What prompted Martin Bernal, who specialized in modern Chinese
intellectual history, to turn to the ancient history of the Eastern
Mediterranean basin? Why did Bernal set out to rewrite two
millennia of European intellectual history, exposing the
18th-century rise of Altertumswissenschaft as a critical phase in
the collective, Euro-centric denial of what he calls the
'Afro-asiatic roots of European civilization?' How could his
multi-volume book Black Athena (1987, 1991) create havoc - in the
form of a heated and protracted, international debate - in the
fields of African studies, ancient history, classical archaeology,
Egyptology, comparative linguistics, the history of ideas, and
human biology? How could Martin Bernal become a reluctant hero of
African American intellectuals identifying as Afro-centrist? Why
did this condemn him to the hatred of conservative American
classicists and historians of ideas? Why was he tempted to overplay
his hand? What errors did he commit in the fields of epistemology,
historiography, and historical linguistics? Why, yet, is Martin
Bernal largely right - if often for the wrong reasons? With the
publication, in 1996, of the devastatingly critical Black Athena
Revisited (eds. Mary R. Lefkowitz and Guy MacLean Rogers), the
impression was created that the Black Athena thesis had been
conclusively refuted. However, this present volume has sought to
restore the balance. Bernal himself has contributed three
innovative and illuminating pieces to the collection, responding to
critics, systematizing his linguistic claims, and applying the
Black Athena thesis to sub-Saharan Africa. By offering answers to
the above questions, it takes the international debate to the next
constructive phase. Black Athena Comes of Age shows that incisive
and multifarious criticism of Bernal's position and methods is
necessary and often justified. Yet, at the turn of the 21st
century, the formulation of a non-Euro-centric, multi-centric model
of global cultural history is of vital importance. It is here that
Martin Bernal shows the way as none before him. Specifically, the
implications of his visions for sub-Saharan Africa constitute a
major intellectual challenge. Stressing massive intercontinental
interactions and vital global contributions of the African peoples,
they also invite us to redress the present-day negative image of
Africa. (Series: Afrikanische Studien/African Studies - Vol. 44)
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