On the Rhetoric of Afrocentricity

Article excerpt

One of the many current challenges posed to scholarship is that of the historicity of scholarship itself. One manifestation of this challenge can be seen in critical researcher's contention that current interpretations of the ancient world are themselves the product of modern European historical developments and more particularly of certain intellectual events of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Since the historical development of Eurocentrism is at the base of most discourse within the American academy, researchers' task should be attentive to transforming ideas and problematic values of the Eurocentric tradition. However, advocacy of critical approaches, which finds one expression through multiculturalism, has failed to recognize the changing nature of a diverse society until the development of Afrocentricity. Afrocentrism, as Molefi Asante conceives of it, challenges the Eurocentric position. In theory, Asante sees Afro-centricity involving the interpretation analysis from the perspective of African people as subjects rather than objects (1983). In practice, Afrocentric principles are used to interpret and explain issues in the search for understanding within the historical context associated with underrepresented groups overlooked for generations.

This paper explores the theory of Afrocentricity through a Burkiean analysis utilizing cluster analysis, antithesis, and pentadic analysis. This paper will illustrate the underlying motives of Asante's rhetoric challenging the notion of persuasion between the bipolar opposites of Afrocentrism and Eurocentrism. The purpose of this examination is not to evaluate the theory/ methodology of Afrocentricity, but to illustrate its purpose. Using a traditional rhetorical method does not limit the scope of the analysis, but provides a useful construction of knowledge to describe and explain the critique.

Cluster Analysis

Dramatism is a method of textual analysis designed to show that the most direct route to the study of human relations and human motives is via inquiry into cycles or clusters of terms and their functions (Burke, 1968). This analysis concentrates on the clusters that revolve around the key terms of Afrocentricity, Afrology, and Ideology/Reality that are used throughout Asante's discourse. The frequency of these terms determined their significance as key terms. The interpretations from the text will be linked to the key terms that Asante uses to convey his message. Although cluster analysis helps critics to ground their interpretations in the text through an inductive investigation that meets the criterion of empirical verifiability, Conrad (1984) believes that it cannot guarantee that the insight will be either representative or comprehensive. In order to meet the other criteria of representativeness and comprehensiveness, this analysis will also identify the representational anecdote to satisfy the representativeness criterion, and complete a pentadic analysis to satisfy the comprehensiveness criterion. The objective of cluster analysis is to uncover the representative key terms which will reveal other terms that are clustered around them, based on the frequency, intensity, and representativeness of their usage in the text. This phase will specifically identify the pivotal terms and clusters evident in Asante's texts, which will provide the foundation for illustrating how Asante accomplishes symbolic action through his language choices. Burke (1968) argues that symbolic acts simultaneously express a rhetor's dreams and shape her or his sense of community with others. Rueckert (1963) argues that clusters are spontaneously generated and/or deliberately contrived as a result of a process of identification or association that operates under all conditions and in every human activity.

Every cluster is unified by the presence of a conscious or unconscious master motive. …