Cheikh Anta Diop (29 December 1923 – 7 February 1986) was a Senegalese historian, anthropologist, physicist, and politician who studied the human race’s origins and pre-colonial African culture.

 

Cheikh Anta Diop (29 December 1923 – 7 February 1986) was a Senegalese historian, anthropologist, physicist, and politician who studied the human race's origins and pre-colonial African culture.[1] Diop's work is considered foundational to the Afrocentrist movement, though he himself never used the term.[2] The questions he posed about cultural bias in scientific research contributed greatly to the postcolonial turn in the study of African civilizations.[3][4]

Cheikh Anta Diop
Cheikh Anta Diop, late 1940s.jpg
Diop as a university student in Paris in the late 1940s
Born(1923-12-29)29 December 1923
Died7 February 1986(1986-02-07) (aged 62)
NationalitySenegalese
OccupationHistorian, anthropologist, physicist, politician

Diop argued that there was a shared cultural continuity across African people that was more important than the varied development of different ethnic groups shown by differences among languages and cultures over time.[5] Some of his ideas have been criticized as based upon outdated sources and an outdated conception of race.[6][7] Other scholars have defended his work from what they see as widespread misrepresentation.[8][9][10][11]

Cheikh Anta Diop University (formerly known as the University of Dakar), in Dakar, Senegal, is named after him.[12][13]

Early life

 
Diop at high school in Dakar

Born in Thieytou, Diourbel Region, Senegal, Diop belonged to an aristocratic Muslim Wolof family in Senegal where he was educated in a traditional Islamic school. Diop's family was part of the Mouride brotherhood, the only independent Muslim fraternity in Africa according to Diop.[14] He obtained the colonial equivalent of the metropolitan French baccalauréat in Senegal before moving to Paris to study for a degree.[15]

Studies in Paris

In 1946, at the age of 23, Diop went to Paris to study. He initially enrolled to study higher mathematics, but then enrolled to study philosophy in the Faculty of Arts of the University of Paris. He gained his first degree (licence) in philosophy in 1948, then enrolled in the Faculty of Sciences, receiving two diplomas in chemistry in 1950.

In 1948 Diop edited with Madeleine Rousseau, a professor of art history, a special edition of the journal Musée vivant, published by the Association populaire des amis des musées (APAM). APAM had been set up in 1936 by people on the political left wing to bring culture to wider audiences. The special edition of the journal was on the occasion of the centenary of the abolition of slavery in the French colonies and aimed to present an overview of issues in contemporary African culture and society. Diop contributed an article to the journal: "Quand pourra-t-on parler d'une renaissance africaine" (When we will be able to speak of an African Renaissance?). He examined various fields of artistic creation, with a discussion of African languages, which, he said, would be the sources of regeneration in African culture. He proposed that African culture should be rebuilt on the basis of ancient Egypt, in the same way that European culture was built upon the legacies of ancient Greece and Rome.[16]

In 1949, Diop registered a proposed title for a Doctor of Letters thesis, "The Cultural Future of African thought," under the direction of Professor Gaston Bachelard. In 1951 he registered a second thesis title "Who were the pre-dynastic Egyptians" under Professor Marcel Griaule.

In 1953, he first met Frédéric Joliot-Curie, Marie Curie's son-in-law, and in 1957 Diop began specializing in nuclear physics at the Laboratory of Nuclear Chemistry of the College de France which Frederic Joliot-Curie ran until his death in 1958, and the Institut Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris. He ultimately translated parts of Einstein's Theory of Relativity into his native Wolof.[17]

According to Diop's own account, his education in Paris included History, Egyptology, Physics, Linguistics, Anthropology, Economics, and Sociology.[18][19] In Paris, Diop studied under André Aymard, professor of History and later Dean of the Faculty of Letters at the University of Paris and he said that he had "gained an understanding of the Greco-Latin world as a student of Gaston Bachelard, Frédéric Joliot-Curie, André Leroi-Gourhan, and others".[20]

