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Practice foundations of Nkrumaism in social systemicity (3)

Kwame Nkrumah12 Dr. Kwame Nkrumah

Sun, 31 Dec 2017 Source: Francis Kwarteng

Prof. Dompere makes some interesting observations about some of the potential benefits of African Studies, including, but not limited to, advancing the cause of making Africa great, improving the material and spiritual conditions of its people, correcting the warped Eurocentric perceptions being bandied about the continent and its people, making Africa equal partners with the other continents in the both the general and specifics of making the world a better place for the teeming generality of humanity, and most significantly, decolonizing the people’s minds to suit their particular agency and cultural location in the enabling topology of international relations. These are noble ideas worth pursuing.

Among these potential benefits however, he concentrates on available avenues for productive research, independent thought and inquiry, and reconstructing the cultural and intellectual continuity between the African past and its present (Obenga, 1996; Diop 1990). Following the framing of these cardinal typologies and what they mean for advancing the cause of African Studies (Africology), Prof. Dompere points to African-centered philosophical consciencism as a living operational concept that delineates a special framalogy of education in advancing “free research and epistemic inquiry to produce knowledge that will support collective progress…” (Dompere, p. 343).

This is, without question, a very potent if not laudable philosophical construct as it underpins the evolving axis of collective decision-choice activities where the resulting transformative character attendant upon the general epistemological understanding of Africa, yields research fruits capable of addressing the “economic, cultural, technological, information, scientific and non-scientific African problems over the categorial enveloping of African progress” (Dompere, p. 343).

The idea promoting independent inquiry and research is meant to delink the rigors of African-centered education from the uncritical mimicry which is the norm in received colonial and neocolonial education. We will therefore make the case that the highly valued vestige of rote learning, a legacy of colonial education, denies the criticality of intellection to the learner. Furthermore, the concept of rote learning is frowned upon by the discursive arguments advanced by Brazilian educational philosopher, Paulo Freiro in his “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” and by the world’s leading Afrocentric scholar, Molefi Kete Asante in his “Revolutionary Pedagogy.” Here is Prof. Dompere’s own take on the matter (Dompere, p. 342):

“The objective of Africanization of the curriculum is to produce a knowledge system with emphasis on thinking rather than simple mimicry of claimed knowledge by foreign knowledge systems and aping of behavior inconsistent with the African way of life.”

He goes further (Dompere, p. 342):

“African-centered knowledge production, education and dissemination of what is claimed to be knowledge must form a continuity of traditions to make education relevant to the masses. The whole education process must be transformative in all aspects of African life and African personality with complete emphasis on creativity and independent thinking.”

To put these epistemic modalities into perspective, we will make the case that emphasis on love for Africa, the pursuit of the organic principles of African humanism and collectivism, and knowledge about Africa are completely lacking in the epistemology of colonial and neocolonial education, but the fact that only Africology seems to provide a critical atmosphere of intellectual democracy under which operationalizing free thinking and independent inquiry becomes a reality, is itself cause for celebration. As he correctly observes (Dompere, p. 350): “The work of African Studies is to create love and knowledge about Africa, adding “It was through this understanding that Nkrumah actively promoted African studies” (see also: Poe, 2017).

What he conceives of as “a unified African conscience in the use of knowledge in the service of Africa, her development and welfare improvement of her people” (Dompere, p. 341) as a foundational philosophical fulcrum of African Studies is not only natural but commonsense. Equally indispensable is the notion that the methodological tentacles of Africology should not be confined by the ever-expanding fields of the social sciences and/or the humanities—painting, musical idioms, the artistry of story-telling, sculpture, musical instruments, symbolisms, proverbs, linguistics, music, dance forms (Welsh-Asante, 1997), etc. Non-ideological disciplines from physics, technology, chemistry, and engineering to mathematics can also benefit from African Studies (Dompere, p. 338; Diop, 1991; Bauval & Brophy, 2013; Asante, 2015).

This fact is extremely important as it helps disabuse the minds of those who are quick to limit the theoretical and methodological span of Africology to the comfortable domains of the social sciences and the humanities, at least as the latter two are seen or conceptualized within the American Academy. Africology is an ever-expanding universe of innovative ideas that derives its strong institutional and epistemic character from cutting-edge research, largely undertaken by a dedicated team of intelligent men and women from around the world, and, given its transnational and international scope and richness of methodological fluidity, critical admirers of the discipline cannot but hope its epistemic reach exceeds expectation in the decades to come.

What then do we make of Prof. Dompere’s observation that the acquisition of true knowledge of pre-colonial Africa is important? We should point out that, like his friend Prof. Asante, Prof. Dompere raises strong objections to romanticizing the Africa past for its own sake. He thinks knowledge acquisition on pre-colonial Africa should primarily go beyond the mere interpretation of that glorious past of Africa, and Africa’s major contributions to human civilization and culture, to include embracing this knowledge and objectively using it “to redefine the essential characteristics of the African collective personality for Africans in decolonized Africa” (Dompere, 346).

“The knowledge of colonized Africa is not to establish Western imperial evil, atrocities, human-rights abuses, terror and other indignities as well as provide a historic account of African experiential information,” Prof. Dompere continues, adding, “but to find out what went wrong, learn from it and teach it to the African masses and her children in order to intellectually arm them to fight against its possible reoccurrence” (Dompere, p. 346). This is exactly what another pre-eminent scholar meant when he wrote pointedly “that studying the past allows us to choose what was good and to avoid what was bad in the past” (Asante, 2017). This is highly commendable.

On the contrary Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka (2000) faulted the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in very strong terms, for doing a shoddy job of holding apartheid criminals to account. South Africa literally let go of many apartheid sympathizers and architects whose atrocious crimes are, to say the least, unprintable, just as it is the case with the legacy of neoslavery (Blackmon, 2009).

Finally, it also bears repeating how interesting it is that the German-sponsored Namibian Holocaust (Olusoga & Erichsen, 2011) which predated the European Holocaust, and Germany’s treatment of European blacks, Africans and African Americans during the European Holocaust (Lusane, 2002), the Belgian slaughter of more than 10 million Africans (Hochschild, 1999), and the unethical experimentation in which African Americans have been the primary laboratory animals (Washington, 2008), have not received the kind of research attention they deserve in African Studies.

ADDITIONAL POINTS FOR CONSIDERATION

Prof. Dompere issues a serious indictment against the curricula of African Studies when he wrote that “In fact, these curriculums at the various institutions of higher learning serve the interests of the neocolonialists and imperialists and not the interests of Africa…They are designed to directly and indirectly control the African collective decision-choice space of African progress…” (Dompere, p. 350).

This is not an indictment anyone should take lightly at all—of course. If indeed the curricula of African Studies are such that they are at the mercy of the interests of neocolonialists and imperialists, then we may have already lost the battle of ideas even before it began. If this is indeed the case, then we must as well begin to submit these curricula to the bonfire of corrective scrutiny and following that, to radically redefine them to fit the operational content of African-centered philosophical consciencism.

Unfortunately Prof. Dompere’s indictment, from our point of view, and from the exclusive point of view of the chapter contents upon which this three-part series is based, is only an “unsubstantiated” generality lacking the critical oversight of empirical specificity with regard to verifiable evidence.

Yet we are still of the strong opinion that Prof. Dompere, a pillar in the fields of African Studies, the sciences/the social sciences and the humanities, and a respected scholar, researcher, economist, mathematician, historian, theorist, and philosopher for that matter, both here in the United States and around the world, could not be making such a serious observation without the moral weight of the far–reaching authority of his research capabilities and wide-ranging topical publications, specific to the human condition in general and to the African world in particular, exerting its impact on the credibility of his resounding scholarship, for, however we tend to look at the present issue, the fact still remains that we need to have a better appreciation of the nature, context and extent to which the contents of these questionable curricula overlap with the imperialist designs of colonial/neocolonial interests.

This is only when we can respond forcefully in terms of radical revision and reorientation of colonial/neocolonial African psychology to match the dictates of African-centered philosophical consciencism. Therefore our view is that though a serious statement of generality, it still bears looking into further and being cured of its Eurocentric bias with all the seriousness it deserves, if that is the case. Again, in looking at this problem we must also seriously examine or question how some of these programs are funded in the first place, because this may go to the heart of the Eurocentric bias of those questionable curricula. This follows the proverbial logic “he who pays the piper calls the tune.”

What we are saying in effect is that funding from questionable sources, especially from imperialist and right-wing sources, can and does undermine or compromise the integrity of independent thought in research activities. It also means that we must learn to fund our own programs and research if we truly want to maintain scientific objectivity and integrity of independent thought in the Africology field. This is what the likes of Asante have done throughout the years.

It is not however in question that foreign aid and reliance on Western paternalism have stifled African ingenuity (Moyo, 2010). We can learn from what international aid has done to African creativity, initiation, and education. We can learn from what international aid has done to African creativity, initiation, and education. Our good friend Dr. Yaw Nyarko, a New York University-based economist and one of the world’s leading economists, has studied the question of foreign aid and also thinks foreign aid is not doing Africa any good (Kwarteng, p. 2014). Prof. Dompere quotes American educator Eicher on the negative impact of foreign on African education (Dompere, p. 350):

“African education is intimately linked with the international aid and education industry, and that the donor/client relationship has inhibited the development of African institutions and the capacity of Africans to develop education policies which are socially relevant and financially feasible, for the last quarter of this century.”

