Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - God and Research Autonomy

Hi Gloria

I do not know the history of the jews enormously well, but have some knowledge of it. I know the jewish bible very very well. So I feel entitled to an opinion on your question concerning Hebrew nationalism.

We (contemporary jews) struggle with terms like Hebrew and jew in referring to ourselves in biblical times. Jew seems to unite people of today with those of ancient times, even if it wasn’t used. Hebrew was also an anomalous terms, vaguely used. Mostly it was b’nai Israel, the sons of Israel, or more accurately the people of Israel, the children of Israel. Israel was Jacob who got his name changed; but that is mostly how they were known, and how moses mostly referred to them, to us. Anyway, that people had been earlier known as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and jacab. Those were the ancestors; their descendants came to Egypt, were saved by being brought there under the instructions of joseph. They departed later under the leadership of moses, and underwent the ordeal of the exodus. The account ends with the death of moses prior to entering into canaan, across the river, the promised land.

That’s it. Nation of Hebrews? Well, I would say “nation” or “people,” as in the Yoruba nation, the Yoruba people.

Did they come together and exist in the biblical account? I would say that is not how I would put it. I would prefer, a lot, to use the kind of understanding stuart hall would provide, which is that the meaning of who they were and what they mean for us, their “descendants,” lies in the account we give of the history today. In giving that account, we create ourselves, the people who we are.

In imagining that this is an accurate account of who they are is entirely ideological, i.e., obscures the processes by which we create ourselves in giving the account. This is an althuserrian understanding of ideology, adopted by hall, the leading light, for me, of cultural studies.

Maybe with this you’ll understand my impatience with all attempts to read direct historical data from that text.



Kenneth Harrow

Dept of English and Film Studies

Michigan State University

619 Red Cedar Rd

East Lansing, MI 48824



From: usaafricadialogue <> on behalf of "Emeagwali, Gloria (History)" <>
Reply-To: usaafricadialogue <>
Date: Wednesday 10 May 2017 at 09:27
To: usