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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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13. African American Art

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CHAPTER 13

African American Art

Nkyimu “Crossed divisions-printing” Symbol of skillfulness, precision

The African Antecedent

African Art generally is not just aesthetic or personal expression. It embodies religion, politics, philosophy, ritual, craft, symbol, and individual expression. It is a continual acknowledgement of larger existences, whether as a group or as a spiritual whole of which the artists are a part.1 Visual art has had its place in the cultural logic of African peoples since the origin of humanity. In an African context, the use of art as an explanatory medium, as a tool of memory, and as a cultural footprint are central to a specific group’s capacity to make meaning. The investigation of the long history of art production in African societies is a laborious, yet essential task for any scholar who seeks to analyze African art’s essential meaning. Cultural continuity through the vehicle of visual art is as essential to understanding a society or ethnic group as any other area such as a belief system or political institution. In fact, much of the art that is produced is inextricably linked to these ideals. The connection of African art to an ‘aesthetic’ tradition grounded in the cultural unities in Africa contributes to an understanding of the intellectual progenitors of modern art produced by African descended peoples. It allows us to view a Romare Bearden as the torchbearer for Ki-Kongo cosmogony as opposed to analyzing his work on some other...

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