Negative Afrocentric Critique of Racial Cosmopolitanism

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Afrocentric Critique of Racial Cosmopolitanism


The 1AC is a profoundly flawed misreading of history---conceptualization of a “Black Atlantic” necessarily excludes the conceptualization of its totality---it reinscribes notions of modernity and diminishes its own sensibility

Masilela, 1996, (Ntongela, Professor Emeritus of Creative Studies at Pitzer College, available from JSTOR, Research in African Literatures, 27.4, The "Black Atlantic" and African Modernity in South Africa,, Date accessed: 28/06/2014) // dobp

However, these impressive affiliations of The Black Atlantic cannot hide the fact that it is a profoundly flawed book because of its exclusionary epistemic cultural politics. Gilroy defines the "Black Atlantic" as essentially a dialogical intellectual system of discourse between the United States and Europe about the nature of modernity concerning cultural and national identities, the very fact that cultural and political formations of whatever kind are historical products of hybridization and syncretism. With such a conceptualization, Gilroy excludes Africa and Latin America (I am aware that Abdias do Nascimento prefers the designation "South America," since "Latin" denies the Africanity of that continent- see his "The African Experience in Brazil") from the historical parameters of the "Black Atlantic." This exclusionary process is not to be understood in the sense that a book cannot be expected to say everything, but rather it reflects Gilroy's political understanding of the dynamic structure of the black world within the maelstrom of modernity. It is ironic that one would have to marshall the same arguments that Gilroy himself rightly has made against the great Raymond Williams, that by excluding the "black settlers" from the making of contemporary Englishness, he had unduly constricted its truly rich horizons. So likewise, by excluding Africa, Gilroy has in effect narrowed the Africanness or Africanity of the "Black Atlantic."l Granted a book cannot say everything, it should at least attempt to conceptualize everything within the purview of the historical logic of its object or subject. The Black Atlantic cannot or refuses and fails to conceptually totalize (either in the Lukacsian sense of totality or the Sartrean sense of totaliza- tion) the real field force, rather than the imaginary form, of its movement (see Sartre, Lukacs) In a deeply saddening way, The Black Atlantic expresses an unremitting disdainfulness for Africa, for things African, and for things that come from our "Dark Continent."2 In these refusals the book is reflective of late European modernist experience, even though it seeks to locate itself in the black diasporic modernist articulations. Had it not been characterized by these irrational refusals, the book would have made mention of Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Wole Soyinka, especially Ngugi since his first book of literary and cultural criticism, Homecoming, with its ample referencing of C. L. R. James, V. S. Naipaul, Orlando Patterson, Sylvia Wynter, Eric Williams, Samuel Selvon, Aime Cesaire, and Frantz Fanon, the first serious radical introduction of great Caribbean culture(s) into African literary and cultural discourses, effected a further expansion of the African Trans-Atlantic World. Furthermore, the historic importance for the whole African continent of the document "On the Abolition of the English Department," an appendix to Homecoming, lies in its having revolutionized the study of African literature(s) by situating African Literature within a triangular system of the Caribbean, Africa, and the black Americas. By this radical gesture of epistemological practice, Ngugi and his colleagues enormously enriched the conceptual structure of trans- Atlanticism. Could there be a more fascinating trans-Atlantic affiliative relation- ship than that between Ngugi and Fanon, it would rival that between Aime Cesaire and Leopold Sedar Senghor, or between Ezekiel Mphahlele and Langston Hughes, or between Wole Soyinka and Henry Louis Gates, or between C. L. R. James and Kwame Nkrumah, or between Solomon Plaatje and W. E. B. Du Bois, or between Peter Abrahams and Richard Wright, and so on. Though remarkable as it is in many of its penetrative analyses, as well as the associative ensembles it configures and structures, The Black Atlantic fails to register that the peregrinations of Richard Wright, W. E. B. Du Bois, C. L. R. James, and others in Europe were a search for the historical meaning of Africa. After all, since the 1884 Berlin Conference and during the whole colonial