In the animal kingdom, the rule is eat or be eaten. In the human Kingdom the law is define or be defined. -----Thomas Szasz I will tell you, it is impossible to understand Black [African] phenomena with White [Eurasian] definitions. -----Bobby Wright The epigraphs reflect the relevance of the question Who has been defining African personality and to what end? If the answer is an inimical Western psychological establishmentarianism, then redefinition from the centered African worldview would be imperative and overdue. Perhaps, the following assessments are as timely today as when printed:
Euro-American psychologists have had a definite function and role... Their research has long served as a bulwark of rationalization for oppression.... in short,... sometimes unwitting and sometimes determined agents in a violent history of oppression. (Bulhan, 1981, 25) Scientific racism was heavily implicated in the colonial enterprise, at every turn feeding colonial governments with the scientific 'facts'.... marshalled to 'prove' a single tenet: that Black African peoples were inferior to white colonizing populations.... [leading] ethnopsychiatry in Africa between 1900 and 1960.... to construct [deliberately racist] theories about 'the African mind'. (Swartz, 1996, 127) The statements are verified in numerous classical analyses (Citizen's Commission, 1995; Guthrie, 1999; King, 1976; McCulloch, 1990, 1995; Thomas & Sillen, 1972). Therefore, this book attempts to provide a centered African redefinition of African personality along with existing supportive empirical research deriving from African-centered framework. It is prudent on many levels to speak in the centered African voice not the least being that
[t]o have voice when one is required to speak in the forms allowed by the dominant discourse [Eurasian] is still not to have voice, that is, not to have self-determining self-representation. It is merely to speak as the dominant discourse permits, which means either to speak as one has been constructed by that discourse or to speak through its gaze, perspective, and standpoint. (Sampson, 1993, 1227) Holdstock (2000), Schultz (2003) and Hanks (2008) have shown that attention to African-centered models can bear fruit.
Explanation and Elaboration of the Title
Five parts of the title require defining in elaboration before moving forward: (1) Is this thing personality definable? (2) Scientifically speaking, what is special to note about personality? (3) Does "racial African" have a place in today's discourse? (4) What does "African-centered" denote and why bother with it? And, (5) what is meant by metatheory? The evolutionary aspect of the title is covered in Chapter 4.
First, personality theorizing needs perspective: "The immense challenge of producing a full-blown personality theory has only been met by a dozen or so individuals.... aim[ing] to provide an understanding of individual experience and behaviour at both the general [population or group] and the particular [individual person] levels" (Sloan, 2009, 58). Historically, personality has had many definitions. In Western psychology, Allport's has been a staple for decades: "The dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment" (Allport, 1937, 48). Mischel (1973) pointed out that much of this is idiosyncratically organized in people. Uniqueness and individualism are the two prominent upshots deriving from the Eurasian asili (asili is interchangeable with deep structure of culture) in which Allport's definition and Mischel's observation were conceived.
In contrast, every theory of African personality that is centered in the traditional, authentic African asili--which is seen as irrefragable, enduring and original (Azibo, 1992a, 2012a)--depicts as preeminent a transpersonal collectivity in personality without sacrificing or de-emphasizing a person's individuality (Azibo, 2014a). It is as if reality is structured around ADP's "interpersonal rather than individualistic orientation towards the world" (Houston, 1990, 120). Despite being deposed and kidnapped by the United States, an act that must be avenged, former Haitian president Aristide effectively reminds us that the centered African "philosophy of Ubuntu [teaches] 'A person is a person through other human beings. A person becomes a person through the community. A person is [a] person when she/he treats others well'" (Aristide, 2011, 16). An early working definition by the African Psychology Institute (1982) suggested African personality was a biogenetically grounded psychological Africanity, a collective and holistic phenomenon comprised of a spiritual core which provides the dynamic synthesis between the I-Me-We nexus of selfhood.
As African personality definition is returned to below for fuller explication, the immediate point to be taken is the differing views of the self that definitions of personality produced under Eurasian and centered African asilis generate. Eurasian individualism as an orientation toward a concept of "I" extending no farther than "me and myself" unanchored in or superseding the group or collective follows from the Western definition of personality. In contrast, centered African individuality orientation anchors the "I" to the collective "We-Us." Interestingly enough, "WEUSI translates from Swahili to English as Collective Blackness" (Williams, 1981, 101, original emphases). Pasteur and Toldson (1982) noted
In spite of man's [sic] unique and characteristic idiosyncracies, in the African world he is never conceptualized as an individual in isolation from the total community that supports his existence. His identity is one that embraces the life force and the character structure of other things and beings in the universe. (64) Erny (1973) concurs. Johnson-Redd (2014) imbues this self-conception into a statement of the most practical pressing need of ADP that "we must empower ourselves to deal with expanding progress among ourselves so we can take better care of each other" (176). This self-as-extended notion has been a cultural staple among ADP for eons (Chivaura, 2015; Finch, 1991; Houston, 1990, 118-124; Khoapa, 1980; Mbiti, 1970...