The Ancient African Past and the Field of Africana Studies Author(s): Ayele Bekerie Source: Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 37, No. 3, Sustaining Black Studies (Jan. , 2007), pp. 445460 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. Stable URL: http://www. jstor. org/stable/40034785 . Accessed: 08/05/2013 12:40 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www. jstor. org/page/info/about/policies/terms. jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive.
We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] org. . Sage Publications, Inc. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of Black Studies. http://www. jstor. org This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions THE ANCIENT AFRICAN PAST AND THE FIELD OF AFRICANA STUDIES AYELE BEKERIE CornellUniversity
The ancient African to of pastrefers deeds and events African peoples documented narrated or oral traditions other or means through or written from timeof humanbeginnings the untilthe modern period. Africana studies a transdisciplinary ofstudy is field to tradipertaining intellectual tions and practicesof Africanand African-descended peoples. The ancient African is valuedin thefieldofAfricana studies. The value past to Africa within field the given ancient mayserveas a critical conceptual of challengeto the colonial history Africa.
This articlecalls for an of Africana that and scheme to philosophy history, is, a vision interpretive reflect thehistorical ofconcerns. seeksan intellectual on field It critically endeavorto recapture historical spaces, thereby leading not only to autonomous of ancient African butalso to engaging in readings history thedevelopment explanatory of for paradigms thefield. studies;African Keywords: ancient African past; Africana Diaspora; Rosetta stone; Africacolonialism;historicallinguistics; centered paradigm rivers: known I’ve rivers ancient theworldand olderthan as I’ve known bloodin human veins. heflowofhuman – Langston Hughes(1920/1997) African initsbroadest refers deedsand to Theancient sense, past, oralorwritten of events documented, traditions, peoples by through in from earliest, African the which descent Africa African or time, era. now standsat about7 millionyears,to the contemporary to Sevenmillion yearsis a dateassigned a hominid (commonly in as datedhumanlike known Toumai Chad),theearliest species. 1 is field to Africana studies a transdisciplinary of study pertaining 2007 445-460 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES, Vol. 37 No. 3, January DOI: 10. 1177/0021934706290085 © 2007 Sage Publications 45 This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 446 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES /JANUARY 2007 intellectual and and traditions practices African African-descended of Fromitsinception, and Africana studies’ peoples. “field-forming I may use Lucius Outlaw’s, 1998, apt (if tradition-defining” includetheteaching researching ancient and of phrases)efforts African and to The history civilizations. importance given ancient Africawithin fieldnot onlyhighlights linking the its attribute, butitalso serves a critical as to hecolonial conceptual challenge of hereis and theAfrican history Africa Diaspora. Colonialism defined itcovers eraofenslavement direct and or the and broadly indirect colonialism the 19thand 20thcenturies of (Eze, 1997). As Eze (1998) putsit, we understand indescribable disthe crisis Bycolonialism, should suffered endured theAfrican in and proportionately by peoples their encounter theEuropean with from beginthe world, tragic of fifteenth the nineteenth into ning the century through endofthe the half the first of twentieth,4) (p.
This article calls foran African of that philosophy history, is, an African vision facilitates that schemes perspectives and interpretive to critically reflect thehistorical epistemological of on and field concerns. to the of the According Keto, process understanding past involves of in with knowledge one’sowntime conjunction explanatoolsorparadigms interpret construct to and events deeds. 2 and tory Ketocontends pasthistorical that has failed to scholarship often or an as recognize include Africa-centered paradigm a tooltointerthe of As pret livesandexperiences African peoples. consequence, a philosophy African of be visualized an intellecas history may tualendeavor recapture to historical one’s spaces and to control own timein an effort movetoward to autonomous and readings of the African As Tsenay Serequeberhan understandings past. 3 Martin (1994,quoting Heidegger) cogently it,”Thepossibility puts ofAfrican freedom an is historical presupposes opensitewhich ‘the in out and which place,thethere which, ofwhich, for history hapwithin historicalnessthe the of African situation” 35). pens’from (p. The ancient African canbe both and to past exciting frustrating thosewhostudy specializein it.
