars this essay attempts to reorient this discussion to questions which are pertinent to the development and utilization of the Afrikan Worldview as a research methodology in Africana Studies. We conclude with the possible implications this analysis can have on Africana Studies and Africological scholarship.

It would be the mission of African social scientists, at home and in the Diaspora, to devote their energies to the radical reconstruction of the disciplines in which they have been trained. Without such an approach, African peoples run the risk of incorporating the theoretical, mythological and ideological models of white social science into their own methodologies, thereby unknowingly internalizing the values of Western European society, including the negative image of Africa which white racialism and culturalism has created.2

I. Introduction

Africana Studies, as a product of the 1960s Black Liberation Movement is currently flourishing throughout many institutions of higher education within the western world. In doing so, it has provided students and scholars a dynamic means to investigate the current conditions and future prospects of Afrikan people. However, at the same rate, in many instances the original mission and intention of Africana Studies has been confused with certain scholarly projects which are only "Africana Studies," in name.3 One principal mean of truly touching the heart of Africana Studies, is to investigate questions of research methodology, or as some would argue the philosophical assumptions specific to Africana Studies and the investigation of Africana people, history and cultures. Through the investigation and clarification of the philosophical assumptions (ie. research methodology) specific to Africana Studies, the Africana Studies practitioner etches out a discipline-specific space which grounds those scholarly projects that can rightfully be referred to as Africana Studies.

This analysis is extremely important due to the resurgence in Africological analysis as exemplified within the work of Asante, Nelson and Van Horne.4 Nathaniel Norment Jr.'s second edition of The African American Studies Reader has also contributed to this resurgence given his inclusion of the previous authors' works, which all attempt to relocate the discussion of Africology within Africana Studies literature.5 Principally William Nelson and Winston Van Horne have crystallized their arguments not only in the more recent call for Afrocentric analysis but also a form of analysis which is consistent with the goals and intentions of early Black Studies scholars who were concerned most fundamentally with a transformative educative process that had the ability to change the lives of Afrikan descended peoples. It is this understanding of Africology which informs this analysis of methodology within Africana Studies.

Consistent with this dialogue is the discussion of not only changes in nomenclature specific to the discipline but those questions of theory, methodology and disciplinary paradigms that go beyond merely issues of naming. And while within the Afrikan tradition the power of the word undergirds and exudes our creative production, our intellectual developments and projects must function as truly intellectual and rigorous investigations of phenomenon and not merely hodgepodge pseudoacademic developments. By revisiting issues of methodology within Africana Studies related research this paper attempts to ask those pointed questions which were once investigated at the institutional inception of Black Studies, but have been brushed to the side within certain discussions of Africana Studies and Africology, today. …