Benefits of Afrocentricity in Exploring Social Phenomena: Understanding Afrocentricity as a Social Science Methodology

Article excerpt

Previous interpretive frameworks used to study Africana phenomena have focused on cultural notions derived from social science disciplines and have therefore concluded that Africana people are innately culturally, politically and economically inadequate and deficient. However, normative social science approaches lack a culturally appropriate and realistic interpretation of Africana reality and researchers who use them do not take into consideration the historical, social, or contemporary experiences of Africana people. Reviewing the writings of the foremost Afrocentric theorists, this article seeks to detail a foundation for employing appropriate methods, principles, and frameworks through which researchers can interpret Africana phenomena. The objective of this article is to illustrate the benefits of an Afrocentric methodology in exploring Africana social phenomena, particularly as it relates to the subject place of Africana people.

Operating under the umbrella of a paradigm, Afrocentricity is the philosophical and theoretical construct in the discipline of Africana Studies where laws, generalizations, methodologies, and theories are created. In The Afrocentric Paradigm (2003), Mazama notes that there are three aspects to the Afrocentric paradigm: 1) affective, cognitive, conative; 2) structural; and 3) functional. The affective, cognitive, conative aspect is understood as the navigating principles that function as the basis for inquiry into African phenomena. This aspect equips the scholar with necessary methodological tools and principles to conduct research that is liberating for continental and diasporic Africans. The institutionalization of organizing principles generates a basis for methodological approaches that are rooted in Africana people's realities.

There are seven criteria for the establishment of an Afrocentric methodology identified by Mazama (2003): 1) The African experience must guide and inform all inquiry; 2) The spiritual is important and must be given its due place; 3) Immersion in the subject is necessary; 4) Wholism is a must; 5) Intuition is a valid source of information; 6) Not everything that matters is measurable; and 7) Knowledge generated must be liberating (Mazama, 2003: 27). These criteria are formed in collaboration with Africana people's historical and cultural lives. Banks (1992) suggests that Afrocentricity must function as a methodology of the absolute and not one of comparative analysis. These criteria therefore institute a standardized foundation for scholarship produced on people of African descent. The establishment of a minimum standardized research criteria fosters a disciplinary stance whereby researchers are charged with the task of implementing these criteria in their research on Africana phenomena. According to Reviere (2001) "Afrocentric methodologies are intended to be used to investigate pertinent research questions legitimately and effectively (that is, truthfully and inclusively), especially those that possess embedded assumptions about race and culture" (709). In this sense, Afrocentricity as a methodology not only generates new orientations toward interpreting data but ultimately employs research that is fruitful and liberating for African people.

Since Afrocentricity constitutes a systematic approach to Africana phenomena where culture is emphasized as essential for the collective liberation of African people, it is imperative that Afrocentric methodologies are generated for and applied to the construction of research projects as well as the interpretation of research on Africana people. The key here is 'epistemological centeredness,' which involves placing Africans as self-willed agents instead of objects of investigations (Mazama, 2003: 5). Asante states that Afrocentricity serves as the establishment of the subject place of Africans and the destruction of the compliance with the European ideas and concepts of Africans (Asante, 1988: 6). …