African studies simply defined is the systematic, scientific study of African peoples, and their institutions, culture, and history. But such a simple definition fails to encompass adequately the complexity of this important but often neglected arena for sociological theory and research.
THE GEOGRAPHY OF AFRICA
In sociology, the definition of one’s unit of study is prerequisite to undertaking any research project. However, facts of history make the task of defining what encompasses African studies elusive. Geographic or spatial definitions are generally clear-cut, so if one asks, ”Where is Africa?” a concise answer is expected. The continent of Africa is easily identifiable on any atlas or globe. By association African studies could be defined as all research falling within the identified physical boundaries of this continental landmass. This is a simple and neat solution—or so it would seem. In reality, however, even the task of defining the physical boundaries of Africa can be daunting. As a vast continent of rich cultural, linguistic, political, and historical diversity, Africa is subject to considerable geographical disaggregation. Thus, what is one continent is approached and conceived of as several subcontinents or subregions. For example, many people—both lay and professional alike— are not accustomed to thinking of Egypt and the northern Islamic states (e.g., Algeria, Libya, Algeria, Morocco) as part of the African continent. These African states are routinely separated in scholarly discourse from Africa and African studies, and are generally treated as parts of the Middle East or Mediterranean.
The tendency toward geographic disaggregation in the conceptualization and study of Africa is also apparent at levels beyond the ”North African” versus ”sub-Saharan African” distinction. African studies in the so-called ”sub-Saharan” context is usually divided into presumably distinct regions of this vast continent: East Africa (e.g., Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda); West Africa (e.g., Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal); Central Africa (e.g., Zaire, Congo, Central African Republic); and Southern Africa (e.g., South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho).
An additional complication in approaching the geography of Africa is represented by the partitioning of the continent into arbitrarily designated and imposed nation-states. Climaxing during the critical decades between 1870 and 1914, Western European imperialists divided Africa among themselves in order to share in the exploitation of the continent’s rich natural and human resources. The Berlin Conference, a meeting among various European powers, was held from November 15, 1884 to February 26, 1885 in response to envy and mistrust spurred by competing attempts to claim and colonize Africa. The gathering produced negotiated guidelines for the division and governance of Africa by Europeans. As one striking example, the Congo River basin, envied and hotly contested by several European powers (e.g., Portugal, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium), was by consensus ceded to King Leopold II and Belgium. As another example, while some contested claims were settled, West Africa continued to be divided unequally among the colonizing countries that were fighting amongst themselves for the land and the people: Portugal claimed 14,000 square miles; Germany took possession of 33,000 square miles; Britain declared ownership of 450,000 square miles; and France laid claim to 1.8 million square miles of African soil. In claiming the land, these European powers also declared dominion over the people who occupied these lands.
By 1898 Europeans had colonized most of Africa. Since the lines of demarcation were drawn with European rather than African interests in mind, these artificially imposed geographic boundaries often dissected cultural and national groups or tribes that had been unified entities for centuries before the arrival of Europeans. The political or national boundaries arbitrarily established by European conquest had profound, far-reaching consequences. These boundaries are largely responsible for contemporary borders and nation-states in Africa. Moreover, these artificial divisions or mergers, or both, damaged historic patterns and relationships and, by so doing, contributed in some degree to ongoing ethnic conflicts in Africa. As with icebergs formed over centuries where we only can see the tip, these historic machinations provided the impetus for many ”modern” conflicts in Africa. In these cases, colonial influence persists long after independence was proclaimed.
As a strategy, colonizers chose and groomed new African leadership to reinforce the ideals of newly formed, imposed nation-states, thereby creating a native elite and fostering division and mistrust among the colonized. The strategic approach to implementation varied for different colonial powers. France and Britain were the most successful Western European colonizing powers. Interestingly, their approaches to subduing and exploiting the African colonies differed vastly. The French saw traditional African heads-of-state as occupying the least important position within their new administrative system. Existing African governments were viewed as obstacles to the ultimate integration of Africans with French culture and society. Thus, achieving the French goal necessitated the utter destruction of established governmental systems as well as the absolute eradication of traditional cultures. Similar to American laws during the era of slavery, practicing ancestral religions, speaking traditional languages, and participating in customs such as dancing were deemed unlawful and were punishable by whipping, torture, and even death. The British, on the other hand, were more indirect. They sought to mold traditional governmental structures to accomplish their goals at the district level, while closely regulating the colonial administration nationally. The intention was for their African colonies to follow the examples of Canada and Australia, eventually emerging as self-governing extensions of the British Empire.
The institutionalized practice of misrepresenting the scale of Africa in relation to other continents is another point of contention. A European-inspired and -dominated cartography has successfully institutionalized blatantly misrepresentative views of African topography. The traditional world map portrays Europe’s landmass as much larger than its true physical reality. Since the 1700s, the Mercator map scale, the most widely used cartographic scale in the world, has distorted the sizes of continents to favor the Northern Hemisphere. While traditional mapmaking and representations have instilled a picture of North America as equal in size to Africa, the Sahara Desert alone is in fact roughly the same size as the United States. The African continent has nearly four times the land-mass of North America and comprises approximately twenty percent of the world’s landmass.
More subtly, the world’s geographic view of Africa has evolved to attribute a unidimensional image of Africa as consisting wholly of lush, impenetrable, tropical forests. This view of African geography fails to do justice to the rich, variegated landscape of this vast continent. Tropical rainforests represent only the smallest fraction of Africa’s myriad landscape, which ranges from snow-capped mountains to deserts to high plains to hardwood forests, from rippling fields of grain to placid lakes. In fact the world’s largest desert, the world’s longest river, and natural wonders from the spectacular Victoria Falls to snow-capped Mount Kilamanjaro, all characterize the diversified topography of this continent.
THE PEOPLE OF AFRICA
”Where is Africa?” We see that the answer to this, the most essential or rudimentary of originating questions for sociological research, can be quite elusive. Facts of history and perception combine to make what should be a simple interrogatory quite complicated. Equally elusive, if not more so, is the task of defining ”Who is African?” The answer to this seemingly straightforward question seems obvious. More often than not, answers to this question conform to the widespread view of Africans as a race of black people characterized by dark skin, curly hair, broad noses and numerous other physical features. In fact, the biological diversity of Africans matches and, at points, surpasses Africa’s vast geographic diversity. Few other continents in the world approach or match the breadth of human biology and physiology historically found in Africa. Africans run the gamut of the human color spectrum, encompassing the range of human prototypes—the Negroid, the Mongoloid, the Caucasoid. For centuries the continent of Africa has been home not only to people of traditional biophysical description, but also to people descended from Europeans, Asians, Arabs, and Hispanics. Moreover, centuries of biological intermingling have produced a continent of hybrid people. Africa is truly a continent where the human reality defies attempts to neatly categorize race and racial identity.
Traditional images of race fail to embrace or represent the African reality adequately. Modern conceptions of race are derived from a hierarchical European worldview that assigns the lowest status to Africans, who are equated with black-ness—the opposite of whiteness or European ancestry. When carefully examined in either an African or European context, racial identity loses much of its force as a concept. ”White” and ”black” are more political designations than physical ones. Thus, although there are indigenous Africans who have lighter complexions than some indigenous Europeans, widespread views of Europe as white and Africa as black persist. By the same token, race is often reified and incorrectly attributed characteristics that are in point of fact intellectual, social, cultural, or economic rather than biological. Generally speaking, race is incorrectly presumed to incorporate characteristics that extend far beyond human physical traits.
Apartheid in South Africa provides an excellent example of the politically motivated, exclusionary nature of racial classification systems (as does the historical case of ”Jim Crow” segregation in the U.S. South). The assignment of people to categories of White, Coloured, and African (Black) in South Africa, coupled with the subdivision of each racial category into smaller racial groups (e.g., Whites = Afrikaner and English-speaking; Asians = East Indian and Malaysian; Coloureds = European/African and Asian/African; and Blacks = Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho), was largely determined by white efforts, as a demographic minority of the population, to maintain their historic political, economic, and social dominance. Apartheid relied on an elaborate system of ”racial markers,” such as hair texture, skin color, and parentage, to classify people into distinct racial groups. Associated with each racial group were certain privileges and restrictions. Restrictions were heaviest and privileges least for black Africans, the group at the bottom of the South African color hierarchy. Thus race, as a socially constructed, politically manipulated reality in South Africa, exerted overwhelming force in limiting black and coloured Africans’ access and opportunities. The myth of the color hierarchy became—to some degree—a self-fulfilling, self-perpetuating prophecy in that many people, irrespective of race, internalized this value system. The result was often self-imposed ranking, with people of color creating additional levels within the established hierarchy, thereby constructing intricate designations for race that extended far beyond traditional definition.
