Thursday, October 22, 2009
Book Review: Afrotopia
Wilson J. Moses in Afrotopia, writes a tale of falsehood .. Looking at his body of work which I have not read it would appear that he has written extensively on Afro-American thought. But it appears that he sees much of this as myth.
It appears that where Afro-Americans talked about separation he believes they wanted integration. Although this is his opinion I believe that this book was written by Moses to assure Europeans that they have nothing to fear from what Moses sees as "restless" Afro-Americans.
Given this background I believe that Moses wrote the present book so he could get free press from the media by presenting himself as a safe "coconut", one who is brown on the outside but possessing a "Eurocentric" mindset. Moses presents himself as a safe negro who through his book, will hopefully corral those radical "urban Afro-American males" who believe in Afrocentrism.
The first thing you have to understand is that writing history is not neutral. Writing history is a means to situate one class over another.
Michael Parenti, History as Mystery(SanFrancisco, CA,1999) p.198 noted that:
“To conclude, history is not just what the historians say it is,corporate publishing conglomerates, chain store distributors,
mass media pundits, editions, reviewers, and other ideological gatekeepers want to put into circulation. Not surprisingly, the deck is stacked to favor those who deal the cards” .
Stephen Howe’s Afrocentrism:Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes, and Wilson J. Moses’ Afrotopia: The Roots of American Popular History attempts to explains the research traditions of the Afrocentric scholars via the demerits of Martin Bernal’s Black Athena. As a result, they fail to realistically discuss the contentious discourses surrounding the ancient Afrocentric historical memory and detail the methods and paradigms associated with this pedagogy.
The works of Moses and Howe fails to fulfill the anxious expectations of many readers of their books who had hoped these works would be balanced and situated on the evidence. Moses and Howe see the study of ancient Afrocentric historical themes as a tradition of dissent rather than a field of study with its own tradition of normal science. These authors without supporting evidence devalue ancient Afrocentric historical education. Moreover, the most exasperating aspect of their writing is that its critics use Bernal's Black Athena, as an Afrocentric history text, and then proceeds to use criticism of this work to "disconfirm" the Afrocentric ancient history discipline.
In the africalogical social sciences, researchers look at the history and society of African people from an African centered or Afrocentric perspective. The Afrocentrist connects Africans in America and elsewhere to thousands of years of history and civilization.
There are three problems with the books of Howe and Moses. These problems include 1) the failure to discuss the research of Afrocentric scholars critically; 2) they present the Afrocentric study of ancient history as a recent development ; and 3) the major reason proffered for their attacks on Afrocentrism is that the “academy” rejects the discipline.
Howe and Moses fail to proffer and outline the major Afrocentric ancient history text. Afrocentric scholars make hundreds of detailed archaeological, historical and linguistic claims, which have not been systematically refuted or discussed by the authors of Afrotopia and Afrocentrism . The fact that these scholars ignore the historical research of the Afrocentric scholars makes their work narrow and unrepresentative of the discipline. In general, these scholars have dismissed Afrocentrism due to external factors such as “race thinking”, “personal prejudices”, “social and political pressures” and “ideology” rather than disconfirmation of Afrocentric
Moses in Afrotopia argues that Afrocentrism should be rejected because:
1) it was founded by white scholars to vindicate enslaved blacks ;
2)it is an ideology of culturally improvised, illiterate urban Afro-American males;
3)it is not recognized as historically valid by “establishment” historians so it should be rejected solely on this basis (p.225).
These arguments are presented without any citations and counter evidence.
My major complaint, is that these books fail to add any critical analysis of the goals of the Afrocentric curriculum and pedagogical methods. The critics of the ancient Afrocentric field make hasty rejections of the ancient Afrocentric history enterprise. They declare, without any citation to the evidence, that it lacks canonical, methodological and theoretical traditions that represent the normal routines of scholarly life.