However Prof. Dompere does not end it there, for he argues further that aid-driven and externally controlled curricula designed for African education have never been helpful to Africa, which is why he believes we can find solutions to our problems without the benefits of paternalism and external dependency “to affirm the meaning and content of independence” (Dompere, p. 350).

This is how, he asserts, the study of science, mathematics, and other disciplines can acquire their African essence for the purpose of improving the enterprise of nation-building as was the case in African traditions (Dompere, p. 351; Asante, 2000). He is also right to assert that “no area of knowledge production, research, teaching and learning can be exempted. Scientific knowledge in terms of empirical and axiomatic information structures is not acquired for its own sake but must be made relevant to Africa’s progress, nation building, efficiency of administration, and Africa’s defense…” (Dompere, p. 341). We wrote not too long ago, a commentary in retrospective support of Prof. Dompere’s ideas as described in the preceding statements, that (Kwarteng, 2014; Eglash, 1999):

“…Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Dr. Ron Eglash, a science and technology studies professor, cyberneticist, and mathematician, has demonstrated how ‘African fractals’ (binary system), practiced via geomancy, arrived in Europe, became part of European mathematics, then, later, how the works of German mathematician Gottfried W. Leibniz, George Boole, and John von Newmann on ‘African fractals’ transformed an influential African idea to what we call today ‘computer.’”

Those of us who have studied Boolean algebra, set theory, linear programming and advanced network flow, and computer science appreciate the magnitude and significance of Dr. Eglash’s work. This Eglash’s example also underscores the fact that we can truly Africanize mathematics, for instance, to solve engineering, scientific, and technological problems peculiar and indigenous to the African world. Again, this point is eloquently clear from Prof. Dompere’s scientific, mathematical, and philosophical work on categorial conversion, philosophical consciencism, and African Studies (Dompere, p. 338). This point also goes to show the application flexibility of African Studies from the point of view of Prof. Dompere’s lifetime work in the mathematical sciences.

SOME CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES

How should these programs be funded? Who is qualified to fund them? Who should investigate Prof. Dompere’s indictment against those problematic curricula? What is the central role for Prof. Dompere’s awakened intelligentsia in all these? Surely, we may have to get some answers to these working questions even as we contemplate the complete Africanizing of these programs.

We still have to explain to these shameless detractors of the progress of the African world that Africology has chalked several positives since Maulana Karenga’s writings on the subject burst onto the intellectual scene (Karenga, 1994) and Asante created the first doctoral program in the field, coupled with issuing a string of thoughtful, successful publications on Afrocentric theory. Asante’s work eventually laid the theoretical foundation for the field (Asante, 1990). The theory’s impact on the social sciences cannot be underestimated (Monteiro-Ferreira, 2015). Eurocentrism is on a path to extinction on account of the advent of Afrocentricity (Asante, 2005). As Asante, the man Cornel West has referred to as “a seminal thinker” and “a living legend,” recalls Diop telling him when they first met in Africa: “Africa needs no defence, it only needs to be advanced. Go out and advance Africa" (Asante, 2004).

On the important question of Africanizing these programs, we must anticipate culture war and fierce opposition from native agents, admirers and lovers of colonialism and neocolonialism, internal enemies of African progress. There are those who will, for instance, say Africanizing these programs will culminate in the abject corruption or devaluation of education. It happened to Nkrumah. It happened to Molefi Kete Asante too. And it is likely bound to happen again and again.

That means we must have answers ready for these agents of colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism. For instance, when the Dean of the Social Sciences at Temple University, Emma Lapsansky, authored a two-page letter denouncing the establishment of what she called “intellectual ghetto,” Prof. Asante responded by saying “the entire university was already one big intellectual ghetto and I was only trying to open it up” (Asante, 2015).

That was an intelligent riposte to a colonial and neocolonial agent in all of its manifestations of blatant truthfulness, as well as to black conservatives such as Thomas Sowell (Hall & Asante, 2010). The Dean deserved it as she asked for it. Her rooming-in-the-house theatrics and uninformed resistance to African-centered agency ruffled the moral conscience of Africa’s intellectual self-determination, threatening the agency of the African world. These are the kinds of Benedict-Arnold detractors who have rejected the principles of Maat for their own selfish interests, in the service of blissful ignorance. Rejecting Maat is contrary to the values of African traditions (Dompere, p. 335).

Maat is the driving conscience of Afrocentric theory, representing the kind of antithesis of and warped thinking which Lapsansky represents. Karenga’s work (2006) on Maat is one of a kind.

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS

In the end Africology should not only be sharply critical of colonial, neocolonial education and Eurocentric arrangements of knowing and thinking alone, but also of the African world at large. We need not be biased with regard to this overriding burden of responsibility and accountability. That is the only way we can advance the field. This is not to say philosophical consciencism holds the key to all the problems the African world faces. This fact is underscored by the fact that the concept of philosophical consciencism is an innovative self-correcting mechanism with enough room to allow for updating its inventory of solution options from the space of decision-choice activities. “…Philosophical consciencism presents a principle of never-ending problem-solving and problem-generating activities in nature and society,” he writes (Dompere, p. 336).

Even so we must protect the moral conscience of African Studies from the corruption of imperialist designs, and from the Eurocentric infectivity of the latter’s local supporters and black conservatives, while using the platform which the discipline offers to tackle religious/Islamic terrorism, famine, sexism and gender inequality, environmental pollution, political corruption, resource curse, political conflicts, unemployment, poverty, racism and ethnic chauvinism, bad governance, racial profiling and the prison-industrial complex (Alexander, 2012), and social injustice across the African world. Afrocentric theory has a lot to offer in terms of tackling these problems (Mazama, 2007; Diop, 2000; Wilson, 2000).

This is also where and why researchers, curriculum developers, and theoreticians in the field of African Studies must consider coming up with sensitive programs such as Yale’s Genocide Studies Program, designed to look into the first Holocaust (the genocide of South West Africa, present-day Namibia) in particular and other colonial and contemporary potential cases of genocide across the African world (Kiernan, 2009), the causes and potential causes of conflicts and political instability across the African world, and whether diseases such as Ebola, HIV/AIDS (Hooper, 1999), and Zika virus disease are botched outcomes of clinical or scientific experiments possibly resulting from scientific racism or are actual disease states with natural epidemiological expressions. We are not talking about conspiracy theories (Maathai, 2010), but rather about the serious question of scientific inquiry. Listen to Nobel Laureate Wangarai Maathai’s 2004 Time magazine interview, for instance (Tragardh, Witoszek, & Taylor, 2013):

“I have no idea who created AIDS and whether it is a biological agent or not. But I do know things like that don’t come from the moon. I have always thought that it is important to tell people the truth, but I guess there is some truth that must not be too exposed.”

These questions, of course, do not always enjoy the discursive aroma of explicit elucidation in some of the important works published in the field of African Studies per se yet are, certainly, implied corollaries in some of the major academic works and peer-reviewed papers published in the field (Dompere, p. 350) and not necessarily in the field (Washington, 2008; Olusoga & Erichsen, 2011).

Let us also quickly add that African Studies literary scholars, researchers, philosophers, and critical theorists should venture into film criticism as well with the productions of Hollywood and African movie (Nollywood) producers and filmmakers as their main focus, to critique and correct the racist and negative stereotypical depictions of African peoples, culture, and history. In this context we need to celebrate and critique the works of highlife musician, film director, and actor Ugezu J. Ugezu for exporting traditional African culture to the world through his repertoire of classic traditional filmography. But we need to get rid of the name “Nollywood” first then replace it with an authentic eponymous African name, to show the world we really mean serious business since an authentic African filmography has a different cultural, philosophical, and epistemic focus from Hollywood, that African filmography will not be another monstrous cultural Frankenstein like Hollywood. Most importantly, Hollywood has never been friendly to the African world.

African Studies must therefore speak to the lack of African-centeredness in the scripts for African filmography, as well as speak for the world at large, as African humanity arguably represents the moral conscience of our spiritual evolution and genetic journey. This is why we need to revive the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute. Just like Nkrumah, Prof. Dompere makes a forceful argument that the neocolonial mindset of the African is inimical to his developmental existence.

This calls for converting the colonial/neocolonial mindset of the African to an African-centered mindset among others, to serve the existential needs of Africa as Nkrumah had intended the situation to be. He set up the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute for this very reason. Then, what the American scholar Woodson called “the miseducation of the negro” must not have a place in African Studies whatsoever (Woodson, 2017). Prof. Dompere shares his deep understanding of this issue when he writes (Dompere, p. 337):

“The current curriculums of African studies in various institutions of higher learning are geared towards producing knowledge that serves the interest of neocolonialists and imperialists and not the interest of Africa. These curriculums are developed under the controls and epistemic directions of neocolonialist and imperialist Eurocentric philosophical consciencism and not with the guidance of African-centered philosophical consciencism which holds the center and stability of the African conscience.”

As a matter of ideological and scientific urgency, radical curriculum revolution and revision in African Studies should begin with this bold statement of fact! This statement should be the template for that revolution embodied in philosophical consciencism and for turning those possibilities inherent in the categorial conversion of the colonial and neocolonial mindset of the African into an African-centered one.

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Columnist: Francis Kwarteng