The excitement or comeswith a of the stone, finding a fossilor a stonetool,deciphering Rosetta This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Bekerie THE FIELD OF AFRICANASTUDIES / 447 or recognizing historical the of as importance languages, in the case ofNiger-Congo “Historical languages. linguistics suggested of thousand of a timedepth four yearsforthesettlement Nigerthe (Vansina,1994, Congo speakers, so-calledBantuspeakers” evidence from paleontothe words, unearthing p. 193).
In other the greenSahara,or the royalburialchambers of logical era, NubianandEgyptian rulers wouldmostlikely ancient guarantee, with ifnotfortune, leasta great at deal offame, together a signifof to icantcontributionthefield narrative history. orresearching ancient the African On theother hand, studying for is can becomequitefrustrating, evidence rareandit will past amount timeto reasonably of takea considerable graspthefull of artifact. and Besides,studyimplications meanings an ancient of amount time. languagescan takea considerable ing ancient to are areripeandinterpretations subject challenges Speculations debates. ead to lengthy andoften intothisvasttimeandplace willcertainly A historian delving to taskof assigning face an almostimpossible meanings fragmillennia for but not that evidence hasbeensilent justfor mentary African full the millions years. In addition, present of world, of economic misdiand natural human conflicts, disasters, political leaves littleroom for the ancient and globalization, rection, liberation we African Africa, havemorediamond past. In today’s fronts. The 1990 Civil War in Somalia fronts thandemocratic with their all museums of destruction national in resulted thetotal We in artifacts Mogadishuand Hargeissa. indsimilar national sites and of destruction museums historical in Liberia andSierra of of Leoneas a result civilwarsatthebeginning the21stcentury. and of artifacts manunumber ancient a Moreover, significant The colonialpowers. acquiin remain thehandsofformer scripts of sitionand reassigning values (mostlyin monetary terms) The to continue be a majorchallengeto our sense of history. is arts ofourcultural andartifacts therefore for demand thereturn to and desire conviction engagein theformulation a fundamental of andarticulation theAfrican past. o return theAksumobeliskfrom of The recent Rome,Italy, in thestruggle to is a significant Aksum, development Ethiopia, This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 448 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES /JANUARY 2007 African historical cultural and repatriate legaciesfrom Europeto Africa. is clearthata persistent organized It movement for and ofcultural artifacts bearfruit, inthecase ofthe can as repatriation returned Aksum obelisk. s myhopethat successful It the repatriationof theAksumobeliskservesas a catalyst other for movements increasetheir to fortherepatriation all African of pitch historical cultural and artifacts manuscripts. 4 and In spiteof thesedialectical as Titus realities, Romanhistorian Liviusof Padua putsit,”Thereis alwayssomething out of new Africa. ” Someofthese newthings forcing are fundamental changes in ourunderstandingpastevents. of SeleshiSemawandhisteamareconducting Currently, paleonfieldresearch Gona,Ethiopia, siteof theoldest at the tological stone toolsin theworld. o According their partial they report, are ableto find morestone toolsthat dated are from to 2. 6 million 2. 5 in skeletal remains Homo of years. Theyalso succeeded finding erectus from same site(S. Semaw,personal the communication, March 1997). 25, Moleculargeneticists have also just reported conclusion the of their chromosome XY DNA testof Homo sapiensor modern humans: all come from African We an male gene dated59,000 It that mitochondria reached years. is tobe noted thefemale study a similar conclusion fewyears a all thefemales an to ago,tracing African female ancestor.
