We Can't Go Home Again: An Argument About Afrocentrism

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9780195095715: We Can't Go Home Again: An Argument About Afrocentrism

Afrocentrism has been a controversial but popular movement in schools and universities across America, as well as in black communities. But in We Can't Go Home Again, historian Clarence E. Walker puts Afrocentrism to the acid test, in a thoughtful, passionate, and often blisteringly funny analysis that melts away the pretensions of this "therapeutic mythology."
As expounded by Molefi Kete Asante, Yosef Ben-Jochannan, and others, Afrocentrism encourages black Americans to discard their recent history, with its inescapable white presence, and to embrace instead an empowering vision of their African (specifically Egyptian) ancestors as the source of western civilization. Walker marshals a phalanx of serious scholarship to rout these ideas. He shows, for instance, that ancient Egyptian society was not black but a melange of ethnic groups, and questions whether, in any case, the pharaonic regime offers a model for blacks today, asking "if everybody was a King, who built the pyramids?" But for Walker, Afrocentrism is more than simply bad history--it substitutes a feel-good myth of the past for an attempt to grapple with the problems that still confront blacks in a racist society. The modern American black identity is the product of centuries of real history, as Africans and their descendants created new, hybrid cultures--mixing many African ethnic influences with native and European elements. Afrocentrism replaces this complex history with a dubious claim to distant glory.
"Afrocentrism offers not an empowering understanding of black Americans' past," Walker concludes, "but a pastiche of 'alien traditions' held together by simplistic fantasies." More to the point, this specious history denies to black Americans the dignity, and power, that springs from an honest understanding of their real history.

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About the Author:


Clarence E. Walker is Professor of History at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of Deromanticizing Black History and A Rock in a Weary Land. He lives in Davis, California.

Review:


"This is the book to read if you want to understand where Afrocentrism comes from, and why there is practically nothing African about it. As Walker demonstrates with great precision and clarity, its origins can be traced to Europe, and to European fantasies about race and intellectual legacy long since discarded by responsible historians."--Mary Lefkowitz, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley College, author of Not Out of Africa and co-editor of Black Athena Revisited


"A vital contribution to the contemporary debate over Afrocentrism in particular and identity politics in general. Walker places Afrocentrism in historical context, locating its intellectual roots in the race-based romantic nationalism of the 19th Century, tracing its evolution through the recurrent attempts of black intellectuals to create a 'therapeutic mythology' for an oppressed and embattled people. His concise, well-grounded, and brilliantly written book analyzes the fallacies of Afrocentrist scholarship, and--more importantly--shows how its falsification of history robs black people of their real past, and thereby defeats its 'therapeutic' aim."--Richard Slotkin, author of Gunfighter Nation


"In this boldly conceived and well-executed analysis, Walker basically questions Afrocentrism as a form of historical consciousness. Intriguing and challenging, this work will appeal to scholars and students of African American studies and race relations in America."--Library Journal


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