Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Beyond Intellectual Construct to Policy Ideas: The Case of the Afrocentric Paradigm

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Beyond Intellectual Construct to Policy Ideas: The Case of the Afrocentric Paradigm

Article excerpt


The struggles for self-determination in many aspects of life have for centuries occupied the central place within the global African communities. From the struggles against the slave trade and colonialism in Africa to the struggles for freedom from slavery and institutionalized racism in the African diaspora, to the contemporary struggles against negative stereotypes of blackness are few examples. Beside the different layers of the systemic struggles in the Black world, the intellectual sphere of Black Studies in the United States of America (USA), for example, evolved out of many struggles as well (Karenga, 2010). Aside the political, socio-economic and cultural struggles, the pursuit for African-centered ideas and theoretical grounding have gained fame within the field of African-American or Black Studies in the 1960s onwards.

This is where scholar Molefi Kete Asante's ideas and pioneering works on Afrocentricity revolutionized the field of Black Studies and other allied fields like sociology, education, policy science and history among others. Professor Asante's philosophical ideas on Afrocentricity have been advanced by other scholars with degrees of fluidity in perspectives, interpretations and misinterpretations as Mazama (2001, p.389) has observed. It could be argued that the Afrocentric concept has essentially transformed the study and understanding of the critical issues pertaining to the field of Pan-African Studies. As this paper assumes, the intellectual transformation of the field with emphasis on the African-centered perspective is expected to continue for decades if not centuries. While recognizing the usefulness of these works in terms of their intellectual engagements with the theory, the existing literature appears not to have many scholarly works that have examined the policy side of the theory. This explains the rationale for this paper.

In essence, this paper is making the case for an extension of the Afrocentric paradigm to the policy domain. In other words, this paper argues that the relevance of the theory rests on the extent to which the main tenets could be applied to real life situations through policy initiatives. This underlying logic is based on the assumption that the Afrocentric concept has the intellectual capacity (conceptual ideas) to positively redefine and transform the distorted image of African people as well as the ability to shape policy initiatives in the attempt to provide solutions to the critical problems facing the Black world. The research question of interest that emerges is: How relevant is the Afrocentric theory in advancing policy ideas? To explore the above question, the paper has been organized into three parts. The first part provides an overview of the theory while the second part examines the contending issues of the theory. The final part explores the critical problems facing Africa and the African diaspora (phases of struggles) and makes the case for policy initiatives based on the tenets of the Afrocentric idea.

The Afrocentric Idea: An Overview

The Afrocentric idea by scholar Molefi Asante has for more than 30 years occupied the theoretical epicenter of Black Studies and other allied fields. Although the idea of Black identity and self-determination (e.g., political, cultural, socio-economic and psychological) dates back to early thinkers like W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah and Cheikh Anta Diop among others, Asante's theoretical voyage which produced many works (Asante, 1987; 1988; 1998; 2003) on Black centeredness or Black centrality succeeded in positioning his philosophical ideas on the citadel of the ground-breaking works on Afrocentricity. What then is the concept of Afrocentricity? According to Asante (2003, p.2):

Afrocentricity is a mode of thought and action in which the centrality of African interests, values, and perspectives predominate. In regards to theory, it is the placing of African people in the center of any analysis of African phenomena. …

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