period, the key decisions about Africa were being decided in European capitals. Is it mere chance that practically all Pan-African Congresses of the pre-independence era took place in these imperial capitals and not in the imperialized capitals on the African con- tinent? If one doubts that for most black intellectuals in the African diaspora their historical project was the liberation of Africa, one need only examine the preoc- cupations of Edward Blyden, Martin Delany, and Alexander Crummell in Africa. This is the reason that they invented and constructed Pan-Africanism, arguably the most important political philosophy among black intellectuals in the 20th cen- tury; so important, indeed, that many of them imported Marxism (whether the Stalinist or the Trotskyist variant) to shore up the epistemology and political vision of Pan-Africanism. In other words, Pan-Africanism, an invention by black diasporan intellectuals, whose object was the liberation of Africa, was par excellence the fundamental political philosophy of black modernity in the 20th century.3 Many of the diasporan intellectuals took different positions on the encounter between Africa and modernity: whereas Ras Makonnen accepted the reciprocity between tradition and modernity, Richard Wright "rejected" Africa because he felt that tradition had triumphed over modernity, while C. L. R. James found African political modernity deeply flawed and troublesome, and Du Bois made peace with it because of other overdetermining exigencies. For practically all the major diasporan intellectuals, African modernities were inescapable or unavoidable historical horizons. Even belated classical Pan-Africanists from Latin America such as Abdias do Nascimento in Brazil and Manuel Zapata Olivella in Colombia, a rapprochement with Africa as a modernist experience could not be evaded. Looking at a particular instance of the creation and construction of perspec- tives on African modernity by African intellectuals, taking specifically South African modernity as an example, it is apparent why diasporan intellectuals could not avoid Africa as a historical horizon since what they saw across the Atlantic was a reflection of their own historical dilemmas. The placement of the intellec- tual bridge of trans-Atlanticism across the vast ocean between Africa and the African diaspora was not because of racial ontologies or the myth of the search for origins, but rather because of political solidarity, intellectual affiliations, cul- tural retainments, and historical appropriations. The construction of South African modernity by New African intelligentsia who modeled themselves on the New Negro Talented Tenth is inconceivable with- out the example of American modernity: the New Africans appropriated the his- torical lessons drawn from the New Negro experience within American modernity to chart and negotiate the newly emergent South African modernity: the Africans learned from African Americans the process of transforming themselves into agencies in or of modernity. The spectacular construction and theorizing of African modernities were undertaken in South Africa in the 1920s by a group of brilliant New African intellectuals working together in the weekly Umteteli wa Bantu [The Mouthpiece of the Native Peoples]-R. V. Selope Thema, H. I. E. Dhlomo, Solomon Plaatje, H. Selby Msimang, Allan Kirkland Soga, and others. This necessity of transformation and the historical imperative of identifying with African Americans were a result of the fact that we Africans experienced the entrance of European modernity into African history as a great historic defeat. Invariably, "forced" modernization meant Westernization in our instance. We encountered European modernity as a process of the colonial system and imperi- alist projection. The fundamental historical question became: what is it that enabled Europeans to defeat Africans militarily, and subsequently hegemonically impose themselves on us? The only serious response on our part could only be through the appropriation of that which had enabled Europeans to triumph: modernity. Hence the obsession with Christianity, civilization, and education by the new African intelligentsia, from Blaise Diagne in Senegal through Harry Thuku in Kenya and Mnandi Azikiwe in Nigeria to Walter Rubusana in South Africa. These historical obsessions entailed the making of the New Africans in South Africa; and there is no reason for doubting that this did not also happen in other African countries. By decentering Africa from its preoccupations about the "Black Atlantic," The Black Atlantic achieves the paradoxical effect of diminishing its own historical sensibility while theorizing historical matters.

