Afrocultural Theory

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Afrocultural theory aims to explain the various phenomena associated with African cultural practices and behavior. Thus Afrocultural theory is dedicated to understanding how the behaviors, traditions, customs, and rituals of African societies affect the development of consciousness in the African person. It seeks to explain cultural consciousness in terms of certain events or processes the African person has adapted from his or her cultural reality. When a person has internalized the phenomena of the African cultural world, there is the possibility of consciousness, more than awareness in a popular sense, of the phenomena, meaning essentially that the person views the phenomena from inside what is happening. A person who is raised within the context of an African cultural world where there is a ritual associated with puberty, for instance, will normally have a different reaction to additional ritualized situations than a person who has never experienced the situation. This is to be expected in the course of activities that involve what is often referred to as Africanity. This is the process of participating in the activities that are usually analyzable by Afrocultural theory.
In The Afrocentric Idea, Molefi Kete Asante applies Afrocultural theory to an analysis of African oratorical and rhetorical behavior. Asante contends that the idea of an African cultural reality that locates oratory in the traditional values of the African world—where oral tradition, speech, and the generative power of the spoken word had value in themselves—is fundamental to appreciating the privileging of oratory in the African community. Other scholars apply the concepts of Afrocultural theory to language, call-and-response activities, and rituals. Afrocultural theory suggests that the use of African traditions, customs, and rituals might help to explain the contemporary behaviors and attitudes of people of African descent. This is to suggest not that there are no other influences on contemporary Africans but that one cannot forget the cultural origins of African activities when examining African lives.
What Asante and other scholars have attempted to do with Afrocultural theory is to open the door to a new way of assessing the multiple experiences of Africans. Like the metatheoretical idea of Afrocentricity, Afrocultural theory places a considerable weight on the issue of location. Thus, an Afrocultural analysis seeks to discover where the parties being analyzed are located culturally. This is a feature of determining consciousness, as it is easy to see whether a person is coming from the inside of a process or from the outside in an interpretation or an expression. The researcher therefore places the various parties in an investigation in order to obtain an adequate assessment. In Afrocultural theory, the researcher also realizes that the parties to be investigated have automatically placed themselves by their own activities. Thus it is possible for a person to look black phenotypically but to be devoid of any hint of Africanity, that is, affiliation with custom, traditions, or rituals of the African culture in any form. Or, a person may not look black phenotypically yet may be deeply involved in the African cultural world. Thus, the Afrocultural theory adjusts for the infinite variations of the African cultural world.

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Further Reading

  • Asante, Molefi Kete. (1998). The Afrocentric Idea. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. This is one of the key works in the Afrocultural theoretical field.
  • Mazama, Ama. (2002). Langue et Identité en Guadeloupe. Pointe-à-Pitre: Jasor. This is a stellar example of how a researcher uses the Afrocultural foundation to investigate a contemporary issue.