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Cheikh Anta Diop: The consummate intellectual and the future of Africa

Wed, 20 Apr 2016 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

REVIEWER (2009): FRANCIS KWARTENG

BOOK TITLE: “CHEIKH ANTA DIOP: AN INTELLECTUAL PORTRAIT”

AUTHOR (2007): DR. MOLEFI KETE ASANTE

It does not actually constitute a wide stretch of the human imagination to assert the currency or primacy of Afrocentric theory in contemporary scholarly discourse on serious questions relating to the classical world, and its intellectual force in providing Africans with a legitimate claim to the ownership of the intellectual and cultural legacy of ancient Egypt.

As a matter of fact, a sea of red ink had already been expended in the past century or so in the international debate over the racial constitution of the ancient Egyptians and about their phantom heirs at law, as well as the tireless yet indispensable efforts of honest scholars, such as Drs. Cheikh Anta Diop and Molefi Kete Asante, to pedestalize the ancient Egyptians and their unparalleled cultural and intellectual achievements, as part of the endless battle to expropriate this covetous legacy for Africans, unquestionably the rightful owners of this most productive and influential of ancient civilizations.

Moreover, it is our opinion that by commission or omission the West has committed one of the most egregious intellectual crimes in human history when it belittles the Ancient Egyptians' massive contributions to human civilization, either by bastardizing their advanced culture or by usurping their cultural supremacy in favor of the ancient Greeks' or of UFOs' employing the flimsiest of excuses or glossy evidence, or both. Again, it is our opinion that the West has purposefully done this on a cultural dais of barefaced arrogance, of feigned ignorance of alternate prismatic methodology (i.e. the theory of Afrocentricity) for plumbing ancient Egyptian civilization, and of ruthless confutation of significant contributions put forth by other outstanding scientific thinkers such as Diop, Asante, et al.

Therefore it should come as no surprise to inquisitive and cautious minds that many germane books, that purport to speak eloquently to the classical world would be authored to serve jointly as a corrective to the gross misinterpretation and misguided claims advanced largely by Eurocentric scholars and their ilk, in relation to the contentious ancient Egyptians' historical legacy, in the Levant in particular, and the world at large. One such book is Dr. Molefi Kete Asante's “Cheikh Anta Diop: An Intellectual Portrait,” an elephantine project that received the spiritual imprimaturs of Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade and ex-President Thambo Mbeki of South Africa.

In “Cheikh Anta Diop: An Intellectual Portrait,” Dr. Asante, a brilliant theoretician and a leading exponent of Afrocentricity, assumes the difficult task of carrying lay persons and scholars alike along a long and meandering journey into the complicated depths of the mind of one of the most important and intellectually prolific thinkers of the twentieth-century, Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop, a world-class scientist (see Curtis Alexander’s book “Cheikh Anta Diop: An African Scientist”), polymath and humanist. Dr. Asante focuses on:

* The impact of rich cultural traditions on the evolution of Diopian thought via the long history of familial erudition placed at the disposal of the young Diop; Diop's proximate ten-year study at the bastion of the French Academy, Sorbonne, and the institution's conferment of a doctorate on him as an Egyptologist, after his work with great European physicists, social scientists, scientists, and chemists; the creation of Presence Africaine as a useful instrument for disseminating Dr. Diop's (and others') ideas; the placental effusion of Diopian ideas into the intellectual banquets of African and Diasporan scholars; Dr. Diop’s and Dr. Theophile Obenga's forceful and successful argument carried out at the 1974 UNESCO-moderated symposium in dissolving the umbilical cord marrying Africa's otherwise “intact” intellectual and cultural immune system and the calculating infectivity of the Eurocentric virus;

* Dr. Diop's ideologically radical and rhetorical refraction from Leopold Sedar Senghor's grandfatherly stance on the question of French colonialism in Senegal, and Senghor's unforgivable denial of university lectureship to him (Dr. Diop); and hence the latter's generous offer of pedagogic tutelage to inquiring infantile minds outside university walls.

* Dr. Diop's extensive and impressive panorama of expertise from Egyptology, linguistics, archaeology, sociology, mathematics, physics, philosophy, history, political economy, radio-carbon dating, to literature; his unprecedented multidisciplinary approach to the study of ancient Egypt and other African classical civilizations, that is, human civilization, the essential conclusions he drew from them, and their express utility in modern African state formation.