Colonialism and slavery are not aberrations in the project of modernity but entirely inherent to modern institutions – the aff’s endorsement of racial humanism and cosmopolitanism papers over structural evil and undermines racial progress

Gikandi ’02 Simon, Currently Robert Hayden Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, he is the recipient of awards from organizations such as the American Council of Learned Societies, the Mellon Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. His most recent books include Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism and Ngugi Wa Thiong'O, Available from Project MUSE, American Literary History, 14.3, pg. 602-04,, “Race and Cosmopolitanism” | ADM

In the end, however, I am less troubled by Gilroy's privileging of race and fascism in his discourse than his belief that the structure of evil is exterior to humanism and cosmopolitanism. This claim is faulty for two closely related reasons: the first one relates to the point, made most powerfully by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno in The Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947), that the ethical and emancipatory claims of the European Enlightenment were undermined by the irrational forces inherent within the project of modernity itself. Zygmont Bauman extended this claim in his analysis of the logic of evil within modernity in Modernity and the Holocaust (1989). Gilroy is, of course, aware of these prior claims. Indeed, he sees his work as an extension of the critique of [End Page 602] modernity represented by Horkheimer and Adorno and, more recently, Bauman. And yet, unlike his important European precursors, Gilroy seems unwilling to consider the etiology of evil to be inherent within modernity and the Enlightenment. In describing what went wrong with modernity and the Enlightenment, Gilroy's favorite metaphors are those of ambiguity and aberration, not immanency or complicity. It is precisely by presenting the evils implicit in the project of modernitycolonialism and slavery, for exampleas aberrations that Gilroy can hold on to the ethical and emancipatory values enunciated by the modern in the name of humanism and universality. I am in sympathy with the case Gilroy makes against raciology, but I am not convinced that there is an implicit and emancipatory project inherent in universalism, humanism, and cosmopolitanism. I am not sure that racialism is absent from these ostensible redemptive economies. As I have argued in "Race and the Idea of the Aesthetic," even some of the most ethical and emancipatory categories in the making of the modern European world—the ideology of the aesthetic, for example—seem implicated in the more unsavory aspects of modern culture. From Bartholome Las Casas to Hannah Arendt, the western discourse on freedom and emancipation has been haunted by the figure of the Other, whose demands for freedom seem incompatible with the idea of Europe. If it seems easier to recognize evil in racialized movements and polities, to see its ugly prints on nationalism and not humanism, it is not because racialized modes of exclusion are worse or their consequences deadlier; rather, racialism appears to be a greater evil because it is premised on a form of exclusiveness that is visible, irrational, and immutable. In contrast, other systems of exclusion seem to deploy a more surreptitious tactic of difference, one premised on the notion that the limits of social exclusion can be overcome. Class, for example, is a form of social exclusion that has, even in the history of European society, led to as much suffering as race. Yet, it is rare that one comes across books that analyze the evils of class in ethical terms. The reason why modes of discrimination based on culture or class don't seem to provoke any outrage, I suspect, is that they operate within boundaries that human subjects can ostensibly overcome; these boundaries are hence not considered to be as disabling as the fixed notions of race. I suspect that the fixed nature of racial boundaries is what compels Gilroy to conclude that a racialized polity is one of "fortified nation-states and antagonistic ethnic groups" (41). From the vantage point of our great cosmopolitan dreams, this may well be the case. Still, I think it would be hasty to associate all nation-states with racialism and all ethnic identities with [End Page 603] antagonism just because we are unhappy with their ambitions and consequences. Just as humanism could coexist with the genocide of the native Americans and be used to justify it, the nation-state could be invoked as the custodian of human progress; dubious ethnic differences have been used to justify genocide (the most recent examples being in Rwanda and Bosnia), but by the same token ethnic identities have sometimes functioned as the refuge for persecuted people. Gilroy's dilemma, which is itself part of the dialectic of modernity, is that both goodness and evil are hatched in the same nest, as it were. For Gilroy, this nest is modernity.

Independently, this vision of racial cosmopolitanism represents a Eurocentric approach that represses Pan-African identity and entrenches violent modes of exclusion

Gikandi ’02 Simon, Currently Robert Hayden Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, he is the recipient of awards from organizations such as the American Council of Learned Societies, the Mellon Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. His most recent books include Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism and Ngugi Wa Thiong'O, Available from Project MUSE, American Literary History, 14.3, pg. 600-01,, “Race and Cosmopolitanism” | ADM