In his 1954 thesis, Diop argued that ancient Egypt had been populated by Black people. He specified that he used the terms "negro", "black", "white" and "race" as "immediate givens" in the Bergsonian sense, and went on to suggest operational definitions of these terms.[21] He said that the Egyptian language and culture had later been spread to West Africa. When he published many of his ideas as the book Nations nègres et culture (Negro Nations and Culture), it made him one of the most controversial historians of his time.[22][23]

In 1956 he re-registered a new proposed thesis for Doctor of Letters with the title "The areas of matriarchy and patriarchy in ancient times." From 1956, he taught physics and chemistry in two Paris lycees as an assistant master, before moving to the College de France. In 1957 he registered his new thesis title "Comparative study of political and social systems of Europe and Africa, from Antiquity to the formation of modern states." The new topics did not relate to ancient Egypt but were concerned with the forms of organisation of African and European societies and how they evolved. He obtained his doctorate in 1960.[15]

Career

Diop served as a member of the UNESCO International Scientific Committee for the Drafting of a General History of Africa in 1971 and wrote the opening chapter about the origins of the ancient Egyptians in the UNESCO General History of Africa.[24] In this chapter, he presented anthropological and historical evidence in support of his hypothesis that Ancient Egyptians had a close genetic affinity with Sub-Saharan African ethnic groups, including a shared B blood group between modern Egyptians and West Africans, "negroid"[25] bodily proportions in ancient Egyptian art and mummies, microscopic analysis of melanin levels in mummies from the laboratory of the Muse de L’Homme in Paris, primary accounts of Greek historians, and shared cultural linkages between Egypt and Africa in areas of totemism and cosmology.[26] At the symposium Diop's conclusions were met with an array of responses, from strong objections to enthusiastic support.[27][28]

Reception

Diop's work has been both extensively praised and extensively criticized by a variety of scholars.[29]

John Henrik Clarke called Diop the "world's foremost African thinker"[30] for providing a transdisciplinary, scientific understanding of African history and challenging what he saw as the flawed, Eurocentric scholarship in historiography.[31] Cilius Victor regarded Diop as "one of Africa's greatest scholars" and his work, Civilization or Barbarism, as an "authentic and diligent" reconstitution of African history in the aftermath of colonisation and biased, Western scholarship.[32] Similarly, Oscar Dathrone credits Diop as a "unique unifier" in countering the "built-in prejudices of the scholars of his time" and presenting a more comprehensive view of African historical development.[33] David Atwood regarded his "biggest achievement" as discrediting "the standard European narrative of Egypt as a white culture that is part of the Middle East and not of Africa".[34] Keith Crawford describes Cheikh Anta Diop as a "polymath" and the "first African scholar to systematically lay out a comprehensive challenge to the racist Eurocentric thought about ancient Egypt."[35]

Robert O. Collins, a former history professor at University of California, Santa Barbara, and James M. Burns, a professor in history at Clemson University, have both characterized Diop's writings on Ancient Egypt as "revisionist".[36] Toyin Falola likewise called Diop's work "passionate, combative, and revisionist".[37]

Diop's book "Civilization or Barbarism" was described as Afrocentric pseudohistory by academic and author Robert Todd Carroll.[38] According to Marnie Hughes-Warrington, Diop's works were criticised by leading French Africanists, but they (and later critics) noted the value of his works for the generation of a "politically useful mythology", that would promote African unity.[39] Likewise, Santiago Juan-Navarro a professor at Florida International University described Diop as having "undertaken the task of supporting this Afrocentric view of history from an equally radical and 'mythic' point of view".[40]

Historian Robin Derricourt, in summarizing Diop's legacy, states that his work "increased francophone black pride, though trapped within dated models of racial classification".[7] Stephen Howe writes that Diop's work is built mostly upon disagreements with Victorian-era thinkers like J.J. Bachofen, Lewis Henry Morgan and Friedrich Engels, and criticizes him for "failing to take modern research into account."[6]

J.D. Walker contends that "his views, or some of them, have been seriously misrepresented."[41]

Diop was awarded the joint prize of most influential African intellectual along with W.E.B. Du Bois at the first World Festival of Black Arts in 1966.[42] He was awarded the Grand prix de la mémoire of the GPLA 2015.

