Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Retrospective Analysis: The Movement against African Centered Thought

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Retrospective Analysis: The Movement against African Centered Thought

Article excerpt


In the last decade of the 20th century one would be hard pressed to find two ideas that emanated from the minds of African people more discussed and debated than the African-centered worldview and Afrocentricity. These two ideas received wide critique both from individuals inside the scholarly universe and from people and organizations who usually have other items on their investigative plates. Time Magazine, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, as well as pundit and commentator George Will from "Meet the Press" and many others represented a wide cadre of voices from outside the academic community.

This article does not suggest that examining intellectual projects is beyond the province of the aforementioned entities. However, what will be explored in this work is the nature of the political motivation driving a certain brand of scholarship and journalism which seeks to neutralize and suppress the emancipatory initiatives of African-centered scholars. This work will advance the question and illuminate the possibility that the wide range of attention paid to the African-centered worldview and Afrocentricity were predicated on anti-egalitarian ideals. In the academic community, critique and examination of ideas is welcome, because it may lead to new understandings and the advancement of knowledge. Notwithstanding, this should not be confused with a carefully crafted media aided campaign, designed to discredit scholarly positions which do not mesh with domestic nativism.

Agenda and Time Period

The 1990s represented the dawn of a new day in American politics and social reform.

The Republican controlled United States Congress of 1995 represented the first time since 1954 that political conservatives would have control of the congressional branch of American government. The renewed vigor and rise of Conservative political activism both in the public and private sphere, ignited a wide range of anti-egalitarian loyalists; devoted to challenging any and all things they believed were a threat to their isolated version of America. Adding to this mix was a bourgeoning and re-vamped neoliberal ideology that is still today devoted to restricting ideas of community and collective identity which does not suit their developing distance from the progressive project.

This time period presented a social/political climate that was ripe for books such as: James Davidson Hunter's Culture Wars (1991), William Bennett's The Devaluing of America (1992), and Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus (1991). Following in ideological lockstep were Robert Bork's, Slouching towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline (1996). Also, blockbuster best sellers such as: Richard J Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life,(1994) which rekindled the idea of Blacks innate lack of intelligence, and Dinesh D'Souza's The End of Racism (1995) that espoused spirited rhetoric against structural redress of racial inequality in the United States. In retrospect it must also be noted that the climate had previously been set in the late 1980s with books such as Closing of the American Mind (1988) by University of Chicago professor Alan Bloom, which was a New York Times best seller. Bloom's text is an alarmist treatise about the demise of colleges and universities standards based on what he felt was a retreat from the "western canon." Other texts of this ilk were: The Moral Collapse of the University, Professionalism, Purity and Alienation, by Bruce Wilshire (1990), Killing the Spirit: Higher Education in America, by Page Smith(1990), and Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted our Higher Education, by Roger Kimball (1990) just to name a few.

All of these books from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s contained a common thread, weaved by what the authors believed was good for America. The expositors of these tomes had decided on America's intellectual history and were firm in their belief in what writings made up the "great books. …

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