Since there is no evidence that the emergence of the European community has made the burden of blackness easier to bear, it is imperative to ask why Gilroy associates cosmopolitanism with a certain relation to, or encounter with, Europeanness. Let us remember that in the Black Atlantic, Gilroy's then-nascent discourse of cosmopolitanism was structured by the black American's sojourn into Europe: Frederick Douglass became cosmopolitan when he deployed Scottish mythology in his self-constitution; Du Bois discovered his being-in-the-world when he traveled to Germany; it was not Ghana but France that secured Richard Wright's cosmopolitanism. In reviewing this rather Eurocentric narrative of cosmopolitanism in an oeuvre that seeks to be against all forms of ethnocentrism, one is left wondering about alternative narratives of a Pan-Africanist identity repressed or marginalized in Gilroy's text. One is reminded, for example, of Zora Neale Hurston in Haiti and Jamaica; of Langston Hughes in Cuba and Soviet Central Asia; of George Padmore, Kwame Nkrumah, and Nnamdi Azikwe in the black belts of the US. Why is a European cosmopolitanism much more valuable in the institution of a Pan-African identity than those other experiences? Readers seeking an answer to this question in Against Race are bound to be disappointed, for Gilroy not only privileges Europe as the crucible of cosmopolitanism, but he does so in the kind of ultranationalist language that makes mockery of the "planetary humanism" he wants to promote as an alternative to racialism. Consider the following "take" on a certain influential African American's recognition of the centrality of black music in "a creative model for the visual arts and a technical blueprint for novelists and poets": "The great sage Alain Locke, fresh from three years as a Rhodes scholar in Oxford and two more in Berlin, adopted this approach in his careful exposition of the state of music-making published in 1936. Locke understood jazz in tripartite terms as 'part Negro, part American, [and] part modern'" (296). In this scenario, Locke becomes a great sage on account of his Rhodes scholarship, his three years at Oxford, and his residence [End Page 600] in Berlin, not Harlem or even Harvard! Furthermore, in this rather ecstatic celebration of the authorizing cultural centers of Europeanness, Gilroy forgets some simple racialist practices central to the "Rhodes" phenomena, such as the fact that the benefactor of the Rhodes scholarship was one of the major architects of imperialism in Africa, that until fairly recently Africans were excluded from the Rhodes competition; or that in spite of his European credentials Locke could not secure an appointment in a white American university. My point here is that when it comes to his European identity, Gilroy seems to embrace the camp mentality he has set out to deconstruct and denounce in his book. In this respect, Against Race is a text that operates within the very regime it seeks to critique. Central to this regime is the unexamined notion that there are some preeminent positions in Western political culture that made it the exceptional crucible of what Gilroy calls a "precious humanism" (71). To be fair, Gilroy's book is an attempt to understand how race and racialism have invaded this crucible and perverted its values. Indeed, much of Gilroy's agonizing is how such precious positions as humanism can be rescued and secured given the persistence of racialism. His meditations on this problem are worth quoting in some detail: I want to stop short of suggesting that the preeminent position of that Western political culture is irrecoverable because the confidence and authority of epistemological and moral claims staked in this tradition will never be restored. Instead, I would argue first that a partial and pragmatic restoration or reform can proceed only if the depths of this tradition's difficulties with "race" are fully appreciated, and second, that a sustained engagement with these problems would have to acknowledge that the recurrence of terror and barbarity communicates more than a lapse from more exalted standards of rational conduct. We need to consider the circumstances in which the application of terror can emerge as a rational, legal, or acceptable option. What varieties of rationality sanction raciological brutality? How has the category of the human, which, as we have just seen, Fanon would have us purge and redeem, circulated in those lofty attempts to differentiate epistemology and morality, aesthetics and ethics? Racial and ethnic rhetorics, nationalist metaphysics, and imperial fantasies became intrinsic to colonial modernities at home and abroad. As the history of colonial conflicts suggests, European enlightenment's universal aspirations were undermined where they have been reinterpreted as tied to local and [End Page 601] parochial preoccupations or read ethnohistorically so that their portentous, timeless promises appear context-bound and are associated with the desires of particular populations in particular predicaments. (71-72)

Eurocentric philosophy undergirds and legitimates politico-economic colonialism and racism – the presumption of universal reason facilitates oppression while reinforcing intellectual imperialism

Stikkers, 08 Kenneth W., Professor, Philosophy & Africana Studies, Southern Illinois University, Philosophy of economics and sociology, contemporary continental philosophy (Scheler, Foucault), American philosophy (Puritanism, James), ethics, social/political philosophy. Editor of Max Scheler's Problems of a Sociology of Knowledge. Author of Utopian Visions Past, Present, and Future: Rethinking the Ethical Foundations of Economy; Economics as Moral Philosophy; and articles on philosophy of economics, American philosophy, and contemporary continental thought. Also, Professor of Economics and Sociology at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa, Mexico, and President of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, Available from Project MUSE, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 22.1, pg. 44-47,, “An Outline of Methodological Afrocentrism, with Particular Application to the Thought of W. E. B. DuBois” | ADM