* The portrayal of Dr. Diop as a corporal phenomenon and a family man, and again, of Dr. Diop as a redoubtable concatenation of the paradoxical elements of a concrete Garveyite, of a concrete Duboisian, of a concrete Fanonian, of a concrete Rodneyite, at least in his uncompromising indictment of the West for blanching the ancient Black Egyptians as well as for insidiously implanting a culturally-engineered metastatic cataract in Africa's eye, via the West's insinuating a form of wooden cultural imperialism into Africa's optical blood capillaries that feed her mind's eye, thereby starving the eye of needful aboriginal cultural vitamins and resulting in Africa being locked up into a tight knot of cognitive dissonance, as well as being blinded almost to the point where it hardly sees beyond the ephemeralness of whiteness, beyond the paradoxical juxtaposition of whiteness and blackness, and beyond its own uncritical endorsement of cultural miscegenation, even as he [Dr. Asante] makes a titanic case against Dr. Diop's brash detractors from branding him a racist; Dr. Asante then proposes in later pages the pragmatic utility of Afrocentric theory in excising cultural and psychological parallax of this nature in African peoples from the cultural and intellectual DNA of their worldviews;

* Dr. Diop's unfinished business to divest Europe of her racist cloth implicated with the thread of providential paternalism, which, sadly enough, had already been gifted to Africa 500 years previously, a position that appeared a sham to him [Dr. Diop], and how he believed this to have been a cautiously crafted political stratagem on the part of Europe to milk Africa of her abundant natural resources to fill the empty stomachs of her mammoth industries, and concluding that this had provided the West with what it wrongly perceived as a divine mission to simultaneously demonize African peoples and their preexisting cultural and political institutions and in addition, to salvage Africa from the supposedly harmful corollaries arising from her institutions' imminent geologic implosion.

For this the West had concocted the afore-cited pretexts, he [Dr. Diop] believed, and, accordingly, had anesthetized her ramshackle conscience against the possible reverberatory implications of the scandalous crimes it would later perpetrate against Africa with utter sang-froid, and for which Dr. Diop designed a model scaffolding of political consciousness to exorcise later generations of African peoples from the deleterious effects of racism, as the first step toward intraracial pridefulness along with intraracial amalgamation, and then, second, toward the unification of Black Africa under a multiethnic umbrella of political and economic solidarity, with fully fledged non-eleemosynary civic institutions to address it [Africa] needs;

* How African leaders, scholars, and Pan-Africanists are seriously debating the theoretical actuality and empirical plausibility of the preceding questions, and if so, how to make urgent use of them as part of the crucial template for modern African state formation;

* Dr. Diop's momentous trip to America and the stately honor granted him by the erstwhile mayor of Atlanta, Mr. Andrew Young, captured also by Dr. Ivan Van Sertima (and Larry Williams) in his book “Great African Thinkers: Cheikh Anta Diop”;

* A summary account of the Afrocentric paradigm and its subterranean Diopian strata are unveiled and analytically belabored; how Afrocentricity is helping delineate and guide the international debate on the centrality of Africa, both in resolving her own problems and in shaping her destiny, and, also, on Afrocentricity's huge success in encouraging Africa and Africans to peripherize the sinister efforts by others to define and proctor it; and, lastly, on Africa terminating her assigned subservient role as the West's chief amanuensis (see Zizwe Poe’s book “Kwame Nkrumah’s Contribution to Pan-African Agency: An Afrocentric Analysis” for Nkrumah’s contributions to the theory of Afrocentricity);

* How the success of Afrocentricity will be calibrated in the new African state (continental) by its ability to hold the West and itself [the continental African state] to moral accountability and by its ability to subject its corrupt African androids to the pillory of acid justice for Africa's continuing destabilization and reckless plundering of her resources, and why Afrocentricity will not stand up for the West's principal role in the moral and divinatory essentializing of the exploitative economic activities going on in the outwardly-imposed harelip on Africa as its divine-inspired pretext for Africa’s survival and sustenance.

In the final analysis, then, Afrocentricity offers African peoples a goodly dose of centripetal imperativeness for a harmonious collectivization of the continent’s ostensibly disparate socio-cultural, economic, and political interests, without which the imminent collapse of Africa within the fragile walls of internecine cannibalizing of her very survival could still remain a tangible material possibility. Afrocentricity is therefore a necessary paradigm for African peoples to appropriate and to put to immediate use in maintaining a firm purchase on the breast of life.

