On Aesthetic Reasoning In Africana Studies (& Clyde Taylor)

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Josh Myers {Washington, District of Columbia}

"Whatever is 'lost' by the abandonment of aestheticism would be more than regained in the wider pursuit of cultural liberation."
-- Clyde Taylor(1)

What Jacob Carruthers designates as African deep thought(2) is generated, stabilized, and inscribed in ways that reveal its power, but also its cunning. Its character, its feelings, the expressions of it, often defy the normative bounds of languages which were not created to comprehend its essence--and often it is these very languages which limit the potency of this tradition. Such is the dilemma of the writing and conceptualizing of Africa via the cultural lens of the West. And such is the dilemma of concepts generated from this cultural lens to explain the phenomena of African culture--defined here as what African people do based on what they have always done. Memories of which are passed down by way of language: written and performed. And memories of which, that were effectively, though incompletely, cut off for many Africans in the creation of the modern world. Though torn, as Ngugi wa Thiong'o has asserted, it can --no, it must be re-membered anew(3). For it is indeed, as Amilcar Cabral states, the "seed of opposition," but perhaps most saliently, it represents our humanity. And the spaces created to generate conceptual lens subalternated by the logic of African humanity to explain the world must be preserved. Indeed, the worth of Africana Studies to African people must be measured by this very standard.

The idea then that concepts imported from exterior cultural contexts can be effectively Blackened or Africanized should be met with deep suspicion, if not outright rejection. What are our ancestors knew--and what we still know--as mdw ntr, Ifa, or Ubuntu, cannot be easily understood as "hieroglyphics," "African religion," and "Afro-humanism" without grave consequences. Similarly, the notion of "the aesthetic" is one of these well-worked, seemingly innocuous concepts that reveal the facile appropriation and emblematic disempowerment associated with Western concepts applied to African deep thought. Its fate should hang in the balance.

Properly understood, the discipline of Africana Studies relies on its methodological uniqueness. Greg Carr and others have pointed to the question of utilizing methodological techniques that revolve around "African modes of inscription, coding and decoding" as the essential distinguishing factor between it and what have come to be known as the traditional disciplines (or "white studies")(4). Put another way, Africana Studies relies on an African authenticity--ways of organizing and conceptualizing knowledge that is based on the collective wisdom of Africana peoples. Thus, the project of Africana Studies, at the very least questions the intellectual spaces that often visibly and invisibly govern [impose] "academic" understandings of reality. At its most functional, it should develop and apply sensible criteria for conceptualizing matter and phenomena based on an "unbroken genealogy" of African deep thought, in the traditions of thinkers like Martin Delany, Pauline Hopkins, and Jacob Carruthers, among many others. This is important, for the simple reason, that the academy, itself an orchestrated collection of specific intellectual traditions, has "misnamed" the African experience and distorted the meanings of African deep thought. As such, following W.E.B. Du Bois, a useful approach to Africana Studies calls upon the representative thinkers to "conserve" the ways in which our ancestors and their descendants knew(5). This basic first-order idea is at once the force behind, and the terms on which critiques of the category in philosophy, known as "the aesthetic," have been articulated.


The critique of art among African-descended thinkers is not by any stretch of the imagination, a novel pursuit. A useful, though, woefully inadequate starting point is what Alain Locke has conceptualized as "the New Negro Movement" of the 1920s. This moment, largely, the manifestation of different African traditions brought together by a migratory impulse to New York City, saw the flowering of a number of important discussions which prepared the ground for the critique of the aesthetic. Already, Hubert Henry Harrison, a seminal thinker of the era had been developing the tradition of literary criticism, which placed him as a precursor in many respects to the artistic discussions in Du Bois' Crisis and Charles Spurgeon Johnson's Opportunity, which revolved the question of functionality. The younger artists were there also. No discussion of the period is complete without an analysis of the skillful ruminations of Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, and Wallace Thurmond. Their question was simple: What does it mean to do Black art? Of course, the literary critics had asked these same questions. Characterized by Lawrence Jackson, as "the indignant generation," the group which followed the New Negro movement spawned important critiques of Black literature(6). Now we are talking about the work of J. Saunders Redding, Sterling Brown, Nick Aaron Ford, and the authors-turned-critics, like Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. It is here that we find the beginnings and inspiration of that great upsurge in artistic discussion known as The Black Arts Movement.

Dubbed by Larry Neal the "aesthetic and spiritual sister" of the Black Power movement, the Black Arts Movement sought to take the critiques of the previous generation one step further(7). Buoyed by the critic Addison Gayle, Jr. and artists such as Larry Neal, Amiri Baraka, and Sonia Sanchez, it was, as Gayle asserts, "a declaration of war"(8). A war, against the Western standards of acceptance, but more importantly a war to create new standards, responsible to the sensibilities and worldview of African-descended persons throughout the world. Along with Gayle's influential The Black Aesthetic (1971), the many sites of these types of theorizing were in the proliferation of literature in magazines and journals beginning in the mid-1960s. Too numerous to name here, one of the main thinkers associated with the black aesthetic tradition was also the editor of one that was perhaps most widely influential: the Johnson Publications journal, Black World/Negro Digest, the brainchild of Hoyt W. Fuller(9). The idea that black intellectual and cultural ideas should be the epistemological foundation for aesthetic conceptualizations finds theoretical voice in Fuller's contribution in the Gayle-edited The Black Aesthetic. In his "Towards a Black Aesthetic," he posits that critics should be able to write about aesthetics in a way that acknowledges the unique "outside" position of black life within the context of America. This was a world that Fuller believed had its "own sources" ... its own way(10). Along with Fuller, Neal and Gayle were the principal framers of the black aesthetic idea, and their ideas help to clarify the approach to the framing of an alternative. According to Gayle, the principal distinction between the black aesthetic and what could be termed normative Western aesthetics was that it relied on a standpoint of the "problem of the de-Americanization of Black people"(11). As such it did not revolve around elitist notions of beauty and authenticity, but it was premised on cultural ideas that aided humans "in becoming better than they are"(12). In distinction from other ways of knowing, this aesthetic would focus not on "beauty" but "in terms of the transformation from ugliness to beauty"(13). For Gayle and others, this was the purpose of art, a purpose that did not rely exclusively on Western standards. Neal, states it thusly:

Currently these writers [Black Arts movement intellectuals] are re-evaluating western aesthetics, the traditional role of the writer, and the social function of art. Implicit in this re-evaluation is the need to develop a "black aesthetic." It is the opinion of many Black writers, I among them, that the Western aesthetic has run its course: it is impossible to construct anything meaningful within its decaying structure. We advocate a cultural revolution in art and ideas. The cultural values inherent western history must either be radicalized or destroyed, and we will probably find that even radicalization is impossible. In fact, what is needed is a whole new system of ideas(14).

But how do we construct and develop this so-called "Black aesthetic"? Fortunately, Neal does not leave us hanging on the question; his "Some Reflections of the Black Aesthetic" start the importance process of finding standards within African cultures to empower the idea. In this challenge to the normativity and universality of the Western aesthetic ideal, Fuller generates a conceptualization of African cultural memory based on mythoforms which foreground the cultural manifestations among Africans throughout the world (specifically for him, in the United States of America)(15). For Neal and, to a lesser extent, Fuller, these mythoforms constituted the basis for a new consciousness alive in the African-American ghettos that asserted the "beautifulness" of Blackness(16). This period generally known colloquially as the "Black is beautiful" movement signified not a new movement, but only typified the search for signs, ideals, and cultural sanity long underway among African people; a veritable whm msw that necessarily began as soon the suppression of African culture accompanied the system of slavery. Maroonage simply found its way into the theoretical and the abstract(17).

But its truest form was in the practical, the works of the artists themselves, the central actors in this history. Along with voices of critique, they are just as essential. The seminal text here is the edited volume of Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal, Black Fire (1968)(18). Baraka, like others including Askia Toure and Sonia Sanchez would take the ideas generated in the Black Arts Movement to the incipient departments of Black Studies, which were forming around the same time. Africana Studies then is intimately linked to thinkers associated with the Black Arts Movement and theorists of the black aesthetic. As departments began to initially define their identities, it was not thinkers from the social scientists who commanded the students' attention; it was the artists, those representatives of cultural traditions, carriers of culture, and the torchbearers of Africana that they followed(19). Though an important moment, it was, however, just the beginning of the rescues of African intellectual traditions from the theoretical vice grip of the West.


As Africana Studies matured in the 1980s, the discipline entered what Abdul Alkalimat and others termed its "institutionalization phase"(20). Marked by an increased focus on standardization and professionalization, this phase attempted to carve out norms for Africana Studies' theory and methodology. That is, what marks an Africana Studies approach to knowledge as such? How do we know that study or a thinker qualifies as representative of an Africana Studies approach? Closely linked, if not essential to this, was the creation of the first terminal degree program at Temple University in 1988. With a new Ph.D. program in the field, Africana Studies thinkers at Temple had develop answers to this query for if no other reason, to rationalize their existence(21). This required serious confrontation with European and recovery of African knowledges, the former being the dominant lens for the academy, and the latter being the preserve of Africana Studies. A conceptualization known as Afrocentricity was posited as a frame for an Africology, the latter being the lens and the former being the term associated with the study and explanation of African phenomena(22). This was formulated under the auspices of Molefi Kete Asante and the "Temple School of Afrocentricity" as the definitive answer to the question of that which distinguished Africana Studies. As a discipline, it was to be based on the centrality of the African experience as a lens to theorize, explain, and understand phenomena. Though Afrocentricity was not a new concept, its entrance into the academy as a disciplinary construct was forced via the work of Asante and his ilk. The first generations of Ph.Ds in Africana Studies were trained under this aegis. As the disciplinary sharpening of Africana Studies or Africology came to dominate the discourse, the question of aesthetics would appear again in the late '80s and early '90s as "the Temple School of Afrocentricity" would publish a key intervention into the discourse.

Here, the question of whether there could be an African aesthetic was more axiomatic, the larger question for the theorists involved was what actually characterized it. Their answer was The African Aesthetic: Keeper of the Traditions (1993) edited by Kariamu Welsh(23). Much like the heralded attempts by Gayle, Neal, and others in 1971, the Temple School sought to articulate a notion of the aesthetic that was not grounded in Western culture; coupled with the pursuit of a disciplinary Africana Studies that relied on African "high culture" as the base for subsequent permutations of African cultural production(24). This work was predicated on the Afrocentric logic of placing "African ideals and values at the center of their own inquiry"(25).

Providing the foundational statement on this question was Welsh, whose concept of Nzuri was an attempt to operationalize a distinct and African-centered method for critiquing and utilizing artistic creations. Her assumption was simply that in Africana cultural logic, art serves a purpose, and it is from this standpoint that she asserts that Nzuri provides a "general" notion of African aesthetics(26). Nzuri encapsulates seven aspects [meaning, ethos, motif, mode, function, method/technique, and form] given birth by spirit, rhythm and creativity(27). This model was formulated on the basis of Welsh's reading of thinkers like Robert Farris Thompson but also through hands-on work within Africana cultures as a practitioner of dance(28). Following the theoreticians of the previous generation, Welsh asserts the multiplicity of aesthetics, in addition to the Western, dependent on one's "history and mythology"(29). Nzuri was thought to provide the first order roots of an epistemological base for understanding how Africans' in both the general and particular make sense of "the science of perception"(30).

Other contributions from Molefi Kete Asante and Donna Marimba Richards (Marimba Ani) were key attempts to establish, beyond the mere listing of characteristics, methods for viewing Africana culture without the strictures of Western standards and understandings of reality. Asante does so through the formulation of his work within the idea of location theory. "Location Theory and African Aesthetics" asserts that in order to approximate an African sense of aesthetic reasoning one must essentially be "located" within the ideational logic of Africa(31). A challenge for the concept of Afrocentricity is the projection of the idea of location as substituting for the work of actually developing a coherent methodology for substantiating and reifying this ideational logic, and properly connecting it to self-authenticating conceptions of reality. This is an idea explained best in Lafayette Gaston's "Past Afrocentricity"(32).

Marimba Ani gets us closer to a more ideal solution. Richards' "The African Aesthetic and National Consciousness" achieves two broad goals. The first is to understand the fundamental political nature of aesthetics in whatever cultural context they exist. Much like Du Bois, she understands that there must however be explicit political components in order for this philosophical idea to work for African people. As she understands this important idea, much like Neal, she simultaneously critiques the ability of a Western notion of "aesthetic" to fulfill this political need for non-Westerners(33). Like in her acclaimed work, Yurugu, Richards implores us to go beyond the term "aesthetic" itself in order to (re)conceptualize Western knowledge complexes(34). For her, if were are to really tap into the power of African culture as an epistemological point of departure, the "limited conceptual system" of aesthetic reasoning must be discarded(35). In its stead, Richards points to the Kiswahili notion of kugusa mtima, to reorient thinkers to the "focal point of African sensibility" to distinguish African thought from the abstraction of Western theorizing(36). This sort of (re)naming allows us to get closer to the practice of not relying on Western ways of knowing as the point of departure for understanding different categories of thought as they exist in African conceptual system. But it is not a simple changing of the name; it is more importantly, the importation of a new [or old, depending on one's "location"] conceptual system to explain phenomena. In other words, the intervention of Richards in this volume should have began the process of relying on normative qualities of African "deep thought" to orient our discussions on Africana culture. By inserting these ideas into the term "aesthetic" and conceptual logic of aesthetic reasoning, we devalue and strip them of their meaning. Aesthetic reasoning necessarily links African cultural production to an alienating process of Western theorization. Richards' work begins the process of self-determining ways of talking about Africana cultural production that links it only to itself. This important bridgework foregrounds our discussion of Clyde Taylor and his particular contribution to the question of aesthetic reasoning.


It is quite unfortunate and unacceptable that the theoretical intervention of Clyde Taylor's The Mask of Art (1998) has not commanded more attention within Africana Studies. Similar to Richards in the aforementioned contribution to The African Aesthetic, Taylor demonstrates the futility of imposing or filtering a non-Western cultural logic into what is putatively a Western concept. Enlivened by the apt metaphor of "breaking the aesthetic contract," Taylor's work fits into a genealogy of Africana thought that Carruthers' evokes in his metaphor of "breaking the chains" that bound European ideas to African ideas(37). As such it contributes to Africana Studies' attempt to self-define and name itself on its own terms, focused on and expressed by the need to create new categories and conceptual foundations of knowledge on self-determined cultural logic. Taylor, a scholar of literature and film, was able to recognize the need to establish new methodological standards, in a vision reminiscent of the attempt by early Africana Studies scholars to commit "discipline suicide"(38). The resonances are evident. But Taylor, suggests a way out, one based upon the application of a native lens to critiquing art and cultural expression. An Africana Studies that attempts to give credence to an authentic means of understanding phenomena should hold this text up as one of a dwindling number of recent exemplars that provide the way.


The aesthetic is a Western concept. This has been consistently stated, but rarely proven by scholars attempted to break free and/or form alterative to it. In the eloquently constructed chapter of The Mask of Art, "Color Coded Art Theory," Taylor provides a foundation from which to understand its subjectivity. A reading of this chapter would reveal that to suggest that there are just as many "aesthetics" as there are cultures, privileges it as a Western construct, even when this is not the intent. This makes problematic the notion that there can indeed be an "ethno-aesthetics" as "all cultures have standards of beauty and value" as goes the usual cultural relativistic apologetic. The genealogy of the term itself however reveals its effective inapplicability to non-Western subjects(39). After giving this history of aesthetics as a concept, rooted in Enlightenment philosophy, Taylor suggests that:

"Awareness mounts that the aesthetic is an eighteenth-century bourgeois construction (taken from aristocratic beginnings) for the control of knowledge, specifically, of the "beautiful." The central place set aside for the aesthetic experience in the arena of culture is increasingly identified with the ruler-of-the-roost posture assumed by imperial Western knowledge"(40).

Linked to this, of course, were the concomitant political forces of the aesthetic--slavery, colonialism, and other forms of oppression responsible for Richard's "maafa"(41) Others show the link between the Enlightenment, the reputed philosophical source of Western socio-political development, and the philosophical rationalization of Africa's "underdevelopment." But somehow, prior to Taylor, the "function" of the aesthetic as an Enlightenment-era philosophical concept escapes similar critique(42).

The stripping of art, from its "function" in Western society has served to mystify its reality, as well as inform the ways in which other cultures' "aesthetics" are articulated as different. The assumption that, in the West, the aesthetic is based upon the idea of "art for art's sake," simply ignores the conceptual background of the aesthetic, which has at its base much of the same machinations that create and affirm Western ruling-class ideology(43). Even as far back as the Aristotelian notion of "liberal arts," leisure was viewed as essential to rulership--there was no notion of art that was "useless" in our sense of the word(44). In other words, Western art is indeed functional, just as are the theories that critique and categorize it. Clearly then, the simple subversion of the Western aesthetic on the pivot of functionality, does not free one from the normativity of the aesthetic. Quoting scholars such as Laura Knipsis, Taylor reveals that the function of the aesthetic has been to denigrate non-Westerners often for economic and political ends. This has been the chief stumbling block of theorists of "alternative" aesthetics [i.e. Marxist aesthetics, feminist aesthetics, black aesthetics]; their fundamental contradiction is the uncritical use of "aesthetics" to articulate that alternative(45).

Thinkers within Africana Studies must recognize that the concept of aesthetics is bounded by a particular way of viewing the world; what Taylor calls "an ethnic gaze"(46). Only in eighteenth century Europe was it necessary to create a body of knowledge with the responsibilities that the aesthetic captures. With regard to applying this "ruling class" sensibility of aesthetic reasoning to other cultures, Taylor adds that:

"Yet the fallacy of this more modern, supposedly democratic multicultural notion of the aesthetic is epistemological. It needs to be repeated that the distribution of categories of knowledge among different cultures shows no pattern where they overlap around one category devoted to aesthetic knowledge. Instead, evidence shows that protocols of beauty are integrated within other categories in different societies and often are not isolated in any fashion resembling what Western knowledge has defined as the aesthetic"(47).

"Breaking the aesthetic contract" involves discarding aesthetic reasoning, for the foundation of that reasoning almost guarantees the inferiority of "the other." As Taylor puts it, is it possible that those "who could not be considered beautiful according to the dictates of the aesthetic" be producers of the "beautiful"?(48) In Africana Studies, we cannot afford to recreate this aesthetic gaze, a Western gaze, that searches for ways of accessing "beauty" (or ugliness) in African cultures when this "search" itself may not be a readily accessible category of knowledge within Africana cultural logic. Does it make sense to look for beauty in art? Should the critique of value be made explicit? Who is the arbiter of either of these ideas? These questions should not be considered self-evident or basic if African culture is the lens. Along similar lines, Taylor implores us to look both beyond and beneath the aesthetic as an organizing principle, and create ways of understanding how African and African descended cultural production deals with the question of cultural representation(49). It is from this position that Taylor applauds the theorists of "The Black Aesthetic" for challenging the question of universality of Western values, but at the same time failing to "de-essentialize the concepts of art and the aesthetic"(50). That work, which he suggests is also called for by James Emanuel, would involve the rigorous tasks of assembling "criteria for the appreciation of African American cultural works within a self-authenticating aesthetic framework" but also "contributing to a liberative politics of representation," which is articulated outside of "aesthetic discourse" and is applicable to more than one group(51). The preceding undressing of aesthetic discourse reveals why it is necessary to resist the creation of "ethno-aesthetics" that essentially reinscribe the "mother idea" of the West(52). The question now for Africana Studies becomes the method by which to create ways of liberating African thought [not simply "art"] from aesthetic reasoning. Can there by any resolution to this query absent the binary epistemology of whiteness being present to sustain any critique of the alternative "aesthetics" of Africa?

Taylor offers partial resolution through the idea of developing "critiques of representation" lodged in "The Ironies of Majority/Minority Discourse"(53). His rupture suggests looking at representation in arts/culture, though it is limited to only contextualizing the ironies inherent in cultural productions produced under the specter of domination. These different frames reveal the relationship between the author/creator and sources of power, or the West. These "ironic" interpretive frames are(54):

Despotic: from the vantage point of power; this frame looks at the disempowered from an empowered vantage point; (ex. minstrelsy)

Cyclopean: from the vantage point of subordination; this frame looks at the empowered as the standard or valid representations of reality (ex. Clarence Thomas)

Ethiopicist: from the vantage point of power: this frame attempts to identify with the disempowered as a site of empathy or compassion (ex. Genet's The Blacks)

Aesopian: from the vantage point of the subordinated: this frame creates a sense of negotiation; "the speaker in this position attempts to master a language and thematic understandable by the majority while also speaking to affirm the values and interests of the in-house group." (ex. Charles Chesnutt's The Marrow of Tradition)

Achebian: from the vantage point of the subordinated: complete resistance and articulation of an alternative (ex. Toni Morrison's Beloved)

While Taylor extends and explains each "irony of discourse," perhaps it is Achebian irony, explained in a chapter entitled, "The Grammar of Resistance," which holds the most power for Africana Studies and gets us closer to the objective outlined throughout this essay--a self-determined base for knowledge. For Taylor, true radical resistance requires more than the simple hurling of insults or, in the African-American vernacular, "callin' you out." It requires more fundamentally, the full articulation of a way, which stands outside the "privileged circle of expression"(55). This is precisely the frame that Taylor articulates, as Achebian. Based upon, Things Fall Apart, the work of the Igbo literati Chinua Achebe, this concept yields ways of understanding how Africana productions reframe their position to the West--and leads us closer to the question of self-authentication(56). The oft quoted "clash of cultures" motif becomes less about the importance of the clash, and more about the importance of the repositioning of the cultures that are clashing(57).

The chapter "The Self-Authenticating Narrative" comes closer to the notion that representation may indeed be best extracted from a "frame of self-authentication "free" of reference to majoritarian power"(58). Herein lie the implications for Africana Studies' methodological status--as it continues its pursuit toward becoming a "self-authenticating" discipline. The first is the confrontation of the reliance of Western theoretical concepts and ideas to frame the Africana experience. The second is the creation of categories and bodies of knowledge to capture or encapsulate the terms of that experience(59). This leads us to the question, as Taylor relates it: can the terms of "self-authentication" create truly liberative knowledge and praxis?(60) He correctly asserts that self-authenticating theoretical positions affirm, "archive and validate traditions perceptions, and practices…"(61) The sheer reality is that no other discipline in the academy can do this for Africana peoples. As such Africana Studies has a role to play in the "remembering visions" of Africa--visions not completely enlivened by the history of Africans' relationship to oppression, and of course that are also not ignorant of it(62). Ways of approaching knowledge about this oppression may in fact be best served from a position that acknowledges the ways in which Africans' can understand it, linked to their historical memory(63).


Along with the critical contributions of scholars such as Ayi Kwei Armah, Michael Gomez, K. Kimbwandende Bunseki Fu-Kiau, and Cedric Robinson, the work of Clyde Taylor should command a more elevated position when it comes to determining methodologically what "counts" as Africana Studies. The critical evaluations of James B. Stewart suggests the outright freeing of ourselves from social science and humanities frameworks that continue to define and dominate Africana Studies' discourse(64). Lucius Outlaw's critique of Afrocentricity has opened the door for the structuring of stringent norms for discussing and framing Africana cultures that is, at once, rigorous and responsible to the lived experiences of African people(65). While the 1960s era called for a new perspective, our intellectual trajectory suggests, following Fu-Kiau, a way back--a conceptual ordering of historical memory that transcends and corrects the dismembering wrought by the episodic challenge of Western modernity. A restating of the phrase, before resolving it into the chord a la Thelonious Monk or J Dilla(66). It is here where our tools for resistance are lodged, our futures imagined and then built. Revising W.E.B. Du Bois' initial articulation and James Emanuel's re-inscription: "Africana Can," and it shall. For "Those Who Believe," to evoke the work of saxophonist, Kenneth Whalum, III, this much is clear and the work in actualizing it remains. What is left? Our training must include the methodological rigor of excavating and employing the essential ways in which Africans have always thought about reality while contextualizing how the disruptions [the West] have impacted the entire process(67). The study and translation of languages, as a "carrier of culture" must command serious attention and commitment and foreground any attempt to explain African behaviors and intellectual productions--correcting what has been limited to a simple study of "African aesthetics"(68). This approach is perhaps the only approach that rescues us from the fate of the aesthetic gaze, and its European imperial subjectivity. It is the only approach that rescues us from becoming nothing more than what Valethia Watkins has termed, "White Studies in Blackface." -END-

1 Clyde R. Taylor, The Mask of Art: Breaking the Aesthetic Contract- Film and Literature (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998), 102.

2 Deep thought is a term coined by Jacob Carruthers to denote African ways of formulating and answering first order questions of reality. They are based upon accessing the origins and uses of "speech" as an operational concept for articulating and explaining reality. On deep thought, see Jacob Carruthers, Mdw Ntr: Divine Speech: A Historiographical Reflection of African Deep Thought From the Time of the Pharaohs to the Present (London: Karnak House, 1995).

3 Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Something Torn and New: An African Renaissance (New York: Basic Civitas, 2009).

4 Greg Carr, "What Black Studies is Not," Socialism and Democracy 25 (March 2011): 189. An examination of the major anthologies of Africana Studies details the ways in which scholars have attempt to let "Africana" speak for itself in terms of methodological as well as administrative formulations. Its trajectory since the first formal forays into the (white) academy is not monolithic, but what the dominant voices in its various phases have reiterated, is the importance of an autonomous way of approaching and studying African realities. See Nathaniel Norment, Jr. ed, The African American Studies Reader (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2007), Delores Aldridge and Carlene Young, eds., Out of the Revolution: The Development of Africana Studies (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2000), and James Stewart, Flight: In Search of Vision (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2004), among others.

5 W.E.B. Du Bois, "The Conservation of Races," in African-American Social & Political Thought, 1850-1920, ed. Howard Brotz (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2008), 483-492.

6 Lawrence P. Jackson, The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011).

7 Larry Neal, "The Black Arts Movement," in The Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle, Jr. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971), 272.

8 Addison Gayle, "Introduction," in The Black Aesthetic, ed. Idem, xvii.

9 See Clovis E. Semmes, ed., Roots of Afrocentric Thought: A Reference Guide to Negro Digest/Black World, 1961-1976 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998). Other short-lived journals, which have yet to be mined include, Liberator (1961), Umbra (1963), Soulbook (1964), Black Dialogue (1965), Journal of Black Poetry (1966), Nommo (1969), and Black Creation (1970). See Reginald Martin, "The New Black Aesthetic Critics and Their Exclusion from American "Mainstream" Criticism," College English 50 (April 1988): 376.

10 Hoyt W. Fuller, "Towards a Black Aesthetic," in The Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle, Jr., 7.

11 Gayle, "Introduction," xxii.

12 Ibid, xxiii.

13 Ibid.

14 Neal, "The Black Arts Movement," 273.

15 Larry Neal, "Some Reflections on the Black Aesthetic," in The Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle, Jr., 13-16. The notion of a mythoform is a way of classifying African ways of knowing as they exist in simultaneously real and unseen manifestations. These manifestations are classified and characterized as "aesthetic" products on the other side of Neal's chart. This typology allows us to elevate the notion of orisha worship, for example to its very real manifestations in rhythmic conceptualizations of jazz [or African drumming, for that matter] and how both are linked to the accessing of memory. The later theorists of the African aesthetic would build upon Neal's foundation. See these works discussed infra.

16 See Fuller's summary of the "Black is beautiful" movement, "Towards a Black Aesthetic," 8.

17 The concept of whm msw, means literally in the Kemetic language "repetition of the birth." It approximates the notion of a renaissance. Perhaps no thinker has captured the importance of viewing radical theory is linked to the resistance in the African community than Cedric Robinson. See the development of this idea in his Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 170-184.

18 Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal, Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing (New York: Morrow, 1968).

19 See inter alia Itibari Zulu, "Askia Muhammad Toure: Early Pioneer in Black Studies, " Journal of Pan African Studies 5 (October 2012): 55-60.

20 Abdul Alkalimat and Associates, Introduction to Afro-American Studies: A People's College Primer (Chicago: Twenty First Century Publications, 1973), 19.

21 The intellectual history of graduate education in Africana Studies at Temple University has yet to be written. On the development of the graduate program, see inter alia Molefi Asante, An Afrocentric Manifesto (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2009), 31-54; 93-104. In this text, he recollects that: "One could find at a number of institutions a list of courses on African subjects but it was only when there was a discipline, as defined by philosophy, methods, and orientation to data, that one could speak of a discipline." Ibid, 99.

22 Ibid, 99-104 and Molefi Kete Asante, Kemet, Afrocentricity and Knowledge (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1990), 14.

23 A useful summary of the "culture wars" as it impacted curricula can be found in Carruthers, Intellectual Warfare, 87-101.

24 Asante, Kemet, Afrocentricity and Knowledge, 14.

25 Ibid, 5.

26 A general African aesthetics notes the commonalities across different African cultural particularities, while not necessarily de-emphasizing these particularities inherent in "family aesthetics" or what are only common among a specific group. See Kariamu Welsh-Asante, "The Aesthetic Conceptualization of Nzuri" in The African Aesthetic: Keeper of the Traditions (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993), 3.

27 See the "Welsh- Asante Nzuri Model" in Ibid, 10-13.

28 The work of Robert Farris Thompson in the area of African art has been crucial to introducing ways of understanding "aesthetic" traditions to the academy. Not only did Thompson present at one of the foundational conferences for Africana Studies at his home institution of Yale University, his field work in central Africa resulted in the development of a starting point for creating criteria for African cultural creations in many variations. This is found in his "Ten Canons of Fine Form" in the 1974 text, African Art and Motion. See Robert Farris Thompson, "African Influence of Art in the United States," in Black Studies in the University: A Symposium, ed. Armstead Robinson, Craig C. Foster, and Donald H. Ogilvie (New Haven, CT; Yale University Press, 1968), 122-170 and Idem, African Art In Motion: Icon and Act (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1974), 5-45. Many theoreticians of the African aesthetic would include these important connections extracted from Thompson's work. Equally, if not more, important was Welsh-Asante's time spent in Zimbabwe among southern African groups studying their dance traditions as representative of their larger belief systems. See her Zimbabwe Dance: Rhythmic Forces, Ancestral Voices—An Aesthetic Analysis (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2000).

29 Welsh-Asante, The Aesthetic Conceptualization of Nzuri," 2.

30 Ibid, 1.

31 By "location" Asante means the "place from which all concepts, ideas, purposes, and visions radiate." (emphasis in the original). This of course is linked the "naming the space" conversation, which began this paper. See Molefi Kete Asante, "Location Theory and African Aesthetics," in The African Aesthetic, ed. Kariamu Welsh-Asante, 53.

32 See the cover article, Lafayette Gaston, "Past Afrocentricity," in The Liberator Magazine 8.1 (2009).

33 See the discussion of Neal supra and Donna Marimba Richards, "The African Aesthetic and National Consciousness," in The African Aesthetic, ed. Kariamu Welsh-Asante, 64.

34 In her Yurugu, Ani formulates techniques of understanding the ways in which Western knowledge generates concepts (utamwazao) and of understanding the base from which it is generated (utamaroho). See Marimba Ani, Yurugu: An Afrikan Centered Critique of European Cultural Though and Behavior (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1994).

35 Richards, "The African Aesthetic and National Consciousness," 64.

36 Ibid, 65. The term kugusa mtima means to literally touch the heart. Richards asserts African cultural production should be "touch," "move," and "affect."

37 See Carruthers, Mdw Ntr, xviii.

38 The term, "discipline suicide" was used to conceptualize those attempts of Africana thinkers to participate in the "architectonic roles in the discipline's academic institutionalization," by essentially disengaging their disciplinary training. See Greg Carr, "African Philosophy of History in the Contemporary Era: Implications for the African Contribution to World History," (PhD diss., Temple University, 1998), 14. Taylor quotes St. Clair Drake to suggest that his contention that the idea of Black Studies as literally a site of ideological contestation can also be applied to the idea animated by the Black aesthetic. See Taylor, The Mask of Art, 5.

39 Appearing in the first chapter, titled "Color-Coded Art Theory" is a sub-section titled, "The Aesthetic Has No Clothes" where Taylor begins the process of unpacking the history, etymology, and context of the idea of the aesthetic. See Taylor, The Mask of Art, 8-20.

40 Ibid, 12.

41 Taylor explains that: "The reconstruction of knowledge during this period of expansion and conquest, and particularly during the intellectual consolidations of the Enlightenment, carried a subtextual leitmotif, the need to answer the question why are we superior to the rest of humankind? Explanations and proofs in the human sciences and the arts were ranted greater applause and credibility when they contributed to the growing evidence of Western supremacy than when they failed to do so. Many projects had their origin in the need to explain this supremacy, the location of higher societies in the temperate zone, etc. The actual superiority of Western technology and practice in many areas provoked the reasonable search for the explanation of this superiority within comparative study. But the mythical notion of inevitable Western supremacy became a starting premise of further researches and skewed the intellectual process toward foregone conclusions. The aesthetic was invented amid the developing, consolidating phase of the paradigm and, despite the many other motivations behind its invention, did not escape the seductions of the myth." Ibid, 22.

42 The thesis of "underdevelopment" is from the seminal text on European imperialism in Africa, Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1982). The majority of works that link the Enlightenment with colonization and imperialism do so from social scientific and historical bases, with few endeavoring to understand how philosophy rationalized these conquests. Intellectual workers linked to Africana nationalist communities consistently recount the words of Enlightenment thinkers like David Hume and G.W.F. Hegel and their view of Africa. The academy however underemphasizes these statements, often viewing them as non-essential to the period's greater achievements. On some of these discussions see inter alia, the seminal work of Emmanuel Eze, Race and the Enlightenment: A Reader (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1997).

43 According to Taylor, this affirmation is achieved through the norming process, which projects the West as the "universal valuing subject." See Taylor, The Mask of Art, 16- 17. On the oft-quoted view of Western art as "art for art's sake" see Welsh-Asante, "The Aesthetic Conceptualization of Nzuri," 5.

44 See the discussion of the ancient Greek (Aristotelian) conception of liberal arts in Andrea Wilson Nightingale, "Education in Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics," in Yun Lee Too, ed. Education in Greek and Roman Antiquity (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 133-173.

45 This is perhaps the key contradiction uncovered throughout the text. Taylor forcefully and ironically explores each of these "sub-aesthetics" in a chapter called "A Drowning Man Offers You His Hand." Taylor includes a brief examination of the Black aesthetic in this chapter as well as in a section discussed infra. See Taylor, The Mask of Art, 70-102.

46 As well as bounded by class. See Ibid, 15.

47 Ibid, 18.

48 Ibid, 31

49 Taylor clarifies this idea after fully delineating the aesthetic in Part I. Part II begins his engagement with the politics and critique of cultural representation. Stating that the instead of constructing alternative "aesthetic" criteria, the "acceleration of the critique of representation is more pressing. In the process of demystifying aestheticism, this critique has demonstrated itself to be its most potent opposition." Ibid, 154.

50 Ibid, 6.

51 Ibid. Taylor states that Emanuel's call to settle on a "set of literary principles" has still not been achieved. Emanuel, writing in 1971, wanted to see these principles built upon a "functional beauty" and a "celebration of American blackness as the crest of the human spirit." See James Emanuel, "Blackness Can: A Quest for Aesthetics," in The Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle, 196.

52 Taylor, The Mask of Art, 98.

53 Title of the opening chapter of Part II.

54 For an extended discussion of each of these interpretive frames, see Ibid, 161- 192.

55 Ibid, 220.

56 Jonathan Peters, is one of many thinkers that views Achebe's story of the Igbo culture's confrontation with the West as a seminal moment in twentieth century African literature. Doing so from an "insider" perspective [within Igbo culture] is considered one of its many strengths. See Jonathan A. Peters, "English-Language Fiction from West Africa," in A History of Twentieth Century Literatures (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1993), 18-19.

57 On "clash of cultures," see inter alia, Ibid, 20.

58 Taylor, The Mask of Art, 242.

59 These two implications rely on the recent work of Greg Carr within the discipline, though this work itself, is based on a number of precursors. The question of the removing the "West as an ideational construct" within Africana Studies has been a theme consistently articulated by the elder statesmen and women of Africana Studies. See Carr, "What Black Studies is Not," 179-188.

60 See Taylor, The Mask of Art, 243-249 for a full discussion. This is also very similar to the debates surrounding Africana Studies, that are premised on a sort of bland perception of what has been called "cultural nationalist" musings about the reconstruction of society versus the politically (and usually Marxist) charged critiques against it. Representative of this trend is the critique of Africa-centered scholarship by Perry Hall, "Paradigms in Black Studies," in Out of the Revolution: The Development of Africana Studies, ed. Delores Aldridge and Carlene Young (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2000), 25-37.

61 Taylor, The Mask of Art, 247.

62 "Remembering visions" is an idea used by Ngugi wa Thiong'o to denote how through the processes of recovery, discovery, and translation, African thought can be "re-membered" generate a rebirth, or African renaissance. See Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Something Torn and New, 69-98.

63 This evokes a similarity to the project of liberation historiography undertaken by the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilization. The forthcoming volume of The African World History Project clarifies the position of how history articulated into the cultural interstices of Africana meaning-making constitutes the beginnings of a liberatory practice.

64 Stewart advocates a notion of inter-modal research that gets us beyond these strict boundaries and restrictions. See James B. Stewart, "Riddles, Rhythms, and Rhymes: Toward an Understanding of Methodological Issues and Possibilities in Black/Africana Studies," in Ethnic Studies Research: Approaches and Perspectives, ed. Timothy Fong (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2008), 185-192.

65 This includes, among other things, the rigorous generation of norms for engagement the African experience in both its commonalities and particularities. See Lucius T. Outlaw, "Africology: Normative Theory," in On Race and Philosophy, ed. Lucius T. Outlaw, Jr. (New York: Routledge, 1997), 97-134.

66 On the Ki-Kongo notion of directions and trajectories of human and group "lives" see K. Kimbwandende Bunseki Fu-Kiau, African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo (Brooklyn, NY: Athelia Henrietta Press, 2001).

67 Ibid, 123-132.

68 Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Something Torn and New, 20.

Myers, Josh. (2012). On Aesthetic Reasoning In Africana Studies. The Last Generation Of Black People. New York: The Liberator Magazine.

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