A human in is to origin Africa attributed thespectacular geoof that stretches theeastern from logicalformation theRift Valley Saharato eastandcentral in Africa. Africa, culminating southern The Rift with river its basinsand fresh lakesgirded a Valley, by chainofmountains, created environment thefirst an for protective humanlike humanhabitats. thisearthly and In heaven,we are an assortment paleontological of evidence to finding testifyingthe of the first who permanently humans, evolutionary emergence from animalspecies,suchas theapes. splintered four-legged we and notLucy,is a 3. -million-year-old Dinqnesh, insist, humanlike in of speciesfound theAfarregion theRift Valleyof whose scientific name is Australopithecus Ethiopia. Dinqnesh, was stature muchsmaller and brain size afarensis, bipedal. Short remains one oftheearliest as human ancestors place theskeletal This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Bekerie THE FIELD OF AFRICANASTUDIES / 449 to (Leakey; Lewin,1977). Dinqneshis a forerunner women’s in theAfrican African women invented active presence past. griin In womenheld central culture. ancient Africa, positions creRock paintings engravings and ationlegendsand mythologies. the and documented deedsofbothwomen men. Although amply narrate historical the achievements of minimal, earlydocuments women leaders. great in untiltheemergence of continued Africa Humanevolution out about whose members Homoerectus, family migrated ofAfrica that we the 1. 5 million ago. By 2. 5 million years, nowknow years was conducted develop to lithic technolscientific first experiment and simply scavengers gatherers; ogy.
The specieswereno longer meat smaller into stone tools cutandbreak to usedtheir pieces. they of and the availability stone tools In otherwords,mobility of With production more the of the enhanced range foodsources. huntandcutting suchas stone advanced knives, axes,spears, tools, source food. of ingbecamea major evolualso to research suggests us theoriginal Paleontological of its reached peak withtheemergence Homo sapiens tionthat and about150,000years ago. Homosapienswerehunters gatherritof communal ers. Theywerealso thepioneers family, living, and Rockpaintings engravings activities. ultural uals,and other of the are that found helpus underthroughout continent Africa lives. “Rockartin South and their the stand earlyhuman beings and and the carries San people’sreligious Africa concepts ritual untiltheend of theninewas thetradition a common practice of teenth century ourera” (Isichei,1997,p. 42). in the teamof archaeologists Another surprised world 1999by in intheir was wall out estimate, the mapping an earthen that built, based in WestAfrica. of 10thcentury our era by a civilization theevent, to a journalist recording According were of south Lagos, AtEredo, archaeologists abletomapouta a. . in 10th earthen that 100-mile-long wall wasbuilt the century by in air 70 bank earthen rises feet the TheEredo’s the Yoruba people. wall its vertical glistening of from bottom a wide the ditch, reddish, the attribute perhaps The of with this, patches moss. locallegends He who childless. built inAfrica, Sungbo, died to monument largest with beremembered it. (Onishi, A4) tospiritually monument the p. This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 450 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES /JANUARY 2007
A team scholars areundertaking of who research archaeological in Egypt made an astonishing withregard to recently discovery found tablets with distinct legible and writing systems. They clay are to and, pictorial writings upondating, they found be perhaps the oldestwritings record. was dated3200 to 3400 b. c. on It This finding servesas a reconfirmationan established of of fact world that Africa thebirthplace writing. as of This history posits reconfirmation is significant, ourconception understanding for and of history havebeen governed too longby establishing for core linksbetween civilization writings. as a sortof criteria and It that established Eurocentric was scholars an attempt deny in to by thepresence civilizations Africa of in the (“WereEgyptians First Scribes? ” 1998). Before evenfully we absorbed significance Dreyer’s the of findfromAbydos, anotherteam of researchers fromYale ings announced finding inscriptionsthedesert the of in westoftheNile, betweenThebes and Abydos,described the earliest as known of to 1900 and 1800 example alphabetic writing, dating between earlierthanpreviously b. , two or threecenturies recognized ofusesofan alphabet Found,” (“Oldest examples 1999). Alphabet Thefindings thescholars from Gunter of by Dreyer theGerman Institute Abydos, at forceus to however, Archaeological Egypt, makea proper reassessment understandingtheintellectual and of traditions Africans. tradition of The to in ought be explored all its manifestations we ought be abletoexamine continuity and to its as wellas itsfuture directions. The discovery made at Abydosalso vindicates workof the Martin the last quarter the 19thcentury. f In Delaneyduring in his book,PrincipiaofEthnology: OriginofRaces The 1879, and Color, With Archeological an and Compendium Ethiopian of FromYearsof Careful Examination and Civilization, Egyptian “With limited our wrote, Enquiry, (1879/1991) Delaney knowledge ofarchaeology, havealwaysbelieved we that philosophy the and root alphabetical of literature itsorigin Africa” 52-56). had in (pp. The Ethiopian is as alphabet identified theoldeston record. The ancient African orat leastsomeaspects it,hasbeen of past, and promoted theAfrican championed by Diaspora,particularly fromthe 19thcentury.
