Language and Literature in the African American Imagination

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview
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Locating a Text:
Implications of Afrocentric Theory

Molefi Kete Asante

We have finally arrived at a cultural junction where several critical avenues present themselves to the serious textual reader. Any fair estimate of the road that got us to this point must conclude that it has been a difficult one, filled with intellectual potholes and myopic cultural roadblocks, but at last there is an Afrocentric viewpoint on texts. In recent years this view has been developed on the basis of works by scholars such as Houston Baker, Jr. Abu Abarry, Carol Aisha Blackshire, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Trudier Harris. There seems to be a growing number of writers who have abandoned or are attempting to abandon the staid domains of an encapsulated theory.

Afrocentric theory as advanced in numerous works, including my own, establishes two fundamental realities in situating a text: "location" and "dislocation." The serious textual reader is able to locate a text by certain symbolic boundaries and iconic signposts offered from within the text itself. However, much like any traveler the reader's location is also important in order to determine the exact location of the text.

An inordinate number of African American scholars have become lost souls trying to negotiate the Eurocentric pathways of mono- culturalism and mono-historicalism. An equal number of non-African scholars have floated around ethereally when it came to locating an African American text. Both sets of readers have been victims of a breach in good highway manners. They have ignored all of the signs of Afrocentric literacy in favor of blind alleys based in a mono-cultural reality. What I hope to demonstrate is that multi-cultural literacy can lead to a critical transformation in the way we approach any discourse.

However, multi-cultural literacy does not exist apart from the substantive knowledge of specific cultural communities. There is no multi-

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