Methodological Afrocentrism is intended as an antidote to the intellectual colonialism that undergirds and serves to legitimate political and economic colonialism. In the following I will, first, explain what I mean by "intellectual colonialism" and how it adversely affects the reading of Africana philosophy; second, delineate the central features of "methodological Afrocentrism"; and, third, illustrate the method, and how it aims to overcome intellectual colonialism, in the reading of the African American thinker W. E. B. DuBois. Among the conditions of colonialism is that the colonized must speak, if they are allowed to speak publicly at all, through the language and conceptual schemas of the colonizer; they must thereby validate, as a prerequisite for speaking publicly, both in form and in substance, the colonizer's intellectual enframement of the world, reinforce the colonizer's worldview and rationality as the universally valid ones. That is, in order to speak publicly the colonized must flatter the colonizer and in the process, simultaneously, denigrate his or her own cultural traditions. Indeed, European efforts to legitimate philosophically its colonialist practices were rooted largely in the presumption of a universal reason, of which Europe further presumed itself to be the most advanced expression. Those being colonized then were imagined to lie either at the earliest dawn of that reason or altogether outside [End Page 40] its history. Colonial powers, thus, as the self-proclaimed vanguards of such reason, imagined and projected themselves as the liberators of non-European "savages," freeing them from their unreason by placing them under, not their (the colonizers') interests and fancies, but the rule of the one true and universally valid Reason itself. Hegel's pronouncement regarding Africa is perhaps the bluntest: "Africa . . . is no historical part of the World; it has no movement or development to exhibit. . . . What we properly understand by Africa, is the Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature" (1956, 99). Karl Marx first noted how the presumption of universal reason served to legitimate oppression, although he did so with respect to class rather than race: "Each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interests as the common interest of all the members of society. . . . It will give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones" (1904, 298–99, in Marcuse 1960, 285). And, to the best of my knowledge, it was William James who, as co-founder, along with Jane Addams, of the Anti-imperialist League and outspoken critic of American imperialism, first identified the intimate connection between the universal reason presumed by Western science and philosophy, on the one hand, and Western colonialist practices, on the other, and his pluralism thus served as an antidote to the universalistic presumptions of imperialism. Colonizers self-righteously believed themselves to be not oppressors but saviors, transforming the presumably "irrational," "lazy," "inefficient," "unproductive" darker races into efficient instruments of rational economic production, within growingly global markets. Colonizers could thus imagine themselves not as privileged but as "burdened"—bearers of "the white man's burden."2 As the king presumes to speak for his entire kingdom, so colonizers presume to speak for all humanity, that the way they see and order things is the way in which all creatures who wish to be deemed "rational" and "civilized" must see and order things: the eyes and mind of the colonizer are assumed to be the eyes and mind for all (rational) humanity. Moreover, colonizing minds proceed in a prior fashion; that is, they feel no need to verify empirically their universal judgments, no need even to ask those of other cultures, "How does the world appear to you? How do you order and structure it?" prior to making their sweeping pronouncements: after all, they, as the presumed vanguards of universal reason, are the measures of all things. For example, Kant saw no need actually to consult and to listen to non-Western peoples in advancing his anthropology and theory of race: I think here of Kant's a priori pronouncement, "The fellow was black from head to foot, a clear proof of what he said was stupid" (1991, 113). Similarly, Hegel did not think it even relevant to talk to African people prior to forming his judgment, quoted above, that they played no role in the historical unfolding of universal Spirit. Instead, colonizers presume, as the loci of universal reason, that how they see and order the world must be how all rational beings see and order it or at least ought to see [End Page 41] and order it: there is, therefore, no need to ask, because those who experience matters differently must be, a priori, just plain wrong, irrational. Protests by the colonized are taken merely as evidence of their erroneous views and undeveloped rationality: they, the colonized, simply do not understand. Intellectual colonialism is clearly visible even in recent African philosophy: African students of philosophy, studying at universities built by the colonial powers and on European models, have been required to learn in the colonizers' languages and to master the texts of the European canon. Any attempt to articulate one's own native wisdom tradition, if it is to be allowed at all, has been by reference to European concepts, thinkers, and texts and always, of course, still in the colonizers' language. I take certain efforts of Kwasi Wiredu and Kwame Gyeke to articulate elements of traditional Akan philosophy by reference to European thinkers to exemplify such intellectual colonialism. The