Uncivil War

Inside the Years-Long Battle Over the Future of Afrocentricity and Its Place in the Black Studies Renaissance

For his part, Asante maintains that the department's downfall was a university conspiracy.

"We believe that Joyce was going to be the instrument that was going to dismantle the Afrocentric idea," Asante told me.

As far as the efforts to have Joyce removed from the department, the issue is moot. Joyce has been invited to join the women's studies department at Temple. The university asked African American studies to choose its next chair from within the department. Realizing the high stakes, Asante nominated himself as a candidate. That stratagem failed, but Asante currently appears to be friendly with Nathaniel Norment Jr., a nine-year veteran of the department who was recently named. With Joyce out of the way and with one of the old guard Afrocentrists at the helm, perhaps Asante can finally get his groove back.

Former Temple University African American studies chair Joyce Ann Joyce: Attacks against her began when she was picked to replace Molefi Asante.
Photograph by Tara Engberg
Former Temple University African American studies chair Joyce Ann Joyce: Attacks against her began when she was picked to replace Molefi Asante.

When asked what the future holds for his creation, Asante remains optimistic about the department and more importantly the future of his Afrocentric theory: "The future of Afrocentricity is that in order for those departments [such as Berkeley and Harvard] to be legitimate and justify their existence, they will eventually have to be Afrocentric. Because if you don't study African phenomena from the standpoint of Black people as agents, then from whose point of view are you studying them?"

Whether or not Temple's African American studies can make a comeback, those sharing the African-centered perspective are banking on its survival by distancing the message from the messenger.

"There is a future for Afrocentricity," says Joyce. "But not for that word. Some of the things that Asante proposes are very legitimate, but because the word has become so negative, because the word has become connected to him, and because he has manifested so much negative behavior, the word has lost all of its fervor, all of its sincerity, all of its power.'

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