Garnet was a starting HenryHighland This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Bekerie THE FIELD OF AFRICANASTUDIES / 45 1 of ProposedPeriodization African History Based on RichardB. Moore’s Model Very early period Earlyperiod Classicalperiod Medianperiod Colonialperiod Renascent period 7 x 106 million yearsago-10,000BCE 10,000BCE-3400 BCE 3400 BCE-300 CE 300 CE-1495 CE 1495CE-1957 CE 1957CE-present TABLE 1 DuBois was oneofthe member the of African Civilization Society. of of Edward earliest Egypt. proponents theAfricanness ancient B. ncient African civilizations. Richard Moore wrote about Blyden He history. ” dividedAfrican proposed”a new look at African classicalperiod, into earlyperiod, history theveryearlyperiod, and renascent & colonialperiod, medianperiod, period(Turner a Table1 shows proposed Turner, 1992, 242-243). periodization pp. from Moore’smodel. Marcus ofAfrican Garvey history, developed in at when Africans America to a calledfor “Return Africa” a time to racialviolence. virulent werefacing (1994), According Stuckey was to the achievement hisability direct attention lasting Garvey’s sorrow and rage.
He the of themassestoward sourcesof their of assuredthemof the greatness the Black race (p. 254). Paul the Americans draw to African Robeson springs upon creative urged in to and oftheir investigations heritage proceeded engage brilliant for new to folklore languages reveal possibilities culand ofAfrican that this tradition was furIt is,in fact, early tural growth 254). (p. and of with ther consolidated theestablishmentprograms, centers, in States. studies thelate’60s intheUnited ofAfricana departments of and African is a critical The ancient component African past I like to argue, has This critical African importance, Diasporas.
I studies. also like thefieldofAfricana beendulyrecognized by African the to arguethat ancient pastis one of thepillarsof the African the Thismeansthat ancient studies. of field Africana past of the field. Most to is central the overallintellectual strategy the African that or programs departments I knowinclude ancient who ben corecurriculum. Joseph Jochannan, intropastas their for Nile Civilization 18 ducedme to ancient Africa, taught Valley This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 52 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES /JANUARY 2007 Studiesand ResearchCenterof Cornell yearsat theAfricana benJocahannan, October communication, (J. University personal The lateProfessor Ohadike’s African and Civilizations 22, 2005). Cultures course at CornellUniversity attracts more than 100 students I the every year. havebeenteaching coursesincespring 2006. 1 also teachtheEthiopic as of writing system part a course on NileValleycivilizations. At TempleUniversity, graduate a seminar CheikhAnta on of or Diop, theauthor TheAfrican Originof Civilization: Myth is offered. umber courses on ancientAfrican A of Reality, and are both and history civilizations offered attheundergraduate levels. graduate one Afrocentric Theophile Obenga, oftheleading Egyptologists, is chairing Department BlackStudies San Francisco the of at State He alsoedits important an onancient African civUniversity. journal ilizations calledAnkh. MaulanaKarenga, wrote widely who a used Introduction toBlackStudies, written second has his doctoral dissertation thephilosophy ancient on of He the Egypt. also chairs Black Studies atCalifornia University, Beach.
