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In My Father's House : Africa in the Philosophy of Culture - Kwame Anthony Appiah

In My Father's House

Africa in the Philosophy of Culture

Paperback Published: 27th May 1993
ISBN: 9780195068528
Number Of Pages: 256

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The beating of Rodney King and the resulting riots in South Central Los Angeles. The violent clash between Hasidim and African-Americans in Crown Heights. The boats of Haitian refugees being turned away from the Land of Opportunity. These are among the many racially-charged images that have burst across our television screens in the last year alone, images that show that for all our complacent beliefs in a melting-pot society, race is as much of a problem as ever in America.
In this vastly important, widely-acclaimed volume, Kwame Anthony Appiah, a Ghanaian philosopher who now teaches at Harvard, explores, in his words, "the possibilities and pitfalls of an African identity in the late twentieth century." In the process he sheds new light on what it means to be an African-American, on the many preconceptions that have muddled discussions of race, Africa, and Afrocentrism since the end of the nineteenth century, and, in the end, to move beyond the idea of race.
In My Father's House is especially wide-ranging, covering everything from Pan Africanism, to the works of early African-American intellectuals such as Alexander Crummell and W.E.B. Du Bois, to the ways in which African identity influences African literature. In his discussion of the latter subject, Appiah demonstrates how attempts to construct a uniquely African literature have ignored not only the inescapable influences that centuries of contact with the West have imposed, but also the multicultural nature of Africa itself. Emphasizing this last point is Appiah's eloquent title essay which offers a fitting finale to the volume. In a moving first-person account of his father's death and funeral in Ghana, Appiah offers a brilliant metaphor for the tension between Africa's aspirations to modernity and its desire to draw on its ancient cultural roots.
During the Los Angeles riots, Rodney King appeared on television to make his now famous plea: "People, can we all get along?" In this beautiful, elegantly written volume, Appiah steers us along a path toward answering a question of the utmost importance to us all.