first, in his Cultural Universals and Particulars: An African Perspective(Wiredu 1996, esp. chs. 2–4), utilizes John Dewey's pragmatic instrumentalism as a means for comparing concepts in Akan and European traditions; the second, in his An Essay on African Philosophical Thought: The Akan Conceptual Scheme(Gyeke 1995), explains Akan concepts by comparison especially to Aristotelian notions of "soul" and "virtue." Both works aim to legitimate African philosophy by arguing its participation in universal reason, thereby affirming the Eurocentric assumption of such a reason and European accounts of it. In other works, however, Wiredu (e.g., 1979, 1995) clearly identifies the limitations of efforts to interpret African philosophy through European concepts and languages. There are three principal, undesirable effects of attempting to articulate African philosophies via European traditions. First, colonizers mistakenly assume that indigenous people are using their, the colonizers', words in the same way that they do (Hallen 1997). Second, European thinkers are unchallenged and thereby reaffirmed in their common belief that European philosophy is the standard for philosophy universally. Third, as Robert Bernasconi has shown, drawing from the work of Lucius Outlaw, African philosophy is placed in a double bind. To the extent that it asserts similarities with European traditions, it reinforces the prejudice that native traditions contribute to philosophy little or nothing unique or original; that the latter's best insights can be found already, and expressed generally in a much more sophisticated manner, in the European canon; that indigenous wisdom is, at best, a mere shadow of what one finds better expressed in European texts. On the other hand, to the extent that African thought asserts its difference from European philosophy, it casts itself outside of philosophy altogether: it is deemed "unphilosophical." In either case African philosophy "effectively disappears" (Bernasconi 1997, 188). Intellectual colonialism rules, too, the study of African American philosophy, although it is perhaps more hidden than in the case of African philosophy. It is manifest most strongly in the general tendency in the philosophical profession to see African American philosophy mainly as an offshoot [End Page 42] and variation of Euro-American philosophy, rather than as rooted principally in Africana traditions. African American philosophy thus appears as a colony of Euro-American thought and thus under the latter's authority, administration, and jurisdiction. There are at least three sources for this error. First, there is simply the extreme, general ignorance of Africana intellectual traditions, and such ignorance is then confused for there simply being no African philosophical traditions. (How many in the philosophical profession can name even a single African philosopher?) Second, that African American students are required by the academy to master the European canon as a prerequisite for study of their own traditions and must articulate their interests in Africana philosophy by reference to that canon, for example, passing comprehensive examinations and in the writing of theses and dissertations, reinforce the presumption that African American philosophy is largely derivative from the Euro-American tradition and thus is rightly measured by reference to it. Moreover, this canon often explicitly tells Africana students that they are incapable of understanding the texts they are reading or even of doing philosophy, by virtue of simply being African: the comments of Kant and Hegel quoted above are prime instances. Third, while the African student of philosophy still enjoys living access to his or her native African language, and hence to the conceptual schema it manifests, the conditions of slavery in America deprived the African American student generally of such access: African slaves in America who spoke the same language were systematically separated, to prevent them from conspiring in their native tongues, and speaking in African languages was strictly forbidden by law and the whip. That Africans brought to America were forced to speak English, though, has created in European America generally, and within professional philosophy in particular, the illusion that African Americans employ English terms in the same manner as European Americans and that they have no living connection to their African heritage: African Americans thus appear as standing in need of becoming more Europeanized, to fill the presumed cultural, spiritual void that either, à la Hegel, was imagined there all along or, in the relatively more liberal understanding, was created by the conditions of slavery. Other academic disciplines, such as religious studies, English literature, and art history, have long understood that African Americans' lack of access to their native languages did not radically sever their ties to traditional Africana modes of thinking and cultural expression: rather, they understand how African Americans have appropriated European modes of expression to articulate their own cultural life. It is well understood within religious studies, for example, that the use of Christian language and symbols by African American churches is quite different from their use in Euro-American Christian churches, that African Americans use such language and symbols in ways that are more consistent with and expressive of their own cultural traditions and for their own purposes. As Nathan Huggins [End Page 43] writes, "In the spirit of Afro-Americans, Christianity was converted to their needs as much as they were converted to its doctrine" (1990, 174).3

The alternative embraces a redefinition of African-American philosophy through the lens of methodological Afrocentrism – only this strategy can combat Eurocentric intellectual colonialism

Stikkers, 08 Kenneth W., Professor, Philosophy & Africana Studies, Southern Illinois University, Philosophy of economics and sociology, contemporary continental philosophy (Scheler, Foucault), American philosophy (Puritanism, James), ethics, social/political philosophy. Editor of Max Scheler's Problems of a Sociology of Knowledge. Author of Utopian Visions Past, Present, and Future: Rethinking the Ethical Foundations of Economy; Economics as Moral Philosophy; and articles on philosophy of economics, American philosophy, and contemporary continental thought. Also, Professor of Economics and Sociology at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa, Mexico, and President of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy, Available from Project MUSE, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 22.1, pg. 40-44,, “An Outline of Methodological Afrocentrism, with Particular Application to the Thought of W. E. B. DuBois” | ADM

Euro-American philosophers, however, tend to assume that African American philosophers use the standard stock of philosophical terms and concepts as they do, rather than in ways that are more consistent with Africana traditions, historical experiences, and purposes. Let one example suffice for now: it is often assumed that when African American authors, such as David Walker, Henry Garnet, or Frederick Douglass, appropriate Enlightenment political terms, such as freedom, liberty, and rights, they intend them in the modern European, individualistic sense of personal freedom, personal liberty, and personal rights and they thus embrace all the anthropological and ontological assumptions entailed in such notions. However, Africana traditions do not presuppose such individualism (Huggins 1990, 5–16); rather, speaking within them one is more likely to be referring to the freedom, liberty, and rights of a people, of one's community, in achieving its own collective ends. As Huggins notes, "to be able to marry, have normal and stable family relations, and enjoy one's children until their maturity" (1990, 164–65) were much more central to the nineteenth-century African American understanding of "freedom" than the opportunity for personal advancement, which has been much more central to Euro-American understandings of the term. The results of this tendency to project European American understandings and purposes on the texts of African American philosophies and of this failure to understand African American philosophers within their own cultural histories and traditions are that African American philosophy is viewed primarily as derivative from Euro-American philosophy and not as rooted in Africana traditions and hence that African American philosophers are seen as contributing little if anything to philosophy in America. Thus, Frederick Douglass appears something like a black Thomas Paine; W. E. B. DuBois, as a black Marx or John Dewey; Alain Locke, as a black Josiah Royce; Martin Luther King, as a black personalist, a black Brightman.4 The above, I submit, are among the primary reasons why African American philosophers often feel alienated from American philosophy generally and from professional associations for American philosophy, such as the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy: they are experienced as colonialist enterprises. Under "methodological Afrocentrism" I propose two strategies for liberating Africana philosophy from intellectual colonialism. The first of these strategies I describe here only briefly: references to race, and even racist remarks such as the ones cited above from Kant and Hegel, in the canonical texts of European philosophy, which one is generally trained to push aside and to ignore as merely expressive of the writer's time or even not to see at all, are brought forward, taken seriously, as integral to the author's corpus and used as a lens through which to interpret that corpus as a whole. Emmanuel Eze's "The Color of Reason: The Idea of 'Race' in Kant's Anthropology" (1997) provides a good example of this first prong of the method. Eze shows how Kant's discussions of race, which are both [End Page 44] numerous and extensive, are not peripheral but central to his anthropology and hence integral to his whole critical project. As Eze concludes, "It is clear that what Kant settled upon as the 'essence' of humanity, that which one ought to become in order to deserve human dignity, sounds very much like Kant himself: 'white,' European, and male. More broadly speaking, Kant's philosophical anthropology reveals itself as the guardian of Europe's self-image of itself as superior and the rest of the world as barbaric" (1997, 130). What becomes abundantly clear through such a rereading of Kant and other central authors in the European canon is that the modernist effort to define the nature of "reason," as the essence of humanity, is intimately bound up with Europe's desperate effort to justify morally its colonialist practices, including the slave trade: if the capacity to reason is taken, as it was, as the mark separating those who might morally be colonized and enslaved from those who may not, then the entire defense of colonialism and slavery must rest on the prevailing definition of reason and who has the authority, the power, to define it. As Outlaw (1996, 54–59) has correctly noted, what is at stake in Kant's, Hegel's, and others' accounts of "reason" is a struggle over the very meaning of humanity, and, set within the context of colonialism and the slave trade, that means who may rightfully colonize and enslave and who may rightfully be colonized and be enslaved. Efforts to disentangle supposedly purely "philosophical" concerns from their political contexts are dishonest and irresponsible, if not outright racist, insofar as they conceal racist agendas