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International Journal of Intercultural Relations


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ijintrel

MolefI Kete Asante: The Afrocentric Idea and the cultural turn in
intercultural communication studies
Reynaldo Anderson
Harris Stowe State University, 3026 Laclede Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63103, United States

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Keywords: Mole Kete Asante is one of the most important scholars in the eld of communication
Mole Kete Asante studies in the late twentieth century. His general interests range from intercultural com-
Transracial communication
munication, rhetoric, media and public communication to Africana studies. He has taught
Intercultural communication
at several universities, led several organizations and is recognized as a leader within the
Mass communication
Rhetoric communication discipline and in the broader national and global society; especially within
Africology Africa and the African diaspora. Asante is credited with the development and eventual
Afrocentricity emergence of what is referred to as the Afrocentric Idea, a theoretical perspective focusing
on the agency of African peoples. Asantes groundbreaking work in the 1970s and 1980s
would foreshadow and frame many of the debates of not only communication studies, but
in the elds of education, sociology, literary, and cultural studies, as well as history from
the 1990s and early twenty rst century. The current article focuses on Asantes important
contributions to intercultural communication in the areas of rhetoric, media and public
communication, Africana Studies, and intercultural/interracial communication. Asantes
emergence corresponded with the American multiracial struggle against domestic racism
and segregation; and the international ght against imperialism and advanced stages of
colonialism. Many of Asantes ideas reect the spirit of the 1955 Bandung conference that
helped launch intellectual and political opposition to oppression by people of color.
2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

As one of the most important contributors to the eld of communication studies during the late 20th century, Mole Kete
Asantes emergence corresponded with the American multiracial struggle against domestic racism and segregation; and the
international ght against imperialism and advanced stages of colonialism. Many of Asantes ideas resonate with the spirit
of the 1955 Bandung conference, an international gathering of national movements and colonial states that crystallized the
intellectual and political opposition to oppression by people of color (Prashad, 2007). Therefore the genesis of Asantes work
is grounded in the historical context of the African American freedom and anti-colonial movements between 1955 and the
mid 1970s. He is credited as being the founder of the Afrocentric school of thought in communication studies. Among his
many accomplishments was serving as the rst president of SIETAR International, the International Society of Intercultural
Education, Training, and Research. Asante has had an international impact with his work.
Tina Harris notes:
As the father and esteemed theorist of Afrocentricity, Mole Kete Asante is indeed a living legend in the communi-
cation and Africana Studies disciplines. The longevity of his career is the epitome of what constitutes a true scholar.
His astoundingly prolic publication record of books, essays, and journal articles in leading publication outlets is

E-mail address: reysand@swbell.net

0147-1767/$ see front matter 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2012.08.005

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a testament to the ubiquitous inuence his scholarship has had in foregrounding the reality of marginality. More
specically, Professor Asante is hailed as the forerunner in advancing communication scholarship on the centrality
of African identity in theory and methodology related to our understanding of self (read otherness) in a world where
race, culture, and ethnicity remain salient. (Personal correspondence, 2011)
Arthur Lee Smith, Jr., currently known as Molefe Kete Asante, was born August 14, 1942 in Valdosta, Georgia. Following
his matriculation at the Nashville Christian Institute, Asante received an Associate of Arts degree at Southwestern Christian
College and later graduated with a bachelors degree from Oklahoma Christian College (Jackson & Brown-Givens, 2006).
Asante received a scholarship to attend graduate school at Pepperdine University where he was mentored by Fred L. Casmir,
a founder of the academic study of intercultural communication and then nationally known for his work in the research area
of persuasion. The exposure to various dimensions of communication studies in the areas of argumentation, social inuence,
and public communication strategies inuenced him to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of California, Los Angeles
(UCLA) (Jackson & Brown-Givens, 2006).
During his program two major scholars inuenced his development, Charles Lomas and Maulana Karenga. Lomas was
a specialist in revolutionary rhetoric and exposed Asante to advanced rhetorical theory and praxis, and Maulena Karenga,
founder of Kwanza and developer of the Kawaida theory, demonstrated the relationship between Eurocentric dominance and
the concession by African Americans of their own agency (Jackson, 2003b). In addition, Asante learned African and African
American history from Boniface Obichere, Gary Nash, and Ronald Takaki (Asante, 2011). This phase of his development
during the mid to late 1960s, paralleling the American Civil Rights and Black Power/Revolution, the Cold War, and Vietnam
War, led him to develop the early formulations of what would later be called Afrocentricity.
In relation to his activities with SIETAR, Asante notes:
The founding of the Society for Intercultural Education Training and Research occurred during a time of deep social
change in the world. I did not conceive the idea; I was an activist who helped to implement it and therefore was
elected the rst president of the organization. SIETAR remains one of the purest movements toward a collective
appreciation of the value of each human being that I know. It piggy-backed in many ways on the African American rise
to consciousness, the anti-war campaigns, and the beginning of the Womens Movement. Fundamentally, it was about
culture, overcoming differences in culture, and asserting a new world consciousness of cultural complementarities
(Personal correspondence, 2011).
Asantes goal of seeking location and agency in relation to African peoples and other cultures inuenced his communi-
cation research agenda in the areas of rhetoric, media and interracial communication.