Cheikh Anta Diop University (formerly known as the University of Dakar), in Dakar, Senegal, is named in his honor.[43][44]

Publications

  • Rousseau, Madeleine and Cheikh Anta Diop (1948), "1848 Abolition de l'esclavage – 1948 evidence de la culture nègre", Le musée vivant, issue 36–37. Special issue of journal "consacré aux problèmes culturels de l'Afrique noire a été établi par Madeleine Rousseaux et Cheikh Anta Diop". Paris: APAM, 1948.
  • (1954) Nations nègres et culture, Paris: Éditions Africaines. Second edition (1955), Nations nègres et culture: de l'antiquité nègre-égyptienne aux problèmes culturels de l'Afrique noire d'aujourd'hui, Paris: Éditions Africaines. Third edition (1973), Paris: Présence Africaine, ISBN 2-7087-0363-3, ISBN 2-7087-0362-5. Fourth edition (1979), ISBN 2-7087-0688-8.
  • (1959) L'unité culturelle de l'Afrique noire: domaines du patriarcat et du matriarcat dans l'antiquité classique, Paris: Présence Africaine. Second edition (c. 1982), Paris: Présence Africaine, ISBN 2-7087-0406-0, ISBN 978-2-7087-0406-0. English edition (1959), The Cultural Unity of Negro Africa Paris. Subsequent English edition (c. 1962), Paris: Présence Africaine. English edition (1978), The Cultural Unity of Black Africa: the domains of patriarchy and of matriarchy in classical antiquity, Chicago: Third World Press, ISBN 0-88378-049-6. Subsequent English edition (1989) London: Karnak House, ISBN 0-907015-44-1.
  • (1960) L' Afrique noire pré-coloniale. Étude comparée des systèmes politiques et sociaux de l'Europe et de l'Afrique noire, de l'antiquité à la formation des états modernes, Paris: Présence africaine. Second edition (1987), ISBN 2-7087-0479-6. (1987), Precolonial Black Africa: a comparative study of the political and social systems of Europe and Black Africa, from antiquity to the formation of modern states. Translated by Harold J. Salemson. Westport, Conn.: L. Hill, ISBN 0-88208-187-X, ISBN 0-88208-188-8, ISBN 978-0-88208-187-8, ISBN 978-0-88208-188-5.
  • (1960) Les Fondements culturels, techniques et industriels d'un futur état fédéral d'Afrique noire, Paris. Second revised and corrected edition (1974), Les Fondements économiques et culturels d'un état fédéral d'Afrique noire, Paris: Présence Africaine.
  • (1967) Antériorité des civilisations nègres: mythe ou vérité historique? Series: Collection Préhistoire-antiquité négro-africaine, Paris: Présence Africaine. Second edition (c. 1993), ISBN 2-7087-0562-8, ISBN 978-2-7087-0562-3.
  • (1968) Le laboratoire de radiocarbone de l'IFAN. Series: Catalogues et documents, Institut Français d'Afrique Noire No. 21.
