The Afrocentric Paradigm

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The Afrocentric Paradigm (2003), edited by Ama Mazama, a Temple University professor of African American Studies, has become the most significant text in Afrocentric discourse since the publication of Molefi Kete Asante's second edition of The Afrocentric Idea (1998). Indeed, The Afrocentric Paradigm has quickly become the most definitive theoretical collection in the brief history of Afrocentric research or Afrocentricity.
What makes The Afrocentric Paradigm particularly valuable is that it details the evolution of the Afrocentric idea. In her introduction, Mazama points out that Afrocentricity was not produced in a vacuum and has several important antecedents. She credits Marcus Garvey, Cheikh Anta Diop, Frantz Fanon, Aimé Cesaire, Maulana Karenga, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Négritude, black nationalism, pan-Africanism, and Kawaida with providing Asante with a theoretical foundation to develop the Afrocentric idea. What also makes The Afrocentric Paradigm brilliantly unique is Mazama's clarity in defining Afrocentricity.
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Dr. Ama Mazama, Afrocentric theorist and scholar
In her introduction, the editor indeed convincingly argues that Afrocentricity is the foundational and necessary paradigm for the discipline of Black Studies. She then proceeds to analyze thoroughly its metaphysical dimension (with its affective, cognitive, and conative aspects), as well as its structural and functional dimensions. Her emphasis is clearly on the metaphysical dimension, however, as the book addresses itself to an academic audience. Thus Mazama deals with Afrocentric epistemology, methodology, and methods and reviews many Afrocentric theories.
Mazama has pulled together a collection of scholars who represent the core of Afrocentric scholarship. These major scholars in the field of Africology/ Africana/African American/Black Studies have also contributed to the Afrocentric idea and are coming from various areas of specialization. The book is divided into two sections: the Metaphysical Foundations and the Sociological Dimension. The Sociological Dimension includes three categories: (1) Africology as the Afrocentric Disciplinary Matrix; (2) Afrocentric Epistemology, Concepts, and Methodology; and (3) Afrocentric Theories.
The first section of the book, the Metaphysical Foundations, begins with the article “The Afrocentric Idea” by none other than Molefi Kete Asante, who articulates the idea with clarity and purpose. Maulana Karenga, another giant in the field, concludes the section with his essay “Afrocentricity and Multicultural Education: Concept Challenge and Contribution.” Also included in this section is Danjuma Sinue Modupe's “The Afrocentric Philosophical Perspective: A Narrative Outline.”
In the second section of the book, the Sociological Dimension, Asante's article “African American Studies: The Future of the Discipline” stands alone in the first category, Africology as the Afrocentric Disciplinary Matrix. In Asante's article, he explores the need for further development of the discipline. The second category, Afrocentric Epistemology, Concepts, and Methodology, includes the work of Asante in addition to articles by Norman Harris, Linda James Myers, and Na'im Akbar. Each article provides a solid framework with which to engage Afrocentric research by providing the proper methods and methodologies. These scholars understand that a cohesive and coherent set of philosophical assumptions is necessary in developing an Afrocentric frame of reference.
The final category, Afrocentric Theories, explores several such theories that further our understanding of African phenomena. This category opens with two articles, one by Clenora Hudson-Weems and one by Nah Dove. These articles are crucial because they address the significant role of Africana women in the overall struggle for liberation and identity for African people. The category also includes Jerome H. Schiele's ideas on Afrocentricity and social work, Ama Mazama's Afrocentric approach to language planning, and Kariamu Welsh-Asante's articulation of African aesthetics, as well as Molefi Kete Asante's position on examining texts through an Afrocentric lens, Mwalimu Shujaa's examination of the role of Afrocentricity in the education of African children, and Asa Hilliard's review of pedagogy in ancient Kemet.
This edited volume is a must read for anyone interested in the discipline of Africology, as well as for those interested in understanding the Afrocentric idea. Ama Mazama has provided a text that effectively dispels all misrepresentations and preconceived notions of Afrocentricity. Her choice of scholars to assist in further establishing the idea is part of the genius of this monumental work.

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Further Reading

  • Asante, Molefi Kete. (1998). The Afrocentric Idea (rev. ed.). Philadelphia: Temple University Press. (Original work published 1987). This was the first major work to define Afrocentricity as an intellectual agent within the academy with special reference to the area of public discourse and communications.
  • Asante, Molefi Kete. (1990). Kemet Afrocentricity and Knowledge. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. In this work, Asante further defines Afrocentricity as an intellectual idea within the academy in general. This text also helped shape the scope of the discipline of Africology.
  • Asante, Molefi Kete. (2003). Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change. Chicago: Third World Press. This book was originally published in 1980 under the title Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change. Asante's aim was to introduce the general public to the idea of Afrocentricity, thus this book is valuable in the practical application of Afrocentricity to Africans' daily lives rather than as a guide for conducting Afrocentric research.