* And, finally, Dr. Diop's enduring legacy seen in the metempsychosis of his ideas in the psychic universes of his lay admirers and intellectual protégés alike, and typified by the multifaceted investigations carried out across the world into Africa's antiquity and this, across an unbroken continuum of sound academic and scientific research since his fateful demise.

Understandably, Dr. Asante also brings a firsthand familiarity with traditional African political and cultural institutions, an intimate knowledge of the body of work done on ancient Africa by leading Continental African scholars themselves and warehoused there [Africa], his close friendships with both Dr. Diop's nuclear physicist-son Cheikh M'Backe Diop, and his polymath colleague Dr. Theophile Obenga, another world-class historian, Egyptologist and linguist, plus his [Dr. Asante’s] fruitful social interactions with a coterie of contemporaneous political associates and former students of Dr. Diop's, to bear on the exegesis of Diopian intellectual portraiture and finally, on filling up the many fossae located in our collective memory, even as we attempt to cleave the Einsteinian-Imhotepian Siamese component to the man's [Dr. Diop’s] mind in order to effortlessly atomize his labyrinthine ideas into readily digestible and straightforwardly absorbent forms, paving the way for the possible material realization of his outrageously sweeping theoretizations about the necessity for African peoples to build competent institutions to serve continent’s spiritual and physical needs, an obvious attempt to undermine the West's persistent notional rationalization of Africa's intellectual ineptitude with the methodological incessantness of his [Dr. Diop’s] pointed allusions to the grand ingenuity of the ancient Black Egyptians whose unequalled material, cultural and intellectual civilization provided the spiritual, intellectual, and material roadmap for ancient Greek civilization and the world itself.

Yet, we must applaud Dr. Asante for his priceless methodological circumspection and philosophical success in detailing the complexity of delayering the rarefied fasciae to the man's [Dr. Diop’s] intellectual persona and of negotiating the serrated contours of Diopian scholarship, eventually avoiding, among other measures, the temptation to easily slip across the sleek countenance of a steep incline into another fosse of grandiose bouillabaisse of racist assertions, or to inferiorize other non-African civilizations, if we can put it that way. In fact, Dr. Asante's sophisticated antiquarian exegesis stations all classical civilizations on a plinth of cultural parity, an admirable feat in and of itself. This is conspicuously exemplified by his total lack of knee-jerk intellectualism and maudlinism in his vigorous interpretation of Dr. Diop’s complex intellectual profile and Diopian scholarship in general.

In the final analysis, he takes Dr. Diop's crocodilian critics to task, exposes then shreds their largely uneducated and uninformed dinosaurian theses into smithereens of inane arguments, putting these diehard critics to eternal rest. Lastly, the breadth of the bibliography and methodological muscularity of evidence he marshaled to explicate certain features of Dr. Diop's ideas will leave readers' mouth agape.

With this powerful book Dr. Asante surgically deflates the bubble of conspiracy to subject Dr. Diop's ideas to intellectual euthanasia, or, in other words, to intellectual ostracism on a purgatorial island a galaxy away from the major centers of gravity of intense scientific investigation into Africa's antiquity, and therefrom rescues the man [Dr. Diop] yet again, masterfully, from virtual obscurity into the welcoming embrace of collegiate radiance across the world. Now the man [Dr. Diop] and his ideas are alive again thanks to Dr. Molefi Kete Asante's foresight.

CONCLUSION

The book “Cheikh Anta Diop: An Intellectual Portrait” is an excellent summary for undergraduate and graduate students (and lay readers) who need an introductory portrait of Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop’s intellectual evolution and scientific accomplishments in the spheres of comparative linguistics and religion, Egyptology, political economy, classical scholarship and ancient history in general, anthropology (cultural and physical), sociology, the theory of evolution and migration studies, economics, critical theory, the theory of Afrocentricity, mathematics, physics, and so on.

Thus, we will implore our readers to read more about Dr. Diop’s “melanin dosage test,” for instance; and his translation of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity into his native Wolof. Dr. Diop translated this aspect of Einstein’s theory into his native language, Wolof, at the time leading Western scholars were claiming no native African was developed or sophisticated enough to develop complex ideas such as philosophy. The late Sinologist Martin Bernal and classical historian George James and Theophile Obenga (and numerous scholars, including Dr. Asante) have showed that the word “philosophy” has no etymological exegesis in the Greek language. These readers can consult those of our essays that have already covered these scholars and their works on these complex topics or subject matters in some appreciable detail.