State Department Long It is fair argue to that outside what of John Henrik Clarke calls of in Africana lay historians, thepast two centuries particular, scholars to for in effort placing ancient hisought be credited their tories Africa onlyas a linktoAfrica African of not and Diaspora histories also as a part a fieldforming but of intellectual strategy ofBlack orAfricana studies. Another tenetof the proposition African for of philosophy is theneedto linkthehistory Africa of with history the of history the African totheeminent Pan-Africanist and Diaspora. According historian E. f is (1998), “The history Africa releJoseph Harris vant to the history black people throughout world . . of the . becausepersons African of aredispersed the ancestry throughout world” 1). (p. The majorepistemological in of breakthroughthereading the African was achieved, whatJanVansina first, past (1994) during callstheroaring when African after sixties, historians, immediately insisted theneed forAfricanization African on of independence, In Kenneth Onwuka DikeandJacob A. Ajayi F. history. this regard, at Ibadan,Nigeria,succeededin establishing common a West This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 7 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Bekerie THE FIELD OF AFRICANASTUDIES / 453 for and “The Africans African curriculum schools universities. West in toward colonialperiod the balancesheet approach rejected any suchas thecreation largeand of whichone weighed’benefits,’ or of ‘liastates theintroductionChristianity, bureaucratic against Bethwell Ogotin A. labor”(pp. 113-114). suchas forced bilities,’ contribution development tothe whoalsomadean immense Kenya, of also rejected sanitization colonial the of East African history, and seriesforsectextbooks a pamphlet He istory. published education. Historians such as Isaria N. ondaryand university in Temuas wellas Terence Ranger Dar es O. and Kimambo Arnold from theneedto look at colonialism Salaam,Tanzania, proposed in to a initiative order constructusable of theperspective “African is used materialismalsoanapproach 16). past”(pp. 114-1 Historical the”Dar es SalaamSchool”(p. 116). by defined used an and historians Second,in the 1970s,African – an inside-out Africa-centered approachor a center approach on It that approach. is an approach insists examstageofanalysis of the theAfrican from perspective African peoples. ast ining in historians madesignificant have American African progress We see the American of African the whole production history. with several historians of emergence able and accomplished women historiAfrican American names. to booksattached their contributions. ans havealso madeimportant an who historians advocated Africa-centered Oneofthe approach as of and to thestudy production historical narratives, mentioned of Keto(2001),theauthor an influential was earlier, C. Tsehloane anAfrica-Centered Historical Vision Time: and book, of Perspective and Africa a geographical as To Paradigm.
Keto,itis validtoposit that in cultural peopleof starting orcenter anystudy involves point This is because,Keto (2001) argued, descent. or Africa African influenced thehistorians’ or is implicitly explicitly perby “history ofhistory an and secondly, Africa-centered perspective spectives, culture of to African its without connection the be cannot sustained as like Ancient Egypt (pp. Egypt” 53-55). Keto, Diop,sees ancient of As Africa’s classicalcenter. Diop (1974) putsit,”thehistory in be will Africa remain correctly suspended airandcannot written of dare to connectit withthe history historians untilAfrican in the of Egypt”(p. iv). This is important grounding history This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 454 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES /JANUARY 2007 African be center time space. It should of and peopleto a tangible that centrality ancient the as suggested of noted, however, Egypt to by KetoandDiop has to be broadandflexible enough accommodateothertangible centers timeand space fromNubia, of or Aksum, Zimbabwe, Benin, Songhay. Okon Edet Uya (1974), who studied underJanVansinaat Wisconsin three criteria anAfrica-centered for University, proposed of perspective history: 1.
It should reflect firm a of of and knowledge thelanguage culture thesociety; 2. Empathy, sympathy theculture; not with and 3. It must viewthesociety from insideoutrather from the than the outside (pp. 1-6). in Our conceptionofAfricanhistory oughtto be informed a thorby of the cultures. Uya (1974) providesus with ough understanding an excellentexample. He writes, The past ties thelivingcommunity theworldof ancestors. into The dead,or thosewhohaveleft thispresent to reality theother, forthey notreallydead,affects are whatgoes on in thepresent In a becomesa words, community. other laying claimto authority correlation between and sacredness.