2. Rhetoric: linking speech to intercultural communication

Historically, the eld of rhetoric had an important role in the development of intercultural communication. Asantes most
signicant early work was in rhetoric and examined the cultural inuences on discourse. Previously the eld of rhetoric
was primarily devoted to the exegesis of western or European modes of discourse. For example, Ehninger (1968) asserted
that there were three systems or bodies of rhetoric including; the classical period from 500 B.C. to 500 A.D. consisting
of the intellectual contributions of the Greeks and Romans, the British and continental period from 1550 to 1830, and the
contemporary era extending from the beginning of the twentieth century to the 1960s. An example of the then contemporary
perspective in the 1960s in relation to the study of rhetoric in the context of the social movements of the time was the position
adopted by Lloyd Bitzer. Bitzer argued that the context out of which a rhetor speaks creates discourse and therefore occurs
in a natural context of persons, events, objects, relations, and an exigence that evokes an utterance (Bitzer, 1968, in Asante,
1987, p. 29).
However, as Asante would later argue, while the types of propositions may yield insight into a rhetors or philosophers
linguistic perspective, it does not necessarily get a scholarly observer closer to the question of the overarching condition
of discourse in the African American or African context (Asante, 1987, p. 29). Historically, studies of rhetoric and social
movements had been restricted to a macro perspective examining strategic themes or the texts of individual speeches vis--
vis local movements. Still, by the 1960s with the emergence of the modern civil rights movement, and anti-colonial struggles
the eld of rhetoric experienced a period of re-assessment and change. According to Asante:
This book, The Rhetoric of Black Revolution [Smith, 1969], was the rst book to examine the varieties of African American
responses to oppressive situations. Grounded in the everyday actions of movement rhetoric the book attempted to
explain and project the symbols and signs of resistance and resilience that emanated from a people that had nally
found their footing. (Personal correspondence, 2011)
For example, Asante noted in that work (Smith, 1969) that assimilation, separatism, and revolution are the themes
that constitute a distinctive Black rhetoric. Black social movements in America have generally three ideological traditions,
integration or liberal pluralism, Black Nationalism, and Black radicalism. For example, the Black Panther Party was part of
the Black radical tradition and culturally and historically descended from the Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser, and Denmark
Vesey slave rebellions of the nineteenth and earlier twentieth-century Black radical movements such as the African Blood
Brotherhood. Assimilation rhetoric calls for the eventual integration of African Americans into American society. Examples

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of this genre of African American rhetoric can be located in the discourse of Martin Luther King Jr.s August 28, 1963 speech, I
Have a Dream. Separatist rhetoric argues for the complete separation of African Americans and European Americans within
the society. Marcus Garvey and Elijah Muhammad are twentieth century examples of separatist rhetoric, which questioned
the efcacy of African Americans to integrate into a racist society.
Examples of the utilization of this genre can be observed in the rhetoric of Malcolm Xs June, 1963 speech The Black
Revolution. According to Asante (1987, p. 148) there are at least two traits characteristic of Black Nationalist rhetoric. First, he
posits that Black speakers are motivated by the social and political congurations that sanction white supremacy. Secondly,
in arguing that persuasion is the primary function of the person who speaks as the situation demands, Asante alludes that the
central task of the Black Nationalist rhetor is to liberate the African mind by suggesting a cultural and psychological return
back to an African world view. However, more importantly, Asantes Rhetoric of Black Revolution (Smith, 1969) stands as an
important contribution to an assessment of the rhetorical practices of African American radical activists in an important
moment of American history. For example, in the introductory chapter Asante briey details the rhetorical situation that
produces and sustains the rhetorical practices and behavior of black revolutionaries. Moreover, Asantes work in rhetoric
stands as an important benchmark in the study of Black rhetoric and social movements in relation to strategies, topoi, and
audience; and remains a valuable resource for the period in question. However, as a consequence of his work in rhetoric,
Asante soon turned his attention to the still emerging eld of intercultural communication and its relationship to race.
Interestingly enough Asante would creatively, in an interdisciplinary fashion, craft his research across race and inter-
cultural communication in the 1970s and 1980s. Broadly speaking, Asante believed his work was developed and researched
with an approach to holistically consider the entire human condition or spectrum and in the wake of the period in ques-
tion when there were pressing philosophical issues in the context of communication; furthermore the situation of speaker,
receiver, subject, object, race, and culture as aspects of denition and growth (Asante, personal communication, 2012).
Asante notes:
My work in Africana studies, especially in the philosophies of Africa, is essential to rounding out an appreciation of
African ideas about communication, culture, and community. Without this knowledge it is impossible to have a full
appreciation of human potential in communication. (Personal Communication to author, July 1, 2012)

3. Intercultural and interracial communication

The eld of intercultural communication emerged during the Cold War era of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and its practical
beginnings or techniques were developed earlier in the twentieth century around the study of linguistics and anthropology.
Intercultural communication can be more precisely dened as the heterophilous communication exchange between multiple
cultures (Rogers & Hart, 2002). Although there is some debate over the precise origins of intercultural communication most
communication scholars recognize E.T. Hall as the implicit founder of the eld of study (e.g., Leeds-Hurwitz, 1990).
However, following the social movements of the 1960s, scholars like Asante inuenced the development of the eld
of intercultural communication in the 1970s. More importantly, Asantes work in intercultural/interracial communication
studies emerged in the domestic US context of the racial/ethnic formation period between 1960 and the 1990s. Moreover,
Asantes focus was limited in the area of international relations and believed his primary inuence was in intercultural
communication theory since he was focused on the interaction between human beings across cultures. However, he was
intimately aware of the connection between intercultural communication and its corollary relationship with international
relations (Asante, July 1, 2012).
For example, on the American domestic scene, as Omi and Winant (1997) point out, race is primarily a socio-historical
phenomenon with meanings that are worked out in personal practice and collective action with codes that inuence daily
human interactions. Furthermore, the aforementioned period in question in the wake of the civil rights/black power move-
ment involved the transformation of the American industrial economy in to an urban information-based society in which
African Americans, minorities and women were now able to attempt to compete for economic resources (Omi and Winant).
Yet, this was not the rst time that social arrangements in an American context were in upheaval. Saxton (1971) asserts
that historically Americans of European descent and inclination have exerted a preponderance of force and power over
non-whites, primarily American Indians, Africans, and Asians to control their labor, movement, and bodies, sometimes to
their own economic detriment.
Although earlier work done on inter-group contact by social psychologists like Gordon Allport in the 1950s had explored
prejudice; the work in intercultural/interracial communication studies done at UCLA by Andrea L. Rich, Dennis M. Ogawa,
and Asante [then Arthur Lee Smith, Jr.] was timely and prescient in its development. Asante notes:
Andrea Rich, Dennis Ogawa, and I were all students at UCLA at a time when Charles Lomas was advancing the ideas
about agitative rhetoric and Paul Rosenthal was pumping energy into persuasive theory in a way that caused us
to want to apply some of these theories and ideas to the interaction between peoples of various cultures. Richs
book was Interracial Communication [1974] and Ogawas was Jap to Japanese: The Evolution of Japanese American
Stereotypes (1971) and Transracial Communication [Smith, 1973] made the trilogy of that era. We like to think that
UCLA produced the rst works dealing with interracial and intercultural communication. (Personal communication,
2011)

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In his 1973 book Transracial Communication Asante [then Smith] sought to examine how human beings patterned their
communication in relation to psychological, sociological, and physical processes and How persons send and receive mes-
sages from other persons who do not share similar histories, heritages, or cultures (Smith, 1973, p. v). However, although a
salient criticism of the text is the heteronormative character of the chapter called Determinants of Normalization as it cri-
tiques sexual and transracial communication as limited to the behavior of men and women; the book provides an invaluable
insight into Asantes work on symbolic imperialism and his later effort in mass communications.
By 1979 Asante had edited with Eileen Newmark and Cecil Blake the rst Handbook of Intercultural Communication. Sage
Publications, a major social science publisher, had moved into the area of communication studies publishing and Asante
who had been the editor of Sages Journal of Black Studies since 1969 proposed to edit a major volume bringing together
the most important works in the eld of intercultural communication (Asante, 2011). In a later edition Asante would ask
William Gudykunst to join him as editor of the Handbook of InterNATIONAL and InterCULTURAL Communication (1989), also
published by Sage (Asante, 2011).
Furthermore, in light of the impact that globalization with respect to communication studies Asante has remained a
contemporary force in intercultural research. For example, in a more recent publication on intercultural communication
Asante in a (2008) co-edited volume with Yoshitake Miike and Jing Yin entitled The Global Intercultural Communication
Reader broadening the international scope of research in communication that points out the problems of a western focused
tradition within the discipline and cautions against theoretical developments that are inuenced by methodological or
theoretical assumptions that are ethnocentric.

4. Mass communications

Asantes work in mass communications with Mary Cassata was developed during the geo-political context of the Cold
War. Asantes notes The emergence of communication as a device of political and economic imperialism, colonialism, and
as an instrument of social control for market consumption behavior and social control demanded a new examination of
mass media as an instrument of power (personal communication, July 1, 2012). According to Alleyne (1995), following the
Second World War there was an idealistic turn in international relations based on the assumption that if a person could
communicate with his or her cultural counterpart in another country there would be better understanding and a reduction
in conict.
However, there was a debate in the United Nations by the 1970s that linked the NIEO or New International Economic
Order in 1974 with the inclusion of NWICO or New World Information and Communication Order into diplomatic language in
1976 (Alleyne, 1995). An important aspect of the debate surrounded the phenomenon of cultural relations. This concern can
be traced back to the utilization of mass media by fascists, communists, and British or francophone imperialists to maintain
control or inuence over mass publics (Alleyne, 1995). For example, Kwame Nkrumah (cited in Alleyne), the rst President
of the Republic of Ghana was aware of the strategic importance of mass communications in relations to former colonial
subjects during the Cold War, noting in his book Neo-Colonialism: The Last State of Imperialism that: One has only to listen
to the cheers of an African audience as Hollywoods heroes, slaughter red Indians or Asiatics to understand the effectiveness
of this weapon. . . And along with murder and the Wild West goes an incessant barrage of anti-socialist propaganda, in which
trade union man, the revolutionary, or the man of dark skin is generally cast as the villain, . . .while the policeman, . . .the
CIA-type spy is ever the hero. . . (p. 29).
Echoing Nkrumahs sentiment in his allusion to symbolic imperialism in his earlier work on transracial communication;
Cassata and Asante developed their publication Mass Communication as a primer for the historical moment of mass media
prior to the end of the Cold war and the personal computer revolution that would transform society. More importantly,
Cassata and Asantes work solidly historicizes the beginning of mass communications from the Korean invention of metal
typesetting, to its modern theoretical dimensions, mass effects, the inuence of national and international systems, and
relating them to their impacts on culture and gender and providing an intellectual background to many of the arguments that
would later anticipate the culture wars of the 1990s and the digital divide. For example, following the Cold War, media cultural
imperialism was derived from the socio-political and economic system of imperialism (Schiller, 1991). Furthermore, media
driven cultural imperialism is a protable sector of advanced economic systems that operate in tandem with the goals of the
existing global nancial, industrial, and political paradigms. However, within the advanced western neoliberal economies
these media entities exist to serve the interest of consumer driven societies. Therefore, certain aspects of indigenous cultures
can be effectively exploited to operate within the context of global political economy and serve the interests of existing
socio-political economic governing elites (Schiller, 1991).
Since the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the European Communist bloc, and creation of international trade agree-
ments, many of the developing countries struggle before the overwhelming inuence of western consumer society and a
world market economy. According to Schiller,
The corporate media cultures have expanded in recent decades and now occupy most of the global space. The cultural
submersion now includes the English language itself, public malls, the telephone system. . . Cultural domination means
also adopting broadcasting systems that depend on advertising and accepting deregulatory practices that transform
the centers. . . that is better understood as transnational corporate cultural domination. (Schiller, 1991, p. 19)

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Yet, a positive aspect of the advent of the social media revolution in relation to intercultural communication is how it is
impacting personal relationships as Asante notes:
. . . human communication has really changed and the way we look at it today has a lot to do with the new media that
we predicted but could never have imagined fully. Yes, media can and does inuence intercultural communication
and the real truth is that we have a world that is far smaller than it was and we are confronted everyday with changes
in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, and other countries while we are sitting in our living rooms. This is the impact of media. I can
be in another culture, interact on Skype with my friends in China, Nigeria, Japan, South Africa, and Singapore almost
immediately. I can know something more of their cultures than I could a few years ago. (Personal correspondence,
2011)
However, Asantes lasting and perhaps most important contribution in intercultural communication and communication
studies is his metatheory of Afrocentricity and its subsequent impact in several elds including history, sociology, political
science, education and the humanities.

5. Afrocentricity and Africology

The tenuous relationship between culture, liberal democracy, and how to communicate across boundaries is an important
topic that scholars, politicians and citizens closely involved with civic culture are grappling with. In particular, although
American President George Herbert Walker Bush had promised a new world order following the collapse of the Soviet Union
but prior to the end of the Cold War a perceived crisis in liberal democracy and what scholars referred to as Eurocentrism
in western societies was well under way. For example, Eurocentrism is not a social theory that integrates several different
elements into a universal/global coherent vision of society and history (Amin, 1989, p. 90). Rather it is an active. . . prejudice
that distorts social theories; It draws from its storehouse of components, retaining one or rejecting another according to the
ideological needs of the moment (p. 90). Eurocentrism is comprised of an annexed Hellenism that removes Greece from its
historical relationship to the Near East and Africa, in particular during the Romantic movement of the nineteenth century;
a racism necessary for European cultural unity, and reinterprets a Near East and African imported version of Christianity to
maintain cultural unity, and constructs a vision. . . on the same racist foundation, again employing an immutable vision of
religion (Amin, 1989, p. 90; Bernal, 1987).
According to Z izek (2011), the crisis in liberal capitalist societies and their inability to deal with imbalances within the
capitalist system, the global ecological crisis, the rapidly expanding biogenetic research revolution, acute and growing social
divisions; corresponds with the stages of grief: ideological denial, explosions of anger and attempts at bargaining, followed
by depression and withdrawal. Therefore it was during this crisis in liberalism that the Afrocentric intellectual position began
to seriously engage the ideological denial of Eurocentric orthodoxy. This western ideological denial is a result of the tension
between market liberalism and political liberalism, and the paradox of liberalism (Beiner, 1992; Z izek, 2011). For example,
the liberal democratic tradition moves between poles of free market individualism that opposes state regulation and political
liberalism that focuses on solidarity and or equality. However, in a Western context the conservative elements are liberal
in the market sense, and conservative in interpersonal relations and the liberal multiculturalists, promote individual rights
and protection from economic forces while supporting the ideology it engenders (Z izek, 2011). Therefore, this has led to the
basic paradox of Western liberalism: An Anti-ideological and anti-utopian stance that is unable to resolve the deadlock by
proposing a kind of higher dialectical synthesis out of the tension between homogenizing forces and fragmentation (Beiner,
1992; Z izek, p. 18, 19).
The tension between homogenizing and fragmenting forces is of special import in regards to communication. More
specically, with respect to the western tradition of intercultural communication Afrocentricity and the Afrocentric Idea not
only address the historical content record, which is important; but these concepts seek to engage and address the ontological,
epistemological, and axiological premises on which the intercultural communication tradition was founded, and make the
discipline more accessible to alternative worldviews and practices. Furthermore, Asante notes:
Intercultural communication cannot exist within a system where Europe assumes the speaker position and all other
cultures are cast as receivers. The Afrocentric Idea examines and critiques the necessity for cultures to be viewed
with agency and with subject responsibilities and capabilities rather than as marginal to the European experience.
Therefore as a corollary, Afrocentricity becomes an advancement in intercultural communication by observing African
cultures as equals rather than from a subordinate place in communication; and nally arguing that this critique and
assessment must be done in all cases where Europe has imposed itself as the universal arbiter of all aspects of the
human experience. (Personal communication, July 1, 2012)

6. The emergence of the theoretical development of Afrocentricity

Afrocentric metatheory, Africology, and contemporary study of Africanity emerged in the latter twentieth century during
this western existential crisis. Afrocentricity is a theory of social change, and seeks agency and action, furthermore, in regard
to communication studies the Afrocentric Idea metatheory focuses on the structure and power of the rhetorical condition
in relation to societal norms and analytically focuses on the frame of mind, scope of context, structure of code, and delivery

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of message (Asante, 1980, pp. 4748). Finally, Africology is the transgenerational and transcontinental study of African
phenomenon and Africanity is focused on the customs, traditions, and traits of the people of Africa and its diaspora
(Asante, 1998, p. 19). The rise of Afrocentricity, Afrocentric meta theory, and Africology as a serious mode of inquiry in
theory and praxis by the 1990s stepped into the ideological vacuum of liberalism and faced challenges from the political
right and left; in particular, committed conservative and liberal Eurocentric academics, New Democrats, and postmodern
intellectuals of various categories including feminists, and queer theorists. However, these challenges were representative
of the ideological denial of western or western-inuenced intelligentsia in the context of the paradox of liberalism and its
internal contradictions.
First in relation to Eurocentric academia, the Afrocentric/Africological movement in the West, particularly in the American
context questioned previously established epistemological assumptions about the construction of knowledge and who
benets from such knowledge. One example of the phenomena is the utilization of Afrocentric epistemology, which argues
that the historical redemption of African Americans must begin within the agency of African people instead of Europeans.
For example, the knowledge produced by European intellectuals such as British philosopher David Hume in his essay Of
National Character, German philosopher George Hegel in his Lectures on History, and US President Thomas Jefferson in
his text Notes on Virginia, to name just a few, are part of a corpus of the racist, sexist and anti-African work that form the
Western Enlightenment; and are part of a large body of work that form a powerful academic, pseudo-science, and socio-
political cultural tradition in regards to the humanity and agency of Africans, and provide the leitmotif or underlying pattern
for the global formation of White supremacy.
Therefore, the Afrocentric perspective that emerged in the wake of the late twentieth century was and is a natural human
intellectual response to the cultural imposition and biases by Eurocentric theorists and their sympathizers. Afrocentricitys
intellectual precursor Negritude, developed by the President of Senegel, Leopold Senghor, and others was an earlier attempt
to critique bastions of Eurocentric hegemony but was utilized primarily in the realm of literary inquiry (Jackson, 2003b).
The basic assumption underlying the Afrocentric worldview reects the notion of human-nature unity or as The afnity for
peace, harmony, self-knowledge, agency, and liberation among its proponents (Baldwin, 1980; Jackson, 2003, p. 116). The
ethos reective of this assumption is that of oneness or harmony with nature and survival of the group (Nobles, 1980).
However, scholars such as Leftkowitz (1996) and Stephen Howe (1998) have accused Afrocentric scholars of being racist,
or anti-white. However, Afrocentricity in its theory and praxis is anti-oppression and is an intellectual movement that has
created space for the international study of Africa and its diaspora in relation to other cultural paradigms (Asante, 1999;
Jackson, 2003). Also, Afrocentricity calls into question Eurocentric analysis and study that poses as universal hegemony
(Asante, 1990). In regards to Afrocentricity Asante notes:
It has made it possible for us to see that agency, location, and the centrality of experiences are keys to all human
interactions. We have to see people from their perspective rather than impose ours on them. They are subjects, agents,
and actors in human history and not simply to be used, acted upon, or treated as victims. In this regard, Afrocentricity
has become a major theoretical intervention in the study of communication, sociology, social work, philosophy, and
literature. (Personal correspondence, 2011)
Secondly, the emergence of the post cold war 1990s neo-liberal discourse surrounding the issue of race would be char-
acterized by the attempts of academics and the electoral calculations of New Democrat politicians to suppress race as part
of public discourse (Omi & Winant, 1997). Therefore Afrocentricity was attacked as viciously as other programs of liberal
redress such as afrmative action based upon reactionary critiques related to assertions of reverse racism. In one example of
the tension surrounding the ideological denial of the era, historian Arthur Schlesinger in his book The Disuniting of America
(1992) characterizes particular forms of multiculturalism or Afrocentrism as problematic and confuses hyperbole related to
ethnicity with actual historical facts (Asante, 1999).
Furthermore, New Democrat political discourse was characterized by advocating false universal reform, and dismisses or
suppresses and masks the effects of racism and its underlying tensions (Omi & Winant, 1997). For example, New Democrat
politician Bill Clinton, informed by the works of sociologist William Julius Wilson author of The Truly Disadvantaged, and
Thomas and Mary Edsall in their book Chain Reaction, would utilize neo-liberal discourse in an attempt to rearticulate the
conservative policies of the Reagan-Bush era into a more benign politics of redistribution (Omi & Winant, 1997, p. 148).
Third, in relation to the ideological denial of the West; external critiques from nominally progressive Eurocentric scho-
lars, other cultural paradigms and internal pressure from Black scholars of various ideological inuences currently engage
the Afrocentric school of thought. However, in the interest of parsimony the remainder of the essay shall focus on the
internal conicts within Africana studies, challenges and possible new directions for Afrocentric meta-theory in relation to
communication studies.
At the same time that there is a paradox in Western liberal democracy between market liberalism and political lib-
eralism the same crisis is reected within African postcolonial society, and Black diasporas, state and cultural formations
in general. That is, the broad consensus formed in the early 20th century began to break down during the 1960s period of
postcolonial independence, passage of civil rights legislation, and the formal end of Apartheid in South Africa in the 1990s.
Ideas ranging from the philosophy of Consciencism of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, the revolutionary theory and praxis of
Franz Fanon of Martinique and Algeria, and the African Socialism or Ujaama of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania were practiced in
relation to decolonization. In particular, continental African/diasporas leaders, intellectuals and activists struggled to the-
oretically address the needs of their constituencies as their societies changed and were responding to the early stages of

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the postcolonial/post-industrial era. For example, in an American context Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. attempted
to resolve the paradox prior to their assassinations. They were among the dominant gures of the time along with Fan-
nie Lou Hamer, Vickie Garvin, Bayard Rustin, Gloria Richardson, Robert F. Williams, James Baldwin, Max Stanford, Stokely
Carmichael, Huey Newton, George Jackson, Angela Davis, Amiri Baraka, Maulena Karenga, and many others that attempted
to address what Harold Cruse called The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967).
Cruse noted in regard to the American polity that the Constitution recognizes the rights, privileges and aspirations of the
individual, but whose political institutions recognize the reality of ethnic groups only during election contests. . .. Every four
years the great ction of the assimilated American ideal is put aside to deal with the pluralistic reality of the hyphenated
American vote (cited in Cobb, 2002, p. 53). Cruse makes this argument in an essay entitled Individualism and the Open
Society drawing upon the historical conditions of African Americans and the work of sociologists Milton Gordon and C.
Wright Mills to frame an argument for the politically necessary strategy of group identity in relation to pluralistic American
politics (Cobb, 2002). More precisely, Cruse goes on to state that the United States is: a nation dominated by the social
power of groups, classes, in-groups and cliques. . . the individual in America has very few rights that are not backed up by
the political, economic and social power of one group or another (p. 54). In this manner, the paradox of liberal orthodoxy
and its crisis has been engaged by supporters of the Afrocentric meta theory, Black studies, black feminists, postmodern
cultural studies academics, and recently, black queer theorists.
In relation to Afrocentricity, Black studies, and or Africology black feminists have made legitimate claims of masculin-
ist norms of scholarship and discrimination in the discipline, in institutional practice, and theoretical underdevelopment
(Hull, Scott, & Smith, 1982; Ransby, 2000). These claims are valid and black feminist scholars in the face of these obsta-
cles have made signicant contributions to the eld of Black studies and communication studies. However, the fact
remains that overwhelmingly most black women scholars and black women in general do not identify with feminist
theory and praxis due to the fact the historical treatment of women of European descent does not mirror the con-
struction of gender in the African/diaspora community (Tsuruta, 2008). Furthermore, the tenuous dependency model
relationships that some black feminist scholars have with white feminist matriarchy, its fraternal partner white male
patriarchy, and the posthumous conceptualization of black women activist as feminists continue to undermine the intel-
lectual fecundity, interdependency and creativity of feminist theory and praxis (Lorde, 2007; Tsuruta, 2008). Similarly, the
Afrocentric schools of thought received severe criticism from postmodern or post racial theorists and or cultural studies
scholars.
The theoretical legacy of these particular positions is indebted to the intellectual conict with totalizing Marxist discourse
among western academics and activists following the revelations of Soviet atrocities and the 1956 invasion of Hungary;
the teleological assumptions of historical materialism or reductionism, and anti-utopian or skepticism of collective des-
tination or global frameworks (Hall, 1996; Hebdige, 1996). In particular, the primary charge leveled by postmodern/post
racial/cultural studies scholars is that Afrocentrism is an essentialism utilized to appropriate and critique African artifacts,
in particular Egyptian ones, and form a basis for the movement (Jackson, 2003b). Furthermore, the atavistic tendencies of
some Black nationalists and their exclusionary practices have exacerbated the situation, clouded the intellectual discussion,
and contributed to the hyperbolic environment surrounding the discussion of Afrocentricity and its adherents (Jackson,
2003a). However, in relation to text, the Afrocentric approach focuses on location and dislocation and a brief examination a
rhetorical position of the postmodern/post racial/cultural studies critiques is warranted.
For this reason, it is clear that the arguments of the critiques are largely located in European historiography, anti-logic and
rationalization. For example, post racial theorists like Appiah (1993) and Korgen (1999) structure their arguments against
the very concept of race and ultimately adopt self-contradictory positions based upon a discourse that asserts a multi-racial
identity that requires a previous belief in the biological category of race (Asante, 1999; Spencer, 2011). Furthermore, the
structure of their discourse defends existing Eurocentric racial motifs, and functions as an anti-black, anti-African stance to
move its adherents upward from lesser to more privileged positions within the structure of the US racial paradigm (Asante,
1999; Spencer, p. 230). Afrocentricity and Afrocentric metatheory does not oppose the personal liberation of any oppressed
individual; however, it is important to know and understand the cultural and psychological location of the speaker or rhetor;
furthermore:
This situation may indicate that the person has refused to deal with his identity in any denite terms. And if a person
cannot speak out of the African cultural and historical context, then he or she should not posture vis--vis the contin-
uing struggle for liberation; they should simply claim to be part of the movement against Africans. (Asante, 1999, p.
79)
On the other hand the relative silence of Afrocentric scholars, Asante included, on same sex relationships or Queer
theory undermine claims of support for personal liberation. In spite of this, Afrocentricity, though heteronormative in its
development; is not homophobic. Historically, Black liberation struggles did not embrace same sex issue as part of the
civil rights movement due to the fact the black upper class did not want to derail the struggle with accusations of Com-
munist sympathizing, although privately they were not opposed to same sex relationships (Forstater, 2007). An individual
case of this phenomenon was leadership legacy of Bayard Rustin. For example, before joining the mainstream civil rights
movement Rustin was a member of the Communist Party. Rustin was trained to organize civil rights constituencies under
the leadership of the labor leader A. Phillip Randolph. Rustins talent as a leader and theorist emerged out of the union
activism of the 1930s and 1940s during the era of New Deal Democratic politics. As an activist and theorist, Rustin had

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to frequently face hostility and persecution, from foes and some allies, for his gay identity, ultimately being arrested and
incarcerated for an encounter with a man (Forstater, 2007). However, despite these obstacles, Rustin was able to criti-
cally evaluate the goals and objectives of the freedom movement in relation to the American political landscape, insurgent
black power movements, and advise the civil rights leadership on tactics and strategy in the pursuit of the struggle for
equality.
The rise of contemporary Black Queer theory emerged during the post-civil rights era during the 1980s and the AIDS crisis
and by the early 1990s was being accepted in the academy (Story, 2008). Consequently, during the height of the culture wars
of the 1990s Afrocentric intellectual formations failed to develop the relationships with Black Queer theorists to develop an:
. . . interanimation of these two disciplines-black studies and queer studies whose roots are similarly grounded in
social and political activism and carries the potential to overcome the myopic theorizing that has too often sabotaged
or subverted long-term and mutually liberatory goals. (Story, 2008, p. 54)
For example, from an Africological perspective the same sex phenomenon can be studied in a transgenerational and
intercontinental context in relation to the traditions and customs of African peoples. Same sex marriage operates in an
African context and pre dates the arrival of Christianity and Islam and does not have to fall into the pitfall of the norma-
tivity of Western rhetorical knowledge structures (Feigenblatt, 2010; Igbanoi, 2011). More specically, it would provide an
opportunity to engage the concepts of Michel Foucault and his position that the sexual history of the West was related to
the increasing power of the State over the human body and for hundreds of years since the European dark ages pressuring
populations to conform to heterosexual norms to the extent that torture and imprisonment were utilized (Jackson, 2003a).
Correspondingly, postcolonial/post civil rights/post Apartheid discourses have missed an opportunity to engage with the
structures of knowledge imposed by conquerors, missionaries, and academics over their indigenous populations and now
are vulnerable to borderline bio-essentialist and psychoanalytic theories long discredited in the West (Feigenblatt, 2010).
For instance, the racist, sexist critique of South African runner Caster Semenya being subjected to gender testing for not
appearing feminine enough despite the fact that such exams had been abolished in the mid-1990s and research shows
that 1 in 1000 people are born intersexual whereby the individuals anatomy does not t the typical medical denitions of
male and female (The Guardian, 23, August 2009).

7. Conclusion

In closing, despite development critiques of the Afrocentric meta theory and Afrocentricity, it nonetheless still functions
as an effective and direct counternarrative to the hegemonic power of Eurocentric structures of knowledge that poses as
universal and classic in relation to other alternative forms of knowledge and remains open to engagement with other libratory
discourses (Jackson, 2003b). However, despite some hypercritical assessments of Afrocentricity future areas of investigation
in relation to communication studies may include and are not limited to: spatial and temporal developments of African
people in relation to technology, ecological problems, and the intense urbanization of contemporary life throughout Africa
and its diaspora.
More recently, Asante has continued to build upon his body of work in relation to Afrocentricity and personal biography.
For example Asantes (2007) book An Afrocentric Manifesto clearly delineates the distinctions between Africology, Afrocen-
tricity and Afrocentric metatheory, the text also questions the norms and customs that reect the processes of market
economies and global institutions developed to maintain Eurocentric hegemonic perspectives inhibiting African intellectual
praxis. Yet, the limitations of the manifesto are in the area of the relationship between technology and culture, and explicitly
looking at how contemporary digital media may inuence or shape intercultural communication that challenges traditional
modes of representation.
Furthermore, scholars and lay readers potentially gain substantial insight into the worldview of Asante in his (2011)
memoir As I Run Toward Africa that in some respects parallel the earlier accounts of African diaspora intellectuals such
as Langston Hughes or W.E.B. Dubois in relation to their own experiences with Africa. For example Asante recounts the
experience of growing up in a tight knit African American community in Georgia as one of sixteen children that would live
the experiences of Jim Crow segregation, the civil rights era and the post World War II Bandung generation encountering
many of the leaders and personalities that would intellectually and politically impact the world.
On the whole, the corpus of work produced by Mole Kete Asante is and will continue to be assessed by future scholars
for its audacity and areas of improvement in relation to the continued evolving nature of Africans, and their diaspora with
respect to human inquiry. In relation to his appreciation of the study of intercultural communications and communications
studies Asante notes:
I think that the work of Ronald Jackson, Robert Shuter, Yoshitaka Miike, and Erika Vora resonate with me in inter-
cultural communication because they have personal stories to tell that make our narratives of truth fuller, more lush,
and substantive. I am really inuenced by everyone that I read and everything that I see and each day brings more
appreciation of the depth of the human experience. (Personal correspondence, 2011)
However, problems with regard to Afrocentric epistemology will continue to arise due to interpretations and misleading
representations of the discipline and criticisms that Afrocentricity has not adequately focused on other areas of academic

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inquiry (Jackson). Therefore, it is incumbent upon future scholars to continue to interrogate and expand on the Afrocentric
Idea, Africology and the Afrocentric paradigm. In closing Asante notes:
What has become obvious since the Afrocentric critique of intercultural communication as a fundamentally western
enterprise it has opened the door for other cultural centers to express their own communication values and that
the eld has tended toward a more equitable discourse about both culture and communication. This development
represents a substantial achievement in our eld. (Personal communication, July 1, 2012)

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1
[This list includes all of Asantes major works, including those earlier as A. L. Smith].

Please cite this article in press as: Anderson, R. MolefI Kete Asante: The Afrocentric Idea and the cultural
turn in intercultural communication studies. International Journal of Intercultural Relations (2012),
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