Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Using the Afrocentric Method in Researching Indigenous African Culture

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Using the Afrocentric Method in Researching Indigenous African Culture

Article excerpt

The article highlights the realities and dynamics facing researchers researching indigenous African culture. The cultural aspirations, understandings, and practices of African indigenous people should position researchers to implement and organize the research process. Suggestions are also made for implementing the "Afrocentric method," and how to use African indigenous culture as a foundation for the Afrocentric method. The intent of this article is to stimulate enlightened discussion about the definition, mechanisms, and purpose of the Afrocentric method as an appropriate research method for indigenous African culture and how it can be used as a complement to qualitative research methods. Key Words: Afrocentric Method, Indigenous African Culture, Indigenous Knowledge, African Centred Research, Collective Identity, Holistic Orientation, and Ubuntu


Since colonial invasions, African indigenous culture has weathered rapid change. Many researchers made real attempts to get inside the African culture, but even so, there was a tendency to see culture in terms of the coloniser's precepts and to assess educational needs in terms of the coloniser's agenda. When establishing formal education there was no adequate reference to the indigenous education that Africans already had or to the depth of the ancestral opinions that influenced African thinking. Even at present, researchers who are interested in indigenous culture and education have made small reference in assessing change to the extent in which African values have survived, or of the extent to which these values had continued to influence African researchers' actions at different points in time. It is important that researchers remind themselves that much of the literature on African culture and education can be ideologically traced back to the emergence of "knowledge" about indigenous peoples in the context of European imperialism and expansion. In brief, Africans were often judged in European contexts and not in terms of their own.

Hence, the following questions are asked: How can the Afrocentric method as advanced by Asante (1987, 1988, 1990, 1995) be used in researching African indigenous culture and can African research refrain from sticking to the pathways mapped out by the colonial or neo-colonial experts? The purpose of this article is to show ways that the Afrocentric method can be used for researching indigenous culture.

As an African in South Africa I have received education in a country that has openly marginalised African indigenous knowledge. Now as a democratic country South Africa is engaged in the unfolding process of bringing African indigenous knowledge systems into focus as a legitimate field of academic enquiry in its own right. I have attended several conferences and workshops in South Africa where debates and issues have become critical and intense regarding conceptual frameworks and methodological procedures, which the indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) field presents. It is in this light that I explore the Afrocentric method as an alternative method to study IKS.

The Afrocentric Paradigm Unpacked

The Afrocentric method is derived from the Afrocentric paradigm which deals with the question of African identity from the perspective of African people as centred, located, oriented, and grounded. This idea has been named "Afrocentricity" by Molefe Asante (1987) in order to convey the profound need for African people to be re-located historically, economically, socially, politically, and philosophically. He explained Afrocentricity as follows:

   To say that we are decentred means essentially that we have lost
   our own cultural footing and become other than our cultural and
   political origins, dis-located and dis-oriented. We are essentially
   insane, that is, living an absurdity from which we will never be
   able to free our minds until we return to the source.
   Afrocentricity as a theory of change intends to relocate the
   African person as subject. … 
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