Cultural Relocation

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Cultural relocation, sometimes referred to as cultural reclamation, is a central theme in Africana life and a cultural concept in the Afrocentric study of Africana history and culture. The term originated in the United State in the early 19th century; it is associated with various movements in the Africana experience: Pan-Africanism, Négritude, New Negro, and black Nationalism. The concept should not be confused with the cultural explication of the black experience, which narrates text and contemporary contexts without specific cultural meaning for Africana peoples. In addition, the concept is more than a black diaspora aspiration to embrace an ancient African ancestry.
Rather, it is a social, cultural, and political statement of black unity and Africanity. Cultural relocation, once recognized only as a life theme for Africans in the diaspora, has also become a regenerative concept for indigenous African people. It is a response to the holocaust of enslavement (Middle Passage), cultural genocide, and subsequent cultural deprivation theories. As a global concept, cultural relocation has also inspired Africans and gives support to other groups that have addressed the debilitating legacies of colonialism and imperialism.
For many Africans scattered throughout the world as a result of enslavement, cultural relocation is the people's direct response to domination. For African Brazilians, the concept is expressed through the history of Quilombismo. It is contained in the ideology of Steven Biko's Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) in South Africa. For African Americans, cultural reclamation has found expression in the early back to Africa movements, the African Blood Brotherhood, Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and Malcolm X and the Organization of Afro American Unity (OAAU).
From the late 1980s through the 1990s, cultural relocation was likened to a second awakening of the Black Power Movement of the 1960s. However, one of the most significant expressions of cultural relocation is found in the Asantian literature. Molefi Kete Asante initiated the Afrocentric movement, providing one of the most important 20th-century topics within African cultural and intellectual circles by elevating the discourse on cultural relocation. Asante advanced theories of cultural relocation, which explained the impact of the distance that people of African descent have traveled as a result of forced migration, cultural genocide, and attempts at assimilation. His expansion of the concept of relocation through Afrocentricity included important terms such as agency, location, dislocation, and centering.
Asante situates African agency as the primary idea in the actualization of freedom of black peoples. In addition, people of African descent had been verifiably dislocated from Africanity and agency; they possessed the means to center themselves within the expansive legacy of black history and culture. Using the writer as an example, Asante defined the basis of the term: “Dislocation exists when a writer seems to be out of synchrony with his or her historical/cultural location. Determining historical/cultural location becomes one of the major tasks of the Afrocentric scholar. Relocation occurs when a writer who has been dislocated rediscovers historical and cultural motifs that serve as signposts in the intellectual or creative pursuit.” Four fundamental premises of cultural relocation for Africana people are (a) self-definition, (b) self-determination, (c) a consciousness of victory, and (d) access to ancient, traditional, and modern legacies and aspects of the African experience. Within the Africana experience, cultural relocation is evident in all areas of black life. In the area of religion, cultural relocation is found in the manifestation of Africana religion around the globe in the forms of Vodun and Ifa. In psychology, cultural relocation is found in the African personality theories of scholars and therapists such as Linda James Myers, Kofi Kambon, Joseph Baldwin, Ama Mazama, Yvonne Bell, Daudi Azibo, Wade Nobles, Jerome Schiele, and Na'im Akbar. In black art, cultural relocation themes are found in the work of John Biggers and many others. Cultural relocation is evident in the development of the Kawaida theory and the African American holiday Kwanzaa by Maulana Karenga. Politically, cultural relocation is demonstrated in the work of TransAfrica, the black American lobby for Africa and the Caribbean founded by Randall Robinson and in the legacy of black political conventions of the 1960s and 1970s.

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Further Reading

  • Ani, M. (1994). Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Thought and Behavior. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.
  • Asante, M. K. (1988). Afrocentricity. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.
  • Asante, M. K. Afrocentricity and the Critique of Drama The Western Journal of Black Studies 14 (2) 136–141. (1990).
  • Asante, M. K. (1990). Kernet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.
  • Asante, M. K. (1992, April). The Painful Demise of Eurocentrism. The World and I, pp. 305–311.
  • Asante, M. K. (1998). The Afrocentric Idea. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Harris N. A Philosophical Basis for an Afrocentric Orientation The Western Journal of Black Studies 16 (3) (1992) 154–159.
  • Karenga, M. (2002). Introduction to Black Studies. Los Angeles: University of Sankore Press.
  • Mazama A. The Afrocentric Paradigm: Contours and Definitions Journal of Black Studies 31 (2001). (4) 387–405.