Africological Enterprise

Winston Van Horne coined the term Africology after Afrology, the term coined by Molefi Asante in Afrocentricty (1980). In discourse and by agreement, Van Horne and Asante decided to use the term Africology to refer to the Afrocentric study of African phenomena (as opposed to any other way of examining phenomena). Discussions of African agency happen in the field of Area Studies and in the field known as both Black Studies and African Studies. When that discussion centers inquiry on Africa and Africans and seeks to improve the life chances of all Africans, Afrocentric theories arise. While Afrocentric scholars are guided by the same paradigm, the fields within which they work influence their inquiry and theory construction.
Scholars who use the Afrocentric paradigm have given rise to the discipline of Africology within the field of African Studies. While this field addresses a global African cultural experience, it has focused geographically on Africans in the Americas. In contrast, the field of Area Studies focuses on the exclusive examination of life in contemporary Africa. In each field, Afrocentric scholars seek to conceptually unite the African transatlantic experience.
When a bold group of African American students and faculty at universities such as the University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco State, Northwestern, Cornell, and the University of California, Los Angeles made their demands for Black Studies, they broke the back of the repressive intellectual tradition and opened up an entirely different avenue for African agency. Wherever Africology expresses itself in the African world, it is because of the inspiration first articulated in the call for agency by African American students in the late 1960s. Criticized by the Marxists and radical Democrats as a bourgeois invention, Africology had to be defended on several fronts.
Using the rhetoric of the Chicago School of Sociology led by Robert E. Park, William Ogburn, and Ellsworth Faris, several African American Marxists were the first to criticize the assertion of African agency, because to them it was counterproductive and would prevent assimilation of ideas, concepts, and people. They falsely believed that the objective of the Black Studies movement was to empower a black bourgeoisie at the expense of the masses. The Marxists reacted to the Black Studies movement in this way even though the movement was the first authentically masses-led action in the academy. On the other hand, the black reactionary conservatives criticized the Black Studies movement because they saw it as a threat to social assimilation. Both fears were false and simply masked the real fear of intellectual autonomy. Both the Marxists and the reactionary conservatives misunderstood or seem to have understood too well the meaning of agency for those supporting Africology.
Africologists challenged the idea that Africans could not create concepts, constructs, and theories in the interest of human liberation. Interpreting liberation as being free of impermissible intervention in the cultural, economic, or intellectual sphere, Africologists created a new arena of disciplinary knowledge. When Afrocentricity was conceived as a theoretical option for the liberation of African people, it was seen not as an opposition to Europe but as an assertion of African agency. However, it quickly became an opposition to Eurocentric impositions by virtue of the fact that the black and the white defenders of European hegemony sought to undermine the Africological enterprise.



Further Reading

  • Asante, Molefi Kete. (1998). The Painful Demise of Eurocentrism. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. This is just one of the many works that Asante has written to explain the nature of the Africological project.
  • Asante, Molefi Kete. (2003). Afrocentricity. Chicago: African American Images. (Original work published 1980) This is a later edition of Asante's first book on Afrocentricity.
  • Mazama, Ama (Ed.). (2003). The Afrocentric Paradigm. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. This book has become one of the standards for Afrocentric discourse. Mazama brings together the major voices in the field.