This is one of the pastness reasonswhythepast in mostAfrican societiesis conceivedin terms. becomesmythical It mythological onlybecausepastness, the of assures, dimension sacredness. 7) longenough, (p. Uya (1974) further argues, A soundknowledge thepast meansaccess to land,right of to officeand a securedmembership the community. well of The is to extent theposon beingofthecommunity dependent a great ture theancestors. of Thismeansthat, moreoften than if not, any harm in occurs a society, waythat is explained that the it is society has to It the itself, notbeenfaithful itspastness. has notplacated ancestors well.
It becomesimportant, therefore in pourthat very one summons past,in whicha whole train the of ing libations ancestors calledupontoblesstheliving are a community;prerequisite for positiveprogressin the living community. Hence, of knowledge thepastis a goodinvestment, 7) (p. This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Bekerie THE FIELD OF AFRICANASTUDIES / 455 with to WhatUya articulated regard Africa-centered perspective as was laterdevelopedand defined Afrocentricity scholars by suchas MolefiKeteAsante. The narratives theancient of African relyalmost past entirely obtainedfromarchaeological, on information anthropological, and botanical, geological, zoological, linguistic, paleontological, sources. Information also gathered is from molecular biological of As the traditions. a result, construction theancient past spoken endeavor thatis conducive a to tendsto be an interdisciplinary teamapproach. of of crucial One ofthemost aspects thedevelopment philosoAfrican has beena realization theimportance of of history phyof in and of thespoken oraltraditions theframing interpretation or “to say is to to an African African proverb, history.
According in is of do,”speech-centered knowledge relevant theconstruction a total African Because an oraltradition theancient past. presents an of community, including indigenous language, picture a given information construct to the it becomes useful in gathering have acknowledged the African Severalhistorians ancient past. to Vansina(1994), “Oral of oral sources. According importance do the useful historical as often reflect pastandremain traditions for and for sources, especially thelastcentury sometimes a few thedateoftheir centuries recording” 218). In a sem(p. receding for inal essay written theUNESCO GeneralHistory Africa, of in the of Ki-Zerbo (1981) notes importance oralhistory thereconto of struction African According him,”Oral tradition history. conserver transmitter and takesitsplace as a realliving museum, stored by peoplessaid to creations of thesocial and cultural up oral is records” 7). To Africans, history not have no written (p. of “breathing” ofthe body onlyan article thepastbutalso a living andfuture. present covervirtually Oral traditions everyaspectof lifein society data notprovide that quantifiable or adequately they may except invaluable reconto mirror unconscious are, change.
They however, life communities. the struct socioeconomic-religiousofAfrican the Ba of of Hampate (1981) wrote History theFulaniEmpire on Macina in the Eighteenth Century entirely by relying oral the of sources. Bethwell Ogot had also written history theLuo This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 456 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES /JANUARY 2007 on people of Kenyaby relying oral sources(Atieno-Odhiambo, 2002; Zeleza, 2003). TheWanyaRwandan a strong have a tradition,tradition spoken that eventheformer abidedby.
Forinstance, abiiru the monarchy tradition preserved secret that the was ritual code of thedynasty for namingand installing the king’s successor. responsible to werespecialpeoplewhose (1985), “abiiru According Vansina mainduty nottheremembering butthecarrying of,the was out of, rituals kingship” 38). Oraltraditions of combined with written (p. and othersourcesare perhapsan important hardware the for reconstructionAfrican of history. of of Accordingto Vansina (1994), “The activity writing African is history stilldominated outsiders” 239). As a by (p. atter fact, other of no is as history as controlled outsiders by African Itis evenworse ancient for African which history. history, is almost dominated nonAfricans. is very It entirely by important to makeone point clearhere. NonAfricans haveandcontinue to makeimportant contributionsthefield. in But it is important for Africans themselves chart meanings, guiding to its the principles andperspectives. Historical consciousness cannot imported; be it has to comefrom very the soulswhoareresponsible theprofor duction history thefirst of in place. ne of themostimportant international Perhaps organizations that instrumental constructionAfrican was inthe of was history the United Nations and Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization the of great (UNESCO). UNESCO, under leadership the Senegalese Ammadou a of M’Bow,setoutto constructcomprehensive history Africa where African historians scholars and a leading role played notonlyin theproduction thenarratives also in determining of but itsmethodologies perspectives. a result this and As of magnificent UNESCO published the ’70s and ’80s eightvolumes in effort, of African historical sitesweredesignated history.