  • (1974) The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality (translation of sections of Antériorité des civilisations négres and Nations nègres et culture). Translated from the French by Mercer Cook. New York: L. Hill, ISBN 0-88208-021-0, ISBN 0-88208-022-9
  • (1974) Physique nucléaire et chronologie absolue. Dakar: IFAN. Initiations et études Africaines no. 31.
  • (1977) Parenté génétique de l'égyptien pharaonique et des langues négro-africaines: processus de sémitisation, Ifan-Dakar: Les Nouvelles Éditions Africaines, ISBN 2-7236-0162-5.
  • (1978) Black Africa: the economic and cultural basis for a federated state. Translation by Harold Salemson of Fondements économiques et culturels d'un état fédéral d'Afrique noire. Westport, Conn.: Lawrence Hill & Co, ISBN 0-88208-096-2, ISBN 1-55652-061-1. New expanded edition (1987) ISBN 0-86543-058-6 (Africa World Press), ISBN 0-88208-223-X.
  • UNESCO Symposium on the Peopling of Ancient Egypt and the Deciphering of Meroitic Script. Cheikh Anta Diop (ed.) (1978), The peopling of ancient Egypt and the deciphering of Meroitic script: proceedings of the symposium held in Cairo from 28 January to 3 February 1974, UNESCO. Subsequent edition (1997), London: Karnak House, ISBN 0-907015-99-9.
  • (c. 1981) Civilisation ou barbarie: anthropologie sans complaisance, Présence Africaine, ISBN 2-7087-0394-3, ISBN 978-2-7087-0394-0. English edition (c. 1991), Civilization or Barbarism: an authentic anthropology Translated from the French by Yaa-Lengi Meema Ngemi, edited by Harold J. Salemson and Marjolijn de Jager. Brooklyn, NY: Lawrence Hill Books, c1991. ISBN 1-55652-048-4, ISBN 1-55652-048-4, ISBN 1-55652-049-2.
  • (1989) Nouvelles recherches sur l'égyptien ancien et les langues négro-africaines modernes, Paris: Présence Africaine, ISBN 2-7087-0507-5.
  • (1989) Egypte ancienne et Afrique Noire. Reprint of article in Bulletin de l'IFAN, vol. XXIV, series B, no. 3-4, 1962, pp. 449 à 574. Université de Dakar. Dakar: IFAN.
  • (c. 1990) Alerte sous les tropiques: articles 1946–1960: culture et développement en Afrique noire, Paris: Présence africaine, ISBN 2-7087-0548-2. English edition (1996), Towards the African renaissance: essays in African culture & development, 1946–1960. Translated by Egbuna P. Modum. London: Karnak House, ISBN 0-907015-80-8, ISBN 0-907015-85-9.
  • Joseph-Marie Essomba (ed.) (1996), Cheikh Anta Diop: son dernier message à l'Afrique et au monde. Series: Sciences et connaissance. Yaoundé, Cameroun: Editions AMA/COE.
  • (2006) Articles: publiés dans le bulletin de l'IFAN, Institut fondamental d'Afrique noire (1962–1977). Series: Nouvelles du sud; no 35-36. Yaoundé: Silex. ISBN 2-912717-15-9, ISBN 978-2-912717-15-3, ISBN 978-9956-444-12-0, ISBN 9956-444-12-X.

