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African American Studies

The Discipline and Its Dimensions

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Nathaniel Norment, Jr.

African American Studies: The Discipline and Its Dimensions is a comprehensive resource book that recounts the development of the discipline of African American Studies and provides a basic reference source for sixteen areas of knowledge of the discipline: anthropology, art, dance, economics, education, film, history, literature, music, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, political science, science and technology, sports and religion. African American Studies defines bodies of knowledge, methodologies, philosophies, disciplinary concepts, contents, scope, topics scholars have concerned themselves, as well as the growth, development, and present status of the discipline. African American Studies validates that African American Studies is a unique and significant discipline—one that intersects almost every academic discipline and cultural construct—and confirms that the discipline has a noteworthy history and a challenging future. The various bodies of knowledge, the philosophical framework, methodological procedures, and theoretical underpinnings of the discipline have never been clearly delineated from an African-centered perspective.

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8. African American Philosophy

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CHAPTER 8

African American Philosophy

Nyansapo “Wisdom knot” Symbol of wisdom, ingenuity, intelligence and patience

The African Antecedent

The intellectual discourse centered on the idea of African and African American philosophy has gained much attention in recent years, within both the traditional and academic dimensions of the Black radical tradition. The development of a distinct field of Africana philosophy in the academy has deep roots in the works of scholars such as Alain Leroy Locke, who has been succeeded by a cadre of scholars (Kwame Anthony Appiah, Bernard Boxill, Lucius Outlaw, Leonard Harris, Angela Davis, Joy James, Howard McGary, Lewis Gordon, Maulana Karenga, Joyce Cook, George Yancy, Paul Taylor, Kwame Gyekye, Kathryn Gines, Tommy Lott, Namoi Zack, Cornel West) representing the Pan-African world. Out of this cadre, there have been a number of attempts to understand and map the broad contours of what the term Africana philosophy essentially designates. Much of this work has been aimed at proving the existence of an African philosophy; we now understand that there are clear instances of the existence of a “philosophizing” tradition among African people. What can be called “Africana philosophy” is situated within a deep well of African intellectual traditions. The tasks of scholars in Africana Studies then becomes articulating the historical and cultural contexts of these antecedent systems of thought, as well as tracing the continuities of these traditions where African people have been dispersed. This process allows Africana Studies...

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