Important by UNESCO as legaciesof humanity deserve that and recognition preservation. to (1994),theUNESCO project According Vansina represented a unique departure historiography, in because it was the first to a under direction a large the of attempt anywhere write history committee. goal includes adoption thebooksforuse in Its the of This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Bekerie THE FIELD OF AFRICANASTUDIES / 457 schools elementary and all the schools, across continent secondary in All of ofAfrica. heschools all thecountries Africa couldindeed for thesametextbooks, thethemes commonalities emphasize adopt The is the without chauvinism. effort to forestall riseof partisan between African countries 135). nationalism divisive (p. and African European hisUNESCO, sanctioned concerned by of called as torians well as theOrganization African (now Unity in of African Union),coordinated 1961thededication a seriesof is of which followed thepublication a fullby guidesto archives, of ofAfrica theestablishment an instiand history length general decidedto set oral tute gather traditions. 967,theagency to By in of oraltradition West Africa and for up a center thecollection at The General a centerof Arabic documentation Timbuktu. the mostdiverse includeschapters reflecting History Africa of clash If and interpretations approaches ideologies. twodifferent or is thedifference acknowledged a footnote each other, with by are 1994,p. 136). Vansina, chapters published parallel to (1994), According Vansina to a UNESCO’s ambition write general work, encyclopedic to African of the continent,be encompassing history thewhole all and for as used a foundation scholars schoolbooks taught alike, and currents African about with those involved itmore history the havelearned ever than of andeddies itshistoriography we could otherwise, 195) (p. of of the It is also through chapters thesecondvolume General aboutAfrocentric we that learned Egyptology. History Africa of termed Black case andObengamadea strong forwhat they Diop of withAjayi of the University Ibadan, Egypt.
They,together of BethwellOgot of the University Kenya,and Ki-Zerboof of rolesin theformulation methodBurkina Faso, playedcrucial of as and perspectives well as theproduction historical ologies Africa. for narratives ancient the to the write about needtoreturn thesource, often Historians of and to needto lookbackin order havea goodgrasp thepresent that In it for tohavea vision thefuture. fact, is through history we to not areable to understand onlywhowe arebutalso ourability and confidence historical a senseofcultural demonstrate memory. This content downloaded from 146. 30. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 458 2007 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES /JANUARY is As ToniMartin putsit,history thesoul of a people. Peopleare or from within bythehistory know that thehistory they by guided John without. Henrik from and to areforced mimic follow that they the articulates consequence Clarke(1991),whowrote beautifully, “Whena peoplearenottoo sureaboutwhothey ofthelatter part: a commitments they their areloyalto andwhat are, representdanof mainstream their the within cultural society” 25). (p. er herof to of Atthecenter ourattempt takecontrol ourcultural has traditions beenthedebateoverthemeanitagesand societal has African of African history been subjectedto history. ing as in nonAfrican hostile and ambiguous discourse, languages, a With decline the with colonialism. result Africa’s of confrontation the in ofdirect hegemony Africa, lastvestiges European political exisin havebeenfound thecontinued of European colonialism intellectual of and tencein Africa dependent imitative traditions, underand a For values,andmind-sets. without proper objective of liberation African African of past,thetrue standing theancient deferred. eopleswouldbe a dream NOTES was a 1. Toumai(Sahelanthropus cranium, discovered tchadensis), mostly complete For in Saharadesert. informabyAhounta Djmdoumalbaye 2001 in Chad,in thesouthern tionon thefinding well as references links, and as please see http://www. talkorigins. org/ The site 3 faqs/homs/toumai. html. was posted Jim by Foleyon July 1, 2002. of and 2. Foran original of analysis an African-centered perspective analysis history, see Keto(2001). see 3. For an excellent of essay on African philosophy history, Atieno-Odhiambo on includes comprehensive a (2002). The article bibliography thetopic. 4.
