Africa and the Anthropologist Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Africa and the Anthropologist Literature Review


The work of Lefkowitz (2012) and the work of Bernal (1996) oppose one another on the history of Greece as it relates to the history of Egypt with each of these authors making valid points for their argument however, Lefkowitz stubbornly refuses to consider that anything good or worthy could have arisen out of Africa while the evidence is clearly to the contrary.

Afrocentric interpretations of the history of Africa are related in the work of Lefkowitz in the reply to Bernal. Bernal believes that the interpretation of this history by Lefkowitz is sloppy at best. This study examines Africentrism and each of these author's views.


The work of Irele (2002) entitled "Negritude: Literature and Ideology" published by Oxford University Press in the Journal on African Philosophy reports that Pan-Africanism has been described as being "essentially a movement of emotions and ideas" and this is reported to be such that can applied as well to its cultural parallel or that of 'negritude'." (Irele, 2002, p. 35) Irele states that the black man "recognizes himself as belong to an 'out-group', an alien in relation to the West, which controls the total universe in which he moves." (Irele, 2002, p.35) Irele explains that the black race, having been exploited on the economical level serves to define the black race "as a community and gives its members a group consciousness" reported to be due to the black race's "original humiliation by conquest and slavery." (Irele, 2002, p. 36) The principal role of the black man in Western history is reported by Irele to be that of "an economic tool" which has veritably turned the black man "into an object." (2002, p. 36) It is reported that the black man "especially the intellectual found himself a man no longer in his own right but with reference to another, thus estranged from himself; in exile, not only in a political and social sense, but also spiritually." (Irele, 2002, p. 38) Irele reports that one of the technical innovations of negritude that is most notable with the "reversal of color associations in the Western language which was the only tongue accessible to most of them." (2002, p. 37) Negritude is reported to "border on nihilism" which is not, according to Irele "characteristic of negritude" however it is representative of a "defiant truculence as in the following passage which contains a literary reversal:

Reference: Irele (2002)

Appiah (1997) writes in the work entitled "Europe Upside Down" Fallacies of the New Afrocentrism that in the publications of information focused on studying and researching African and African-American culture there are two primary elements and those being "one critical, the other negative, which are either argued or taken for granted." (p.728) There is reported to be a presupposition in the scholarship of the West that Africans have not produced anything culturally worth of noting and that anything that is sophisticated or valuable culturally that was produced in Africa was not likely to have been produced by the black race. However, according to Appiah the Afrocentric paradigm is "not just the source of a lively body of writing, it is the basis of a movement in the United States to revise the teaching of African-American children, to provide them with an Africentric education." (Appiah, 1997, p. 728) The argument exists according to Appiah that the "Eurocentricity of what is taught in American schools, at best, fails to nurture the self-esteem of black children, and that what these children need instead is a diet of celebratory African history and the transmission of African values." (Appiah, 1997, p. 729) The work of Eze (2002) entitled "The Colour of Reason: The Idea of Race in Kant's Anthropology" states that Kant introduced anthropology "as a branch of study to the German universities when he first started his lectures in the winter semester of 1772-1773. He was also the first to introduce the study of geography, which he considered inseparable from anthropology to Konigsberg University beginning from the summer semester of 1756." (Eze, 2002, p.430) Kant is reported to have held that the disciplines of geography and anthropology would "pursue and provide a full range of total knowledge in the subject of 'man'" stating as follows:

"The physical geography…belongs to an idea..which I would call the preliminary exercise in the knowledge of the world. Here before lies a twofold field, namely nature and man of which he has a plan for the time being through which he can put into order according to rules, all his future experiences. Both parts, however, have to be considered…not according to what their objects contain as peculiar to themselves but what their relationship is in the whole in which they stand and in which each has its own position. The first form of instruction I call physical geography…the second anthropology." (Eze, 2002, p.431)

