Assimilation (cont.)

Submitted by Ysabel M. Woody on Tuesday, 12/6/2011, at 12:29 AM

Senghor expands on his thoughts on assimilation by describing the context in which it can occur. He explains that assimilation in its positive sense can only happen once Africans are grounded in their identity, which this comes through the teaching of African humanities. Once African identity is situated in a literary tradition, Africans gain the means to participate on the global stage on equal footing with all other civilizations and to selectively incorporate complementary European ideas into their society.

In addition, Senghor provides an example of his construction of assimilation in his discussion of European socialism and parlimentary democracy. He claims that Africans can use these European systems as support stuctures in African society, while keeping the content of their governments essentially African. Socialism becomes a technique helpful in implementing long-held African societal values in the realms of economics, law, and politics.


“I would like to see in secondary schools every exercise and every essay a continual confrontation and yet at the same time a continual exchange of opinions between Europe and Africa ('Education,' 53).”

"All that is need now is for the linguist to fix and preserve thse riches in the written word. There the school boy of the future will be abbe to find the features of the Africa which is eternal ('Education,' 54)."

"This then is where the final aim of colonization lies. A moral and intellectual cross-fertilization, a spiritual graft...assimilation that allows association ('Education,' 54)."

"The problem is not to stop them at the customs posts, but to analyse their forms and their spirit and then to see waht should be retained and how thsi can be made to take root in the realities of Africa ('Toward a New African-Inspired Humanism,' 78)."

Submitted by Ellen M. Richmond on Thursday, 11/17/2011, at 9:28 PM

Sénghor, contrary to what one might expect, does not reject assimilation; he gives it, rather, the positive connotation of a cross-cultural encounter from which African nations stand to gain. The danger is not in assimilation, which is a form of cultural participation, but in imitation, which prohibits participation due to the racial context of colonization. Africa can never be French, but it may assimilate positive elements of French culture. However, Africa will only be able to assimilate when it is grounded in its own identity. For this, essentialism and the creation of a cultural myth are necessary to establish roots. Without a strong sense of black identity, Africans will fail to selectively assimilate, and remain themselves within the French empire.

Quotes from "Assimilation and Association"

"For although it is not quite true that a civilization can assimilate a given people, we must still keep the definition that to assimilate is not to identify, to make identical. What is true is that the same people can assimilate a civilization... Witness Japan that has assimilated the West. It will be objected that only what is similar can be assimilated. But is this not self-contradictory? If to assimilate means to make similar, what is similar has no need to be assimilated."

"Colonization means an economy directed to the sole end of enriching the colonizer. Consequently assimilation which implies a degree of intellectual and political emancipation is seen as the enemy..."

"There is no question of France's adopting African customs and institutions... But for the colonies there is the problem of assimilating the spirit of French civilization. It must be an active and judicious assimilation, fertilizing the indigenous civilizations, bringing them out of their stagnation, re-creating them out of their decadence."

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