Discussions of African racial identity are additionally complicated by the vast global population of people of African ancestry. People of African descent are present in sizeable numbers in the Americas, Western Europe, and in parts of Asia and the South Pacific. In most instances, the dispersion of African people around the world— notably in Brazil, the United States, the Caribbean, and Britain—is directly traceable to the European conquest, domination, and distribution of African people. Europe created, installed, and operated a system of racial slave trade that fueled the economic, agricultural, and industrial development of the Americas and of Europe. The slave trade displaced millions of Africans and struck a crippling blow to social, economic, political, and cultural life on the African continent. The traffic in slaves was a demographic disaster for the African continent, taking away people in the prime of their reproductive and productive lives. The African slave trade left in its wake destroyed villages, ruined crops, disrupted cultures, and crumbling social institutions. So traumatic was the devastation of this trade in human lives, and the subsequent colonial exploitation of Africa for natural resources, that four centuries later Africa has not yet fully recovered.
Dramatic and extensive dispersion of Africans confounded questions of race and racial identity because of the extensive intermingling of Africans with other so-called racial groups. This was particularly true in the Americas, where systematic and legalized rape was characteristic of the era of enslavement. The manipulation of race and racial identity was a central feature in this drama. White men used sexual subjugation as another means of reinforcing their domination, resulting in the established pattern of African hybrid identity. Yet under the legal guidelines of American enslavement, the children who resulted from this institutionalized rape were considered black, and thereby referred to by ChiefJustice Taney (Dred Scott v. Sandford, U.S. Supreme Court, 1857) as a people with ”no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” African ancestry combined with Native American, Asian, and European bloodlines to further diversify the already rich biological heritage of Africans. The extension of the African diaspora to the Americas produced a people represented by black Chinese in Mississippi, Jamaica, and Trinidad; black Amerindians in Florida (Seminoles), Oklahoma (Cherokee), and Surinam (Arawaks); black Irish in Virginia, black English in Barbados, black Portuguese in Brazil; and black East Indians in Guyana, black French Canadians in Montreal; and black Mexicans in Vera Cruz. A veritable human rainbow resulted from the transplantation of Africans to the ”New World” and points beyond. Yet throughout the diaspora, Social Darwinism assigned Africans the lowest position on the evolutionary hierarchy and laid the foundation for elaborate ideology and pseudoscience that offered justifications for the continued subjugation of Africans. Ideologies founded upon the rationalization that lent credence to this travesty persist today, further plaguing Africans throughout the diaspora.
THE CULTURAL AND SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS OF AFRICA
We have seen the complexity that underlies the seemingly simple questions of ”Where is Africa” and ”Who is African.” The task of defining for sociological study a people who are both geographically and genetically dispersed is extremely challenging. Additional complication results when we ask the next question, ”What is African?” Here we simply raise the logical question of which institutions, customs, values, institutions, cultural features, and social forms can be characterized or labeled as distinctively African.
The survival (albeit in evolved form) of indigenous African customs, values, and institutions is remarkable, especially considering the abundance of historical barriers and complications. First among these is the reality of African conquest and domination by other cultures, most notably European, but also including cultures from the Islamic world. The experience of conquest and domination by external powers, often designed to annihilate African civilization, makes the myriad existing retentions all the more amazing. One of the best examples of these retentions is what Africa and people of African ancestry have done with the abundance of nonindigenous languages that were imposed upon them during colonization.
Language plays a vital role in the process of cultural and personal affirmation. Therefore, it is not surprising to note that the conquest experience of Africa and Africans in the diaspora was commonly associated with systematic attempts to suppress or eliminate indigenous languages. The African continent can be divided into European language communities that parallel the geographic regions associated with European domination and partition of Africa (e.g., Anglophone, Francophone). In a similar fashion, members of the African diaspora have adopted the dominant languages of the cultures and regions where they found themselves, speaking Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, English, French, or Dutch. However, before European languages were introduced, there were well over 800 languages spoken by various African ethnic groups, most of which can be classified between three of the principal language fami-lies—Niger-Kordofian, Nilo-Saharan, and Khoisian. Numerically, these African-selected language groups incorporate approximately 300 million people.
Many if not most Africans are minimally bilingual, routinely speaking several languages in addition to their own. However, colonial tongues are generally recognized as the country’s ”official” language. Part of the devastation of colonization is the demise of original languages as the primary means of communication. These languages are forgotten, ignored, and sometimes even mocked by those who would assimilate into Westernized ideals. Strikingly, many independent African nations have embarked on programs aimed at the regeneration of indigenous languages, often creating written forms for languages that were previously solely oral. Other African nations have substituted indigenous languages for European languages (derived from the country’s colonial experience) as the country’s ”official” language. South Africa is an example of a country where multiple national languages were officially established in a process that validated the myriad of mother tongues as well as the colonizers’ language.
Attempting to strip Africans of their languages was an essential feature of the move to supplement military, economic, and political domination with cultural domination. However, understanding the essential connection between language, worldview, personal identity, and cultural survival, many Africans fought to retain their indigenous languages. They believed their survival as a unique people hinged on successful retention of their original languages, and the culture, values, self-affirmation, and history embodied within those native tongues. Interesting variations in the retention of African language forms are observable throughout Africa and the African diaspora. The patois (patwa) spoken in Jamaica contains many words that need no translation from Twi, the language spoken by the Ghanaian Ashanti who constituted the majority of the slaves brought in to work on Jamaican plantations. French has been transformed in both Louisiana and Haiti with varieties of Kreyol. In North America we can observe the Gullah people, primarily found in South Carolina and Georgia, who infuse their English-based Creole with the language of their enslaved African ancestors. Standard black American English (sometimes referred to as Ebonics) also retains evidence of similar African-derived language structures. A related case is provided by places like Bahia in Brazil where Yoruba, an indigenous African language, was successfully transplanted and maintained outside the continent. There are nations on the African continent where indigenous languages were practiced throughout the colonial experience and reinstituted after independence. However, as we have observed, the most common case across the diaspora is the synthesis of African syntax with the dominant European language syntax to create a new language.
The pattern of adaptive acculturation or synthesis that occurs with language also characterizes other sociocultural institutions in Africa and across the diaspora. Art and music provide distinctive examples. African people traditionally use visual art as a means of communication. Cloth making, for example, is not simply an aesthetic undertaking. Often, messages are inscribed or embedded within the very combinations of patterns and colors chosen to create the fabric. Among the Ashanti in Ghana, funeral cloth is often adorned with what are known as Adinkra symbols. The symbols impressed upon the cloth convey different meanings, thereby transmitting messages to those who are knowledgeable. The Touaregs, a people concentrated in Niger, are also known to transcribe messages on cloth in the distinctive alphabet that characterizes their language. Within Rastafarian culture in Jamaica, sculpture is used as another method of communicating and reinforcing the beliefs of the practitioners. Moreover, African-American artists often draw from the diaspora in their creation of visual art. Lois Mailou Jones traversed the French-speaking African world, and her work was influenced by the various cultures she studied.
Artistic products of African people, especially those living outside of the continent, reflect the mixture of cultural influences—part indigenous, part nonindigenous—that characterize the African experience. The synthesis contains elements that are obviously African-derived alongside elements that are obviously European or Islamic. Yet the final tune or drawing is often truly syncretic, possessing emergent qualities greater than the sum of the influences. It is in the realm of cultural production, music and art, where the African influence on world society has been most readily apparent. During the period of colonization, ruling cultures often defined the oppressed as ”others” in an effort to justify their subhuman treatment. Historic views of African-American culture provide powerful examples of objectification and stereotypes such as ”Sambo,” the happy darkie, or ”Jezebel,” the promiscuous black female. These false perceptions permeated the fabric of American society, allowing whites to embrace the racial stereotypes and notions that blacks were content in their status as second-class citizens. In order to perpetuate these false images, blacks were allowed to prosper in media and occupations that coincided with and reinforced views of their subservient status. To do otherwise was to risk retribution from whites. Thus, the entertainment industry (and its related variant, professional sports) has historically provided socially acceptable, non-threatening roles for blacks.
Many blacks recognized the power inherent in these media and used them for empowerment and to accomplish larger goals. For example, we can note the themes of resistance embodied in traditional spirituals sung during slavery. It is also interesting to observe the tremendous impact of music during the civil rights movement. In many instances, a syncretic merger has been achieved that fuses indigenous African ”authenticity” with nonindigenous traits to create new forms of music (e.g., rap). People of African descent have facilitated the growth of myriad musical genres, such as reggae, zouk, jazz, blues, soca, zaico, calypso, go-go, Hip Hop, and gospel. In yet other instances, Africans have chosen to embrace, master, and operate within the unmodified European form (e.g., opera, classical music).
Religion is another excellent example of a sociocultural institution that challenges us to define what is distinctively African. Forms of indigenous African religion are as diverse as the continent and people themselves. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all have long histories on the continent. The same is true for traditional, animistic African religions that imbue all features of the environment with spiritual qualities. It is perhaps the long tradition of polytheism—or, more correctly, the belief in, and acceptance of a Supreme God who is in turn represented in the world by several intermediary spirits—that made Africa and African people such fertile ground for the spread of diverse religions.
In addition, colonial powers felt a need to control all forms of thought and expression in order to ensure their continued dominion over the indigenous people. Religion was recognized as an especially powerful medium with immense capacity to control the daily behavior of people. Thus, religion was a central component in the colonial arsenal and pattern of domination. In spite of this, many traditional African religions have survived the test of time. Both the original forms and syncretic amalgamations of Western and traditional religion are found throughout the diaspora. On the island of Jamaica, one can observe how the Ashanti religion Kumina has flourished and grown over time into the distinctly Jamaican Pukumina (Pocomania). Linkages such as the one between the Gabonese sect known as Bwiti and Haitian vodun continue, in which the words for traditional healer are almost the same. Continuities are also seen in Shango/Santeria (Brazil) and Rastafarianism (Jamaica and internationally). Religious forms throughout the African diaspora range from the classical European through the traditional African into the Islamic, with a large variety of syncretic forms interspersed throughout.
The organization of social and community life in Africa and across the African diaspora also runs the spectrum from indigenous to nonindigenous. In a now familiar pattern, there exist places in Africa or in the African diaspora where traditional African forms of family life, dating back centuries, persist. Similarly, there are places where family forms are closer to the European or the Islamic model. The same observations can be offered about education and the organization of schools among Africans in a given society.
Predictably, given Africa’s history of subjugation, it is in realms of international power and influence, economics, government, and the military, that African development has been most restricted. Historical deprivation has resulted in the ranking of Africa and people of African ancestry at the bottom of all indicators of economic development. While other formerly colonized countries have managed to advance economically (e.g., Brazil, Singapore, and Korea), much of Africa and the African diaspora continue to be economically dependent. Coupled with this economic dependence are persistently high rates of unemployment, disease, educational disadvantage, and population growth. Africans continue to be without significant representation at the centers of international power, judged by economic clout, political influence, and military might. In each of these aspects, Africa remains the suppressed giant, unable to exert world influence commensurate to her nearly billion people, strategic geopolitical location, and rich mineral and human resources. The emergence of Africa onto the world stage, like Japan’s in 1960 and China’s in 1980, will have to wait.
UNIFYING THEMES IN AFRICAN STUDIES
Due to historical context, we have seen there are no simple answers to the basic questions for orienting any scientific, sociological study of Africa and her people. The African diaspora has been uniquely shaped by experiences of conquest and domination, resistance and survival. The experiences of slavery, colonization, and external domination have left in their wake considerable devastation. Yet one also sees the amazing strength of a people able to adapt and diversify, and to love and live, and ultimately continue to be.
Studies of African people and institutions commonly reveal the creative retention of authentic or indigenous traits. Such creative responses have been, in their own way, acts of resistance enabling cultural perpetuation. These adaptive responses have assured the ultimate survival of many aspects of African culture and institutions. It must also be noted that with time comes transition. Many things traditionally African have been altered, progressing from their original, indigenous form to completely new and different forms. It is perhaps in this tension, the reconciliation of the old with the new, the indigenous with the nonindigenous, that African studies will find its most exciting terrain for future inquiry. The challenge will be to discover the cultures and the people who have been historically distorted by the twin activities of concealment from within, and degradation and misperception from without.
AMERICAN SCHOLARSHIP AND AFRICAN STUDIES
The dismissal of the importance of African studies preceded its acceptance as a scholarly discipline. While clearly diminished today, the white male Eurocentric focus has historically dominated university curricula. Both grassroots and academic movements pointed to the need for recognition of the African contribution to world and American culture. The early to mid-1900s saw the emergence of black intellectuals in Africa (e.g., Leopold Sedar Senghor, Patrice Lumumba, Cheikh Anta Diop), the Caribbean (Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, Claude McKay), and America (W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Anna Julia Cooper), who spoke of parallel movements based on the assumption that black people in all parts of the world were a community with shared interests and identity (e.g., Negritude, Pan-Africanism). The goals of these scholars emphasized the uplift of people of African ancestry worldwide through education, research, politics, and cultural activities. These international movements among black intellectuals were in direct response to theories of black inferiority and the systematic oppression of Africans (both on the continent and abroad). Herbert Spencer, among others, launched the ideology of Social Darwinism, which developed into a popular, pseudoscientific justification for racial hierarchies. Social Darwinism assigned Africans, and thereby African Americans, to the lowest rung in the evolutionary ladder.
A nineteenth-century phenomenon, Social Darwinism and its associated beliefs persisted well into the twentieth century. Its philosophy is still heard in the remnants of eugenics, in the present-day interest in sociobiology, and in recurring assertions of black innate intellectual inferiority.
Before the incorporation of African studies into predominantly white colleges, black educators and leaders had stressed the value of black America’s ties to Africa for decades. Notable activists from William Monroe Trotter to Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey called for ”Back to Africa” movements. Zora Neale Hurston was an anthropologist whose studies of African Americans emphasized retentions and links with original African cultures. The distinguished sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois founded the Pan-African Congress in 1921, supported by notables such as the authorJessie Redmon Fauset, in order to explicitly link the problems and fortunes of African Americans to those of blacks in Africa and elsewhere. Moreover, much of his work over a long and illustrious career focused on Africa. Ultimately Du Bois renounced his American citizenship and accepted Kwame Nkrumah’s invitation to settle in Ghana.
Within white-dominated institutions, the value of African studies had strange origins. Egyptologists and anthropologists gathered information from Africa during colonial rule. In such instances, sociology was both friend and foe. Early sociologists promoted cross-cultural studies as well as research into the social conditions under which blacks lived. However, many of these sociologists embraced Social Darwinism and its belief in the inherent inferiority of blacks. Rarely did these early academics speak out or take active stances against the oppression of Africa and African people by Europeans.
Some American colleges remained racially segregated until the 1960s. The inclusion of African-American students, and later African-American studies classes, came in response to student activism, which occurred against the backdrop of the push for civil rights and amidst significant racial unrest. The black power movement of this time strongly influenced many African Americans to reclaim their heritage in everyday life and to demand that black history and culture be included in school and university curricula. There was—and continues to be—significant struggle around these questions, since what is at risk here was (is) the control and validation of knowledge in the society. The black studies movement paved the way for further interest in African studies. The publication of Alex Haley’s Roots, a volume which traced his family lineage back to Gambia, West Africa, followed by a popular television miniseries, was a signal moment in the development of black Americans’ interest in Africa. In addition, many African Americans celebrate Kwaanza, a holiday founded upon principles of the African harvest, as another conscious link with their cultural roots. Ironically, the growing interest of black Americans in their cultural roots in Africa helped to fuel a resurgence of ethnic pride and the search for roots among other racial groups in this country. Interestingly, in contemporary universities, the field of African-American studies tends to be dominated by African Americans, while African-studies programs tend to be dominated by European Americans.
African studies is a woefully underdeveloped area of institutionalized research in the field of sociology. Researchers need to mount aggressive programs determined to ”ask new questions and to question old answers.” For this research to be successful, it must be located in broader context, recognizing the unique historical, economic, social, cultural, political, and academic relationships that determine reality for Africans on the continent and throughout the diaspora. In each of these areas, relationships are generally structured hierarchically, with African worldviews, values, institutional forms, methodologies, and concerns being considered subordinate to those of Europeans or whites. Such distorted structural relations lead inevitably to distortions in research and conclusions. The irony is that clear understanding of African people and institutions will help pave the way to better understanding Whites and European heritage, institutions, and experiences.