But, having said this, there is yet more to come in the near future. Dr. Diop's eagle-eyed detractors and admirers should stay tuned, for most of his books and scientific papers still remain untranslated from French. We can only hope that when these works finally appear in English they do not trigger, but should rather stimulate more interest in promoting the commonality of our humanity, a quiescent geyser of simmering angst from expectorating its deadly elements into the already highly charged ongoing intellectual debate engendered by his brand of intellectual putschism, a methodological approach with a direct relation to the revolutionary restoration of Black Africa to the pinnacle of human intellectual and cultural excellence.

This is what the American-based Molefi Kete Asante Institute for the Study of Afrocentricity has set out to do. Dr. Asante also set up the Annual Cheikh Anta Diop International Conference/The Diopian Institute of Scholarly Advancement (DISA) to pursue this noble objective. DIAS honors scholars, researchers and writers who pen the profoundest papers and books with the Cheikh Anta Diop Award. As an aside, renaming the University of Dakar as Cheikh Anta Diop University is in order. The man and his French supporters built one of the most sophisticated radio-carbon dating laboratories in the world, which he manned and from where he conducted most of his revolutionary and transformative intellectual legacy.

The man had/has a few peers in both the 20th and 21st centuries among the world’s influential thinkers. Let us all celebrate him then!

ON A FINAL NOTE

Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC) houses the so-called “Nkrumah Papers” which includes Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s correspondences with Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop (readers who are interested in the subject matter can also consult Dr. Zizwe Poe’s book “Kwame Nkrumah’s Contribution to Pan-African Agency: An Afrocentric Analysis” for further information).

MAJOR BOOKS BY DR. CHEIKH ANTA DIOP

• “The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality.”

• “Civilization or Barbarism: An Authentic Anthropology.”

• “Pre-colonial Black Africa: “A Comparative Study Of The Political And Social Systems Of Europe And Black Africa, From Antiquity To The Formation Of Modern States.”

• “Black Africa: The Economic And Cultural Basis For A Federated State.”

• “The Cultural Unity Of Black Africa: The Domains Of Patriarchy And Of Matriarchy In Classical Antiquity.”

• “Nations Negres Et Culture”

• “Anteriorite Des Civilisations Negres”

ABOUT DR. MOLEFI KETE ASANTE

Dr. Asante is Professor and Chair, Department of African-American Studies at Temple University. He graduated from Oklahoma Christian College (1964) and went on to obtain his master’s (MA) at Pepperdine University (1965) and then a doctorate at UCLA (1968), aged 26. He was appointed full professor (the State University of New York, Buffalo) at the age of 30. He also co-founded the “Journal of Black Studies” (with Robert Singleton). He and Dr. Ama Mazama, the current Graduate Director of African-American Studies at Temple University, co-edit this journal.

Dr. Asante created the world’s first Ph.D. program in African-American Studies (1987), as well as having directed at least 140 Ph.D. dissertations. He is the author of almost 80 books as well as of more than 550 articles and articles published in scholarly journals, magazines and books around the world. Dr. Asante is the founder of the theory of Afrocentricity. Among other honorary labels, he has been widely described as “One of the 100 Leading Thinkers in America,” “Asante may be the most important professor in Black America,” “one of the twelve top scholars of African descent” (the African Union)…

In 1995 he was made a traditional king, Nana Okru Asante Peasah, Kyidomhene of Tafo, Akyem, Ghana….His autobiographical book “As I Run Toward Africa: A Memoir” is a must-read.

NOTE

Readers should go to asante.net and read more about Dr. Molefi Kete Asante and his work.

BOOKS ON THE THEORY OF AFROCENTRICITY (ALL BY DR. ASANTE)

• “Afrocentricity: Imagination And Action”

• “Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change”

• “An Afrocentric Manifesto: Toward an African Renaissance”

• “Kemet, Afrocentricity, And Knowledge”

• “The Afrocentric Idea”

• “The Painful Demise of Eurocentrism: An Afrocentric Response To Critics”

• “Afrocentricity”

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis