Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes

Stephen Howe, Author, Steven Howe, Author
Stephen Howe, Author, Steven Howe, Author Verso $22 (337p) ISBN 978-1-85984-873-9
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Paperback - 348 pages - 978-1-85984-228-7
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Afrocentrism, asserts Oxford historian Howe in this forceful scholarly critique, is a dogmatic ideology promoting a mythical vision of the past that involves an erroneous belief in fundamentally distinct African ways of knowing and feeling. Using archaeological and other studies, he refutes the claims of influential Afrocentrist Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop, who held that ancient Egypt was a black African civilization and that a single cultural system unified the African continent. Howe deftly exposes the shaky underpinnings of Cornell historian Martin Bernal's popular tome, Black Athena, which claims that classical Greece was massively indebted to Egyptian and Semitic sources, and to Egyptian colonization. Tracing the evolution of Afrocentric views from 19th-century pamphleteers, romantic anthropologists, occultists and political activists--both black and white--through contemporary Black Muslim doctrine and what he considers the distortions of U.S. academics such as Leonard Jeffries, Ron Karenga and Molefi Asante, Howe finds that much Afrocentric writing ""slips from ethnocentrism and neoconservatism into full-blown racism, sexism and homophobia."" A major contribution to the debate, this dense study will appeal mostly to scholars. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
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