For a recent treatment thereturn theAksum of of essay on and comprehensive see obelisk, Bekerie (2005). 5. Fora complete on reflection theissue,see Asante(1990). REFERENCES M. NJ: and Asante, K. (1990). Kemet, Lawrenceville, Africa Afrocentricity knowledge. World Press. E. African to Atieno-Odhiambo, S. (2002). From historiographiesan African philosophy ofhistory. T. Falola ; C. Jennings In studies (Eds. ),Africanizing knowledge: African acrossthedisciplines 13-65). New Brunswick, Transaction. NJ: (pp. This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Bekerie THE FIELD OF AFRICANASTUDIES / 459 In Ba, H. (1981). The livingtradition. J. Ki-Zerbo(Ed. ), UNESCO generalhistory of I: and Africa Methodology African prehistory 197-199). Paris:UNESCO. (pp. A. The Bekerie, (2005, July-August). riseof theAksumobeliskis theriseof Ethiopian Tadias: Ethiopian-American ; history. Lifestyle Business Magazine, pp. 12-14. HornofAfrica: Independent An from Journal, 85-102) 23, (Reprinted in The and colonialdomination: African the resistance Clarke,J. H. (1991). African World Press. In NJ: Americas. Newdimensions African in history 25). Trenton, Africa (p. ith archeologan M. The Delany, (1991). Principia ethnology: origin racesandcolor, of of examinaical compendium Ethiopian Egyptian and civilization, yearsofcareful from of tion enquiry. and MD: work Baltimore, BlackClassicPress. 1879) published (Original or (M. Myth reality Cook, Ed. ). Diop, C. A. (1974). TheAfrican originof civilization: Hill Books. Chicago:Lawrence In and Eze, E. C. (1997). Introduction: African Philosophy the(post)colonial. Postcolonial A reader(pp. 1-23). Oxford, UK: Blackwell. philosophy: critical In Western and colonialism. E. C. Eze (Ed. ), Eze, E. C. (1998).
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Ithaca,NY: CornellUniversity, Africana Studiesand (Monograph Research Center. Press. J. Madison:University Wisconsin or as Vansina, (1985). Oral tradition history. J. of Press. with Madison:University Wisconsin Vansina, (1994). Living Africa. WereEgyptians first the June13, scribes? (1998, December15). BBC News. Retrieved 2006,from http://news. bbc. co. Uk/l/hi/sci/tech/235724. stm 1: chalVolume The intellectual Zeleza, P. T. (2003). Rethinking Africa’s globalization, NJ: World Press. Trenton, Africa lenges. This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 60 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES /JANUARY 2007 studies at Bekerie an assistant is and Ayele of professor thedirector undergraduate He theAfricana Studiesand ResearchCenterof CornellUniversity. holds two master’s and degrees fromCornell University, he earned his PhD in African An American studies Temple at His Writing University. book,Ethiopic, African 500 Its as and has influential System: History Principles, beenrecognized themost “Historical Overview booksofthe20thcentury Africa. latest in His of publication, on PossibleInfluence theDevelopment the of Armenian Ethiopic Writing System’s of Studies. as in Journal Ethiopian Alphabet,” published 2003 bytheInternational of the Other he to scholarly publications has contributed include Journal theHorn of of Africa, ANKH: Journal Egyptology African Journal of and Civilizations, in Journal Black of Educationand International Relations Africa, Comparative and International Journal Africana of Studies. He has appearedon the Studies, entitled Channel’svideodocumentary “Queen ofSheba: Behind BBC/Discovery theMyth. ” This content downloaded from 146. 230. 128. 27 on Wed, 8 May 2013 12:40:17 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions