Egyptian Athena, African Egypt, Egyptian Africa
Martin Bernal and Contemporary African Historical Thought
Black Athena's first volume consists mainly of an extended historiographical discussion, placing its author's arguments within – and against – a complex history of European intellectual engagement with ancient Greece. Some (relatively small) part of the intense ensuing debates has attended to and indeed protested at BA's apparent lack of close interest in Egypt, let alone any other part of Africa, in its own right as opposed to its possible influence on Greece. However, discussion of this aspect of BA's own intellectual genealogies and affiliations has focused largely – and often highly polemically – on the relationship between Bernal's project and that of the African‐diasporic, romantic Afrocentric tradition. Little interest has been shown in BA's relation to past or present intellectual currents within sub‐Saharan Africa itself, even those which might aptly be described as ‘Egyptocentric’. This paper attempts to explore some such connections. It looks at three of these, seeking briefly to trace their interconnections: The parallels and divergences between Bernal's work and influence and those of Senegalese historian Cheikh Anta Diop and his followers; The ideas and rhetorics of ‘African Renaissance’, as espoused especially in Thabo Mbeki's South Africa; The use made of Egyptian ‘myths of origin’ by certain contemporary African intellectuals, in particular by three of these: the multi‐disciplinary Ugandan scholar and activist Dani Nabudere, the Congo (Brazzaville) born linguist‐historian Theophile Obenga, and in the later work of Ghanaian novelist Ayi Kwei Armah.
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