Book review by Malcolm Che' Gossett ofAfrican Psychology: Toward it's Reclamation, Re-ascension and Revitalization
by: Wade W. Nobles
Dr. Wade Nobles attained a Ph.D from Stanford University in California and is a renowned psychologist in the field of African Psychology. Dr. Nobles is a professor at San Francisco State University and is also Executive Director of the Institute for the Advanced Study of Black Family Life and Culture Inc. This particular institute remains the only independent organization dedicated solely to the improvement of Black family life and culture. Under Nobles' leadership the Institute has flourished and become active in the transformation of the African American community through social work and scientific research. Dr. Nobles was a key figure in the creation of a national federation of programs dedicated to the training and development of Black manhood. Through the work of Dr. Nobles, the Institute of the Advanced Study of Black Family Life and Culture has affected prominent changes, such as the empowerment of Black Psychology and social change within African American communities.
African Psychology is a historical concept, being connected to ancient African thought. Dr. Wade Nobles argues throughout the book that the semantics of Western Psychology have distorted the essence of Ancient African thought and in turn misconstrued the field of African Psychology. Western Psychology focuses on the human being as an object, rather than an entity that is comprised of spiritual, physical and biological attributes. Dr. Nobles asserts in "African Psychology" that Western psychology misses the central point by focusing on human behaviors rather than examining the human as a spiritual being. The author describes the inadequacies of Western psychology as it relates to Afrikans in America. Western Psychology, he argues, uses assumptions and theories to interpret Afrikans but fails to separate the context of the particular group's experience as a factor. Essentially, this is analogous to the mentality of the writers of the book "The Bell Curve." "The Bell Curve" attempts to prove that Afrikans are inferior through the use of statistical evidence but omits all background information as to why the score of Afrikans were lower in different areas. Dr. Wade Nobles claims hat the field of Western psychology is biased and in many cases racist and support this claim shows that any of the field's most prominent figures have conducted research in attempts to prove Afrikan inferiority.
In the second and third chapters of "African Psychology," entitled "Ancient African Roots of Western Psychology" and "Ancient Kemetic Thought and the Development of African Psychology," Nobles addresses the ancient African roots of African psychology. Nobles dispels the argument that views African psychology as simply a field created by Afrikan psychologists who want to exert superiority over other circles. Dr. Nobles instead proposes that African psychology should be seen as the rejuvenation of the soul or "psyche" within Afrikan peoples. Dr. Nobles asserts that ancient African thought has been falsified through the process of "scientific colonialism," which means that the contributions of Egyptology to Western civilization have been diminished through a conscious process. The author examines the teachings of Socrates and shows how they relate to Ancient Egyptian belied. Dr. Nobles addresses the teaching of Socrates that pronounces that man must know himself, an idea that according to the author, can be found carved on the outside of the temples of Ancient Kemet. Dr. Wade Nobles shows that many of the founding fathers of Western philosophy/psychology derived their ideas from Ancient African teachings and in turn incorporated their own beliefs to form theories. This, Dr. Nobles argues, adds to the inadequacy of Western psychology and the distortion of Ancient African beliefs.
The fourth chapter of "African Psychology" entitled "Psyche (Soul) in Kemetic Metaphysics, addresses the concept of the spirit within ancient African thought and Dr. Nobles emphasizes that this is a crucial element when analyzing the roots of African Psychology. The psychic/spiritual aspect of ancient Egyptian thought is separated into seven areas, according to Dr. Nobles. These seven areas are the Ka-the body, the Ba-breath, Khaba-a spiritual covering that envelopes the body, the Akhu-the mind, the Seb-the ancestral soul, Putah-mental maturity and lastly Atmu- the divine soul. The seven areas that compromise the idea of the spirit relate to the ancient Egyptian conception of the universe. Dr. Wade Nobles asserts that ancient African thought perceived the universe as being interconnected and communal. Therefore the existence of the family is essential for the existence of the individual and the spiritual cannot be separated from the physical. Dr. Nobles argues that it is of the utmost importance to recognize this concept when discussing African psychology and observing the primary differences between this field and that of Western psychology.
The fifth and sixth chapters of "African Psychology," entitled "The Reascension of African Psychology" and "Implications for the Emergent African Psychology," confront some of the concerns and stereotypes surrounding the field of African psychology. Dr. Nobles responds to the criticism towards African psychology by explaining that the field is still a relatively new one and that the advocates of African psychology are struggling to promote its acceptance and relevance within society. Dr. Nobles asserts that the emergence and continued presence and practice of African psychology is a testament to its necessity. The author states that the existence of African psychology proves that the behaviorisms of Afrikans in America cannot be defined within the realms of Western psychology. Dr. Nobles further addresses the concept of African psychology by discussing some of the implications that ancient African thought has for the field. Afrikan psychologists assert that Afrikan behaviorism reflects ancient African thought and therefore those Afrikans that are out of spiritual, mental and physical interconnectedness with Afrikan reality are digressing in their mental health. Dr. Nobles argues that those Afrikans that commit serious crimes against fellow Afrikans in the community are symptomatic of this insanity. Dr. Nobles promotes the social aspect of African psychology by addressing the mental conditions of Afrikans in American society.
"Towards Becoming an Authentic African Psychologist" is the title of the final chapter of "African Psychology" and Dr. Nobles focuses on two major ideas that are essential to the work of the Afrikan psychologist. The first idea, being the recognition of ancient African history, is paramount to the Afrikan psychologist, for in order to fully comprehend the psychology of Afrikan behavior and the central concepts of African psychology, Dr. Nobles argues that the subject must understand their origin. Dr. Nobles finishes by arguing that Afrikan psychologists, in defining the field of African psychology, are acting as catalysts within the larger field of psychology as they redirect the field towards the comprehension of the human as well as the spirit realms. "African Psychology: Toward its Reclamation, Re-Ascension and Revitalization" has broadened my perspective on the field of psychology as it relates not simply to African Americans, but humanity as a whole. Western psychology, as Dr. Nobles argues, is inadequate because it utilizes assumptions based on its own presumptions about how people behave. These assumptions are in turn detrimental, especially when applied as theories about the behaviors of Afrikans, as they are falsified due to the distortion of history. Western psychology has not yet succeeded in adequately addressing the behaviors of Afrikans in this society and so this accounts for the ascension of African psychology. Dr. Nobles proves to be poignant when discussing the role of Afrikan psychologists in society. Dr. Nobles supported his arguments with detail and I especially enjoyed how he illustrates the connection between ancient African ideology and Afrikan psychology and because of this my appreciation of my Afrikan ancestry and culture has deepened.
Malcolm Che' Gossett is a sophomore African American Studies major at Morehouse CollegeAfrican Psychology: Toward it's Reclamation, Re-ascension and Revitalization
by: Wade W. Nobleshttp://www.nbufront.org/html/X-PressYourself/WadeNoblesBookReview1.html