Eze writes that the distinction between "what nature makes of man and what man makes of himself is central to understanding the relationship between Kant's anthropology and geography." (2002, p. 431) Geography for Kant may be either moral or physical. In the physical perspective geography is the study of humans in their bodily varieties however, geographical studies of human customs and unreflectively held mores that Kant call second nature." (Eze, 2002, p. 432) Eze writes that the doctrine of Kant on human nature is taken from the work of Rousseau. Kant held that human nature viewed itself as being free to make choices about one's actions "goals and destiny. The ability to posit specifically human goals signifies and reveals a teleologically compelling process that transcends the world of pure causality or causal inclination." (Eze, 2002, p. 437) Freedom was held by Kant to be the "horizon for destined action" and the individual's destiny is the full realize ones freedom "overcoming the 'rawness' of nature which in moral terms means to realize good out of evil." (Eze, 2002, p. 437)

I. Lefkowitz (2012)

The work of Lefkowitz (2012) entitled "The Africentric Interpretation of Western History: Lefkowitz Replies to Bernal" published in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reports that the belief in an "Egyptian Mystery System" is such that originates in what is not remembered in the present but "once widely influential work of fiction" entitled 'Sethos' reported to be a historical novel written by Abbe Jean Terrasson in 1731. The rituals of the Egyptians that the work in writing describes are reported by Lefkowitz to be based on "exclusively Greco-Roman sources" since the writing of Egyptians had not yet at that time been deciphered. It is reported that the Egyptians were influential on the Greeks but Lefkowitz holds that the Greeks did not borrow this specific information from the Egyptians. It is reported that if cultural ideas were taken from Egypt it would be reasonable that evidence of their existence would be found in the Egyptian civilization "such as parallel texts or direct echoes, as we do in the case of the Roman poets who from early times adapted and quoted Greek sources." (p. 90) There is reported by Lefkowitz to be nothing found in Egypt or elsewhere held as Greek philosophy and nothing in the Egyptian literature that survives resembling the "dialectical It methods and argumentative structures that were invented. The principal argument against the Greek's having stolen their philosophy or having borrowed it from Egypt is the lack of evidence in the philosophical writings of the Egyptians. The work of Bernal is reported to have a contemptuous view of the opinions stated by classical scholars. Bernal is reported to state estimations that approximately 25% of the basic vocabulary of the Greeks is derived from the Egyptians and another 15 to 20% derived from West Semitic but that Bernal fails to produce any viable evidence. Bernal is also reported as eager to identify Egyptian or Semitic parallels for words in Greek that do not appear to have their origin in Indo-European. It is related that the new knowledge of Egypt revealed by deciphering hieroglyphics has discredited the Hellenocentirc view and demonstrated little similarity of Egyptian and Greek literature.

IV. Bernal (1996)

Bernal (1996) in the work entitled "The Afrocentric Interpretation of History: Bernal Replies to Lefkowitz" published in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education that Lefkowitz viewed Africentrists as such that lived in a "sealed-off intellectual ghetto, impervious to the information from the outside and paying no attention to the truth of their propositions; they are concerned purely with the 'feel good' factor and with boosting the low self-esteem of African-Americans." (Bernal, 1996, p. 86) Bernal states that what is meant by Afrocentrism is that "all good things comes from Africa" or as stated by Leonard Jeffries "Africa creates, Europe imitates." (1996, p. 86) Bernal reports that Lefkowitz entirely rejects this view and takes a swing at "Frederick Douglass, Edward Blyden, and W.E.B. Dubois" for expressing the idea that there was a common African heritage shared among African-Americans. (Bernal, 1996, p.…

Sources Used in Document:

Irele, Abiola, F. (2002 ) Negritude: Literature and Ideology in: Philosophy From Africa. eds PH Coetzee and APJ Roux. Oxford University Press.

Appiah, KA. (1997) Europe Upside Down: Fallacies of the new Afrocentrism: Fanon, Frantz. 1963. On National Culture

Lefkowitz, M. (1996) The Afrocentric Interpretation of Western History: Lefkowitz Replies to Bernal. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. No. 12 Summer 1996.

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