Analyze Afrocentric rhetoric in Black television shows
Option 2: Analyze Afrocentric rhetoric in Black television shows
1. Read Paradigm for Classical African Orature by Knowles-Borishade. As you read this article, pay specific attention to Knowles-Borishade’s structure, including the Caller-plus-chorus, spiritual entities, nommo, responders, and spiritual harmony.
2. Watch an episode of a Black sitcom or drama. Recent recommendations include Black-ish, Insecure, Atlanta, Dear White People, or the Boondocks, but feel free to also watch an older sitcom-like Fresh Prince, Living Single, or Girlfriends.
3. As you watch the episode, note moments and quotes that align with Knowles-Borishade’s theory. Create a running list of these moments in a document.
4. After your list of moments, write a 500-word analysis of the use of Afrocentric rhetoric in the TV show. Which characteristics were most common? Which were less common? Did the characters achieve harmony in the show? How? In the end, do you feel that the show ended up reflecting Knowles-Borishade’s theory? Why or why not?
Themes and Context of African Rhetoric
African intellectual traditions have long generated intense and systematic reflection on philosophy and rhetoric. It is unfortunate that myths about Africa have obscured much of the continent’s scholarship. Of those myths, one of the most persistent has held that all African societies were “non-literate” and that, therefore, systems of writing and reading only came to Africa with European colonialism.
This pernicious myth is demonstrably false, as can be seen in written traditions across such diverse African societies as ancient Egypt and Nubia and the flourishing centers of learning in the middle ages such as in Mali in West Africa and Zanzibar in East Africa.
That said, any robust understanding of African philosophical and rhetorical traditions ought to begin by acknowledging the continent’s diverse societies. It should follow, then, that this module lays no claim to being exhaustive. Its rather more modest ambition seeks to proffer pointers to some of the most prominent traditions of philosophical and rhetorical thought on the continent.
This module, moreover, will proceed on the assumption that African philosophical and rhetorical thought are inextricably intertwined. This is largely because, unlike the dominant strains of philosophical and theoretical reflection in the North Atlantic world, African intellectual traditions did not draw sharp contrasts between philosophy and rhetoric.
Prominent ancient African philosophical and rhetorical traditions include those of Egypt, Nubia and Yoruba societies. Below, I will highlight two: ancient Egypt and that of the Yoruba.
Ancient Egypt is almost certainly the most well-known civilization in Africa. Perhaps as one would expect from a 3,500-year written tradition, its corpus of writing was richly diverse. These ranged from wisdom texts (instructional and teaching books), to writings on history, religion, law, and autobiography, to more explicitly “literary” or aesthetic texts (hymns, poems, and prose tales). Ancient Egyptian writing was not, of course, confined to papyri. Tombs and temple walls, coffins and statues, monuments of all kinds were inscribed with words. The primary and secondary literature in this tradition is dauntingly voluminous. Below, I offer a selection of texts for the beginning student.