in which Western philosophies have participated and are implicated. This strategy of recentering the European canon around those passages concerning matters of race is analogous to feminist efforts to reread that canon by recentering it around gender. Such a recentering includes taking comments about and uses of gender, including gendered language, seriously and as integral to a thinker's corpus as a whole—for example, Aristotle's treatment of women and the gendered character of his notions of matter and form, which one is trained in traditional philosophical education largely to ignore as irrelevant, are seriously examined. Such feminist scholarship, long resisted by the masculinist academy, is now widely accepted, as evidenced by Lilli Alanen and Charlotte Witt's anthology Feminist Reflections on the History of Philosophy (2004) and Pennsylvania State University Press's extensive series Re-reading the Canon. The second strategy of methodological Afrocentrism demands, in the name of philosophical, hermeneutical rigor—and not as some sort of ideological agenda or "political correctness"—simultaneously, first, the bracketing or suspension of all possible influences and parallels between European and Euro-American thinkers, on the one hand, and Africana thinkers, on the other, and, second, the interpretation of Africana authors strictly within the traditions of Africana thought itself, reserving discussion of such bracketed connections with European thought for a possible, future, postcolonial time, when Africana thought is no longer compelled by the profession to legitimate itself by reference to European traditions, texts, and authors. Following this strategy, whenever Africana authors [End Page 45] employ seemingly standard terms of the European tradition, one refrains—again, rigorously—from assuming that the Africana uses are continuous with European ones; that is, one refrains from assuming that Africana authors must speak to Europeans and that Europe thus rightfully controls what can and cannot be said with its words: one instead attempts to understand the terms within the context of Africana traditions themselves and how they have been appropriated for the purposes of Africana people. I see nothing especially radical in this second part of the method. It is merely the extension of sound, well-accepted hermeneutical principles to Africana thought: one refrains, as rigorously as possible, from imposing and projecting the discursive norms of one's own culture on another. This second strategy is perhaps best explained through an extended example: reading the works of W. E. B. DuBois. How does one Eurocentrically trained in philosophy tend to read and to contextualize DuBois? I suggest the following tendencies. First, one tends to notice that DuBois studied most closely with William James while at Harvard and thus look for (a) the continuation of influences on James, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, into DuBois; (b) traces of pragmatism in DuBois's thought; and (c) connections to other pragmatists, such as John Dewey. Cornel West unfortunately reinforces this reading of DuBois in his The American Evasion of Philosophy (1989). Second, one emphasizes the early DuBois, when he still believed that he could appeal to white America's conscience by reference to its own political ideals, rather than the later DuBois, who turned his back, in disillusionment and anger, on white America and her hypocrisy. Third, one imagines some semblance of Hegelian dialectics—perhaps after noting that DuBois studied Hegel at Harvard with Royce—for example, in DuBois's notion of "double consciousness," despite the fact that DuBois explicitly denies any connection to Hegel, that James instilled in him a deep suspicion of Hegel, and that double consciousness knows no happy synthesis. Indeed, in a comment on his The Souls of Black Folk DuBois explicitly indicates that he speaks first and foremost as a son of Africa in that work, wherein he presents the notion of double consciousness, and implicitly warns against reading that work through any sort of European frame: "The blood of my [African] fathers spoke through me and cast off the English restraint of my training and surroundings."5 Fourth, one notices a foreshadowing of Sartrean existentialism, for example, the objectifying power of the "gaze," again especially in the notion of double consciousness. Fifth, one emphasizes, even overemphasizes, DuBois's Marxism, ignoring DuBois's careful efforts to articulate the limits of Marxist analyses in the understanding of race, the independence of race and racism from economic factors, and the utter inadequacy of Marxism as a revolutionary program, based in class solidarity, for African people.6 Sixth, one utterly disregards, perhaps as mere rhetoric, DuBois's frequent and emphatic appeals to "Africa," "Egypt," and "Ethiopia" and the need for African Americans to see their thinking, self-understanding, and libratory efforts as essentially tied to those of Africans. In all of the above tendencies, the aim seems clear: to make DuBois European, [End Page 46] to make him white, to purge him of all that is African, to incarcerate him within the European tradition and canon, and thereby to reaffirm Europe as the standard for philosophical discourse in general and Africa as subordinate to its standard, if not outside that discourse altogether. Methodological Afrocentrism does not definitively reject any of the above, but as a counterforce to the prevailing intellectual colonialism that focuses one-sidedly on European influences and traditions in interpretations of Africana thinkers, it rigorously brackets them. By contrast, methodological Afrocentrism would contextualize DuBois's thought strictly within Africana traditions and would take seriously and emphasize such features of and influences on DuBois's thought as the following—and these are only but a few of what we might list:

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