Bibliography

  • Présence Africaine (ed.) (1989), Hommage à Cheikh Anta Diop – Homage to Cheikh Anta Diop, Paris: Special Présence Africaine, New Bilingual Series N° 149–150.
  • Prince Dika-Akwa nya Bonambéla (ed.) (2006), Hommage du Cameroun au professeur Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar: Panafrika. Dakar: Nouvelles du Sud. ISBN 2-912717-35-3, ISBN 978-2-912717-35-1.

References

  1. ^ Gates, Jr., Henry Louis; Appiah, Kwame Anthony, eds. (2010). "Diop, Cheikh Anta". Encyclopedia of Africa. University of Oxford Press. ISBN 9780195337709.
  2. ^ Molefi Kete Asante, "Cheikh Anta Diop: An Intellectual Portrait" (Univ of Sankore Press: December 30, 2007)
  3. ^ Nyamnjoh, Francis B.; Devisch, René (2011). The Postcolonial Turn: Re-Imagining Anthropology and Africa. Leiden: Langaa. p. 17. ISBN 978-9956726813.
  4. ^ Gwiyani-Nkhoma, Bryson (2006). "Towards an African historical thought: Cheikh Anta Diop's contribution". Journal of Humanities. 20:1: 107–123.
  5. ^ Cheikh, Anta Diop, The Cultural Unity of Negro Africa (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1963), English translation: The Cultural Unity of Black Africa: The Domains of Patriarchy and of Matriarchy in Classical Antiquity (London: Karnak House: 1989), pp. 53–111.
  6. ^ a b Howe, Stephen (1999). Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes. Verso. pp. 167–168. ISBN 1859842283.
  7. ^ a b Derricourt, Robin (June 2012). "Pseudoarchaeology: the concept and its limitations". Antiquity. 86 (332): 524–531. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00062918. S2CID 162643326.
  8. ^ Walker, J. D. (1995). "The Misrepresentation of Diop's Views". Journal of Black Studies. 26 (1): 77–85. doi:10.1177/002193479502600106. ISSN 0021-9347. JSTOR 2784711. S2CID 144667194.
  9. ^ MOITT, Bernard (1989). "Cheikh Anta Diop and the African Diaspora : Historical Continuity And Socio-Cultural Symbolism". Présence Africaine. 149–150 (149/150): 347–360. doi:10.3917/presa.149.0347. ISSN 0032-7638. JSTOR 24351996.
  10. ^ VERHAREN, Charles C. (1997). "In and Out of Africa Misreading Afrocentrism". Présence Africaine. 156 (2): 163–185. doi:10.3917/presa.156.0163. ISSN 0032-7638. JSTOR 24351662.
  11. ^ Momoh, Abubakar (2003). "Does Pan-Africanism Have a Future in Africa? In Search of the Ideational Basis of Afro-Pessimism". African Journal of Political Science / Revue Africaine de Science Politique. 8 (1): 31–57. ISSN 1027-0353. JSTOR 23493340.
  12. ^ Touré, Maelenn-Kégni, "Cheikh Anta Diop University (1957--)", BlackPast.org.
  13. ^ "University Cheikh Anta Diop", Encyclopædia Britannica.
  14. ^ S. Ademola Ajayi, "Cheikh Anta Diop" in Kevin Shillington (ed.), Encyclopedia of African History.
  15. ^ a b "ANKH: Egyptologie et Civilisations Africaines". Cheikhantadiop.net. Retrieved 2017-05-31.
  16. ^ Danielle Maurice (June 2007). "Le musée vivant et le centenaire de l'abolition de l'esclavage: pour une reconnaissance des cultures africaines". Conserveries Mémorielles. Revue Transdisciplinaire. Conserveries mémorielles, revue transdisciplinaire de jeunes chercheurs (#3). Retrieved 2017-05-31.
  17. ^ Diop, Cheikh Anta, Bernard Nantet (ed.), Dictionnaire de l'Afrique, Paris: Larousse, page 96.
  18. ^ John G. Jackson and Runoko Rashidi, Introduction To African Civilizations (Citadel: 2001), ISBN 0-8065-2189-9, pp. 13–175.
  19. ^ Chris Gray, Conceptions of History in the Works of Cheikh Anta Diop and Theophile Obenga (Karnak House:1989) 11-155,
  20. ^ Diop, C. A., The African Origin of Civilization—Myth or Reality: Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 1974. pp. ix.
  21. ^ Bulletin de l'IFAN, Vol. XXIV, pp. 3–4, 1962.
  22. ^ Cheikh Anta Diop, The Cultural Unity of Negro Africa (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1963), English translation: The Cultural Unity of Black Africa: The Domains of Patriarchy and of Matriarchy in Classical Antiquity (London: Karnak House, 1989).
  23. ^ Doué Gnonsoa, Cheikh Anta Diop, Théophile Obenga: combat pour la Re-naissance africaine, éd. L'Harmattan, 2003.
  24. ^ General History of Africa volume 2: Ancient Civilizations of Africa: Ancient Civilizations of Africa Vol 2 (Unesco General History of Africa (Abridged ed.). London [England]: J. Currey. 1990. pp. 15–32. ISBN 0852550928.
  25. ^ General History of Africa volume 2: Ancient Civilizations of Africa: Ancient Civilizations of Africa Vol 2 (Unesco General History of Africa (Abridged ed.). London [England]: J. Currey. 1990. pp. 15–32. ISBN 0852550928.
  26. ^ General History of Africa volume 2: Ancient Civilizations of Africa: Ancient Civilizations of Africa Vol 2 (Unesco General History of Africa (Abridged ed.). London [England]: J. Currey. 1990. pp. 15–32. ISBN 0852550928.
  27. ^ General History of Africa volume 2: Ancient Civilizations of Africa: Ancient Civilizations of Africa Vol 2 (Unesco General History of Africa (Abridged ed.). London [England]: J. Currey. 1990. p. 43. ISBN 0852550928.
  28. ^ Ancient civilizations of Africa (Abridged ed.). London [England]: J. Currey. 1990. pp. 31–47. ISBN 0852550928.
  29. ^ Gwiyani-Nkhoma, Bryson (2006). "Towards an African historical thought: Cheikh Anta Diop's contribution". Journal of Humanities. 20 (1): 107–123. doi:10.4314/jh.v20i1 (inactive 2022-04-11). ISSN 1016-0728.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of April 2022 (link)
  30. ^ CLARKE, John Henrik (1989). "The Historical Legacy of Cheikh Anta Diop : His Contributions To A New Concept of African History". Présence Africaine. 149–150 (149/150): 110–120. doi:10.3917/presa.149.0110. ISSN 0032-7638. JSTOR 24351980.
  31. ^ Wadada Nabudere, Dani (1 July 2007). "Cheikh Anta Diop: The social sciences, humanities, physical and natural sciences and transdisciplinarity". International Journal of African Renaissance Studies - Multi-, Inter- and Transdisciplinarity. 2 (1): 6–34. doi:10.1080/18186870701384269. ISSN 1818-6874. S2CID 214652314.
  32. ^ Victor, Cilius (October 1992). "Book reviews : Civilization or Barbarism: an authentic anthropology: By CHEIKH ANTA DIOP (New York, Lawrence Hill, 1991). 440pp. $35". Race & Class. 34 (2): 98–100. doi:10.1177/030639689203400214. S2CID 145646841.
  33. ^ DATHORNE, O.R. (1989). "Africa as Ancestor : Diop as Unifier". Présence Africaine. 149–150 (149/150): 121–133. doi:10.3917/presa.149.0121. ISSN 0032-7638. JSTOR 24351981.
  34. ^ Atwood, David (2016). "The Discourse on Primal Religion: Disentangling Regimes of Truth". Method & Theory in the Study of Religion. 28 (4/5): 445–464. doi:10.1163/15700682-12341363. ISSN 0943-3058. JSTOR 44645823.
  35. ^ Crawford, Keith W. (1 December 2021). "Critique of the "Black Pharaohs" Theme: Racist Perspectives of Egyptian and Kushite/Nubian Interactions in Popular Media". African Archaeological Review. 38 (4): 695–712. doi:10.1007/s10437-021-09453-7. ISSN 1572-9842. S2CID 238718279.
  36. ^ Robert O. Collins, James M. Burns (8 February 2007). A History of Sub-Saharan Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 28. ISBN 9780521687089.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  37. ^ Toyin Falola (2004). "Nationalism and African Intellectuals". University Rochester Press: 224. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  38. ^ Robert Carroll (11 January 2011). The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. John Wiley & Sons. p. 8. ISBN 9781118045633.
  39. ^ Hughes-Warrington, Marnie (2007-10-31). Fifty Key Thinkers on History. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-21249-1.
  40. ^ Santiago Juan-Navarro. Archival Reflections: Postmodern Fiction of the Americas (self-reflexivity, Historical Revisionism, Utopia). Bucknell University Press. p. 151.
  41. ^ Walker, J. D. (1995). "The Misrepresentation of Diop's Views". Journal of Black Studies. 26 (1): 77–85. doi:10.1177/002193479502600106. ISSN 0021-9347. JSTOR 2784711. S2CID 144667194.
  42. ^ Beatty, Mario H. (1 January 2016). "W.E.B. Du Bois and Cheikh Anta Diop on the origins and race of the Ancient Egyptians : some comparative notes". African Journal of Rhetoric. 8 (1): 45–67. hdl:10520/EJC195692.
  43. ^ Touré, Maelenn-Kégni, "Cheikh Anta Diop University (1957--)", BlackPast.org.
  44. ^ "University Cheikh Anta Diop", Encyclopædia Britannica.

Further reading

External links

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