think piece 2 - The Individual in Pre-Colonial African...

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The Individual in Pre-Colonial African History Collectivism is the key to the existence of an individual in pre-colonial African history. One is unable to be defined without defining the society to which it belongs. An individual reflects his community and the community reflects the individual, so all actions done by the individual must be first considered in terms of the group. It can be argued that in comparison to the United States, there is greater emphasis on the development of an individual in Africa, in order to produce the most successful kinship. In Africa, an individual, “is simply part of the whole. The community must therefore make, create, or produce the individual; for the individual depends on the corporate group” (Mbiti, 106). The growth of an individual in African societies is imperative in defining the group’s eminence. In Western culture, an individual belongs to a family, an organization, a team, etc. These groups help define the person by associating attributes similar to the group with attributes similar to the individual. It is typical for people in the United States join a club or team for fun, live in an areas where neighbors might not be known, and don’t always see eye-to-eye with their family. However, group membership is more intensified in pre-colonial Africa. For example, if a person acts wrongly to another person, not only does it negatively affect the group, but also the group can be held responsible and punished (Khapoya, 40). Most individuals learn to act responsibly though because being exiled from your group is a severe reprimand. Without the group, an individual is nothing. The collectivist concept comes from Africa’s basic need of survival and continuation. Many African societies have been negatively affected by high mortality
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rates, fatality by diseases, and the hardships of hunting and gathering. “Survival was very much dependent on people living together, working the soil together, sharing tasks, and protecting and comforting each other” (Khapoya, 40). Using history as means of instruction, these African societies have learned what is essential in successfully developing and maintaining a community. In contrast to the United States, while people have concerns for their community and family, most emphasis is put on an individual to better themselves for themselves. It is not uncommon to see people in our society try to get ahead by “throwing someone under the bus,” as we say. It is also not uncommon to find successful men or women that live independently, look only after themselves, and
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This note was uploaded on 01/04/2012 for the course BWS 224 taught by Professor Osaakolumwullah during the Fall '10 term at Miami University.

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think piece 2 - The Individual in Pre-Colonial African...

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