Unfortunately, Howe and Moses fail to focus on the Afrocentric history literary canon. This neglect to confront Afrocentric historical claims founded on the rigorous nature of Afrocentric scholarship, makes their contribution to this debate another entry in the contest between elitism and a curriculum developed and supported by scholars outside Euro-male dominated “academy establishment” by a member of the status quo, rather than an objective review of Afrocentrism. Consequently, the arguments they present in support of their rejection of Afrocentrism are based on the method of authority, rather than actual historical and anthropological evidence rejecting the varied Afrocentric historical hypothesis. This failure to confront the mounds of evidence, which support the African origin of Grecian, Egyptian, Sumerian and the Indus Valley civilizations ,is a sad commentary on Afrotopia and Afrocentrism. These books cannot provide the reader with any reliable debate on the paradigms encompassing the Afrocentric ancient historical memory.
Howe and Moses are unashamed to admit that their books were written to defend the modern research university from dissenting voices to “establishment” claims of American intellectuals. The real objective of these books is not a search for a “true” vision of history, or a review of the evidence presented by Afrocentrists supporting their historical claims.
Moses reaffirms the establishment view that history should be written by “professional historians” who have professional credentials of “expert knowledge” and affiliation with white universities (pp.225-233). In his opinion Afrocentrism is mainly an ideology of lower class urban Afro-American youth, especially males.
Moses makes it clear in Afrotopia that he has no real clue about Afrocentrism. In his opinion Afrocentrism was developed during the 1930’s by the Jewish American scholar Melville Herskovits (pp.11-12). This view is wrong. It is clear that Afro-American scholars such as Frederick Douglas and Alexander Crummell, not Euro-Americans, first wrote Afrocentric history.
Moses, like Howe boldly explains that Afrocentrism is based on Egyptocentrism and represents Afro-American vindicationist sentiment. He describes Afrocentrism as “ a historiography of decline based on the idea that the African race had fallen from its past greatness”(p.16). Having made this claim he never presents any historical evidence to refute the paradigms of ancient Afrocentric history. Moreover, he fails to explain how scholars like W.E.B. DuBois and George Wells Parker made it clear in their writings that Blacks probably founded civilization in Greece and China in addition to Egypt.
In conclusion, the basic function of the works of Howe, Baines, D'Souza, Lefkowitz and Moses is to silence heterodox voices without any argument or hypothesis testing. Science relies on observation and hypothesis testing, not rational thought alone. Using logic singly to deny the Afrocentric ancient historical memory is unacceptable because their personality, tradition, values and habitual methods of thinking can taint the expectations of historians.
The authors of Afrotopia and Afrocentrism present no evidence in support of their critique of Afrocentrism. This invalidates their theory. You cannot prove true things to be true, but something that is false cane be proven to be false. The failure of Moses and Howe to present “empirical validation” in support of their rejection of Afrocentrism makes their claims pure fiction.
Due to the absence of “positive proof” to disconfirm Afrocentric hypotheses, reveal that the intellectual discourse of Howe and Moses is predetermined by a conformity to a conservative elitist political ideology. An ideology which summary nullifies Afrocentric ancient historical themes simply by the method of authority ( i.e., “establishment historians” say it is false, so it is false) rather than critical reading of the Afrocentric text and hypotheses testing.
Afrotopia and Afrocentrism fail to provide a realistic and critical rendition of the Afrocentric historical memory of the ancient world. These works will not benefit anyone reading these books seeking an actual and true discussion of ancient Afrocentric history as a mature social science. These books represent feel good scholarship for racist whites who want to continue to believe that African history begins and ends with the slave trade.
It is a shame that some coconut Euronuts hate themselves so much that they will write any garbage to cater to Eurocentrist. They hope that by writing this falsehood they will be allowed to join the "club" as full partners in keeping Black people in their "place" as consumers of a history made by Europeans , light skinned Arabs and Asians. But this will never happen for people like Moses, since Eurocentrists will never fully accept a coconut to their ranks, because coconuts fail to respect themselves and their history.