"A wonderfully crafted collection of essays."--In My Father's House "Appiah's book on the place of Africa in contemporary philosophy powerfully exposes the dangers of any simplistic notion of African identity in the contemporary world....Tellingly, his reflections upon the calling of philosophy and the relation between post-traditional and not-yet-modern African culture(s) offer a welcome perspective on the increasingly shrill debates over "multiculturalism" that rend the academy. The epilogue on his father's funeral alone more than justifies the whole book."--Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Common Knowledge "Interesting and thought-provoking."--Safro Kwame, Lincoln University "Montaigne invented the modern essay;...Appiah has the brilliance to extend it."--The Village Voice "A groundbreaking--as well as ground-clearing--analysis of absurdities and damaging presuppositions that have clouded our discussions of race, Africa and nationalism since the 19th century....Mr. Appiah delivers what may very well be one of the handful of theoretical works on race that will help preserve our humanity and guide us gracefully into the next century."--Charles Johnson, The New York Times Book Review "Appiah's essays are exquisitely and painstakingly argued."--Washington Post Book World "An exceptional work, whose contextual sweep and lucidity provide a refreshing intellectual tone away from yahoo populism. In many profound ways, Kwame Appiah's In My Father's House ushers in a new level of discourse on race and culture, placing it within a universal narrative--and where else should it belong?...Without question, a first of its kind."--Wole Soyinka, from Race and the Rout of Reason "In My Father's House is a remarkable book that brings previously invisible cultural assumptions to the surface and obliges us to rethink our conceptions about African identity. Drawing upon a variety of elegantly analyzed historical examples and relating them to his own personal experiences of the African world, Anthony Appiah convincingly demonstrates the need to go beyond stereotyped notions of race and futile laments about past injustices. His observations about authenticity movements, the persistence of Western constructions of African realities, and the emergence of new syntheses of knowledge among African peoples represent a major breakthrough in the ongoing debate over the future of African culture."--Richard Bjornson, Ohio State University "This is an absorbing and path-breaking book by a gifted philosopher. Appiah rescues the philosophy of culture from Herder by insisting that we drop notions like 'authentic negritude' and that 'African culture' is the name of an important project rather than of an available datum. The book's range of reference and the vigor of its argumentation are equally impressive."--Richard Rorty, University of Virginia "Appiah's concern is, he modestly states, 'with the situation of African intellectuals.' In the growing literature on the subject, nobody has defined that situation, as it exists now, more sharply; nobody has built so many bridges to a discourse that might be shared universally. Learned yet unpretentious, serious and witty, critical and kind--this book is bound to infuse debates among African intellectuals with new vigor and to engage philosophers, literary critics, anthropologists and others everywhere. One also wishes it would be read by politicians for its lucid analyses of racism as well as its demonstration of intellectual independence tempered by colonial and post-colonial experience."--Johannes Fabian, University of Amsterdam "A wonderfully crafted collection of essays."--In My Father's House "Appiah's book on the place of Africa in contemporary philosophy powerfully exposes the dangers of any simplistic notion of African identity in the contemporary world....Tellingly, his reflections upon the calling of philosophy and the relation between post-traditional and not-yet-modern African culture(s) offer a welcome perspective on the increasingly shrill debates over "multiculturalism" that rend the academy. The epilogue on his father's funeral alone more than justifies the whole book."--Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Common Knowledge "Interesting and thought-provoking."--Safro Kwame, Lincoln University "Montaigne invented the modern essay;...Appiah has the brilliance to extend it."--The Village Voice "A groundbreaking--as well as ground-clearing--analysis of absurdities and damaging presuppositions that have clouded our discussions of race, Africa and nationalism since the 19th century....Mr. Appiah delivers what may very well be one of the handful of theoretical works on race that will help preserve our humanity and guide us gracefully into the next century."--Charles Johnson, The New York Times Book Review "Appiah's essays are exquisitely and painstakingly argued."--Washington Post Book World "An exceptional work, whose contextual sweep and lucidity provide a refreshing intellectual tone away from yahoo populism. In many profound ways, Kwame Appiah's In My Father's House ushers in a new level of discourse on race and culture, placing it within a universal narrative--and where else should it belong?...Without question, a first of its kind."--Wole Soyinka, from Race and the Rout of Reason "In My Father's House is a remarkable book that brings previously invisible cultural assumptions to the surface and obliges us to rethink our conceptions about African identity. Drawing upon a variety of elegantly analyzed historical examples and relating them to his own personal experiences of the African world, Anthony Appiah convincingly demonstrates the need to go beyond stereotyped notions of race and futile laments about past injustices. His observations about authenticity movements, the persistence of Western constructions of African realities, and the emergence of new syntheses of knowledge among African peoples represent a major breakthrough in the ongoing debate over the future of African culture."--Richard Bjornson, Ohio State University "This is an absorbing and path-breaking book by a gifted philosopher. Appiah rescues the philosophy of culture from Herder by insisting that we drop notions like 'authentic negritude' and that 'African culture' is the name of an important project rather than of an available datum. The book's range of reference and the vigor of its argumentation are equally impressive."--Richard Rorty, University of Virginia "Appiah's concern is, he modestly states, 'with the situation of African intellectuals.' In the growing literature on the subject, nobody has defined that situation, as it exists now, more sharply; nobody has built so many bridges to a discourse that might be shared universally. Learned yet unpretentious, serious and witty, critical and kind--this book is bound to infuse debates among African intellectuals with new vigor and to engage philosophers, literary critics, anthropologists and others everywhere. One also wishes it would be read by politicians for its lucid analyses of racism as well as its demonstration of intellectual independence tempered by colonial and post-colonial experience."--Johannes Fabian, University of Amsterdam "Illumined in this book are issues of race and ethnicity; culture and rationality; literature and cosmology; orality, literacy, and philosophy....The focus is on Africa, and the commitment, both moral and emotional, is to Africa; but the intellectual standpoint is universal. Appiah's philosophical genius and wide learning are evident on every page. All readers, in particular, those with any interest in Africa--literary, philosophical, historical, anthropological, political--should find the book both stimulating and instructive."--Kwasi Wiredu, University of South Florida "In My Father's House is a book of solid intelligence and a major contribution to the field of African philosophy."--V.Y. Mudimbe, Duke University "The greatest merit of these wonderful essays is the depiction of the possibility of a postcolonial culture that neither worships the "modern" nor romanticizes the past.... This is a must book for anyone interested in the politics of culture, Third World art and literature, race and culture, and how Africa has been invented in the West."--Ivan Karp, Northwestern University and Smithsonian Institution "Appiah's work must rank as a major force in the process of self-reflection involved in contemporary black discourse....Race and the question of identity are of course central preoccupations in Appiah's meditations, but what makes these essays significant is his endeavour to foster a fresh consideration of the concept of race and of the notion of identity--his reach, at once strenuous and disciplined, towards a broader conception of humanity than is allowed for even by the established conventions of black discourse itself."--Abiola Irele, Ohio State University "Kwame Anthony Appiah has translated his privileged position between and within the cultures of three continents, and his fluency in a wide array of disciplines and discourses, into an extraordinarily insightful series of essays. In My Father's House is a brilliant contribution to intercultural thinking; it should be required reading for anyone interested in African Studies or cultural studies of any kind. For, as Appiah explains and proves, Africa cannot be seen in isolation, nor is it of interest to Africanists alone; Africa must be analyzed within "a network of points of affinity," among "the mutual interdependencies history has thrust upon us." Moving from a rigorous critique of past models of identity to the articulation of a new, demystified "humanism," Appiah weaves philosophy, literature, history, and his own autobiography into a book that is truly a pleasure to read."--Christopher L. Miller, Yale University "Appiah's thoughtful treatment of nationalism, Pan-Africanism and the role of African intellectuals makes a point which is often overlooked in discussions of difference and discrimination, namely, that in struggling for more equitable relations we have to pursue genuinely human goals. He appropriately emphasizes the political role of particular identities, the importance of the solidarity of those similarly oppressed, and, with skill and sensitivity, addresses the occasional tension between such identities and the search for a broader vision."--Susan Babbitt, Queen's University "Studious re-interrogations of cultural issues that have exercised African writers, politicians, historians and philosophers form the homeland to the various diasporas and through many 'altered states'--from the pre-colonial and colonial to the post-colonial and post-modern.....More than a timely book....n My Fathers House deserves to be read by all who wish to seek fresh directions away from Africs's long-standing crisis."--West Africa "A sophisticated and fascinating attempt to redefine and celebrate his heritage as a post-colonial, postmodern African."--New Statesman & Society "A cogent and very readable philosophical investigation into the question of an "African identity" in all its cultural and political ramifications....Appiah's strategy of putting himself and his forebears into the context of an academic study further enlivens an already lively book and gives it a deep intimate resonance. Appiah is a writer of great charm and fluency, and he weaves these strands together with consummate skill. He is also a great explainer, and he sums up the theoretical backgrounds to his arguments with unusual clarity. his style is engagingly flamboyant and as persuasive as it is provocative."--Shaun de Waal, The Weekly Mail "Impressive...An erudite and demanding work, engaging with debates in moral philosophy, anthropology and the politics of racial and national identity."--John Rye, The Independent on Sunday "A powerful and persuasive polemic."--Julian Hughes, Huddersfield Daily Examiner "Excellent text....Of particular value to Aficanists, outlines and lucidly argues some of the most hotly debated points of contention in the field."--Susan Andrade, University of Pittsburgh

The Invention of Africap. 3
Illusions of Racep. 28
Topologies of Nativismp. 47
The Myth of an African Worldp. 73
Ethnophilosophy and Its Criticsp. 85
Old Gods, New Worldsp. 107
The Postcolonial and the Postmodernp. 137
Altered Statesp. 158
African Identitiesp. 173
Epilogue: In My Father's Housep. 181
Notesp. 193
Bibliographyp. 211
Indexp. 221
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195068528
ISBN-10: 0195068521
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 256
Published: 27th May 1993
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.27 x 15.57  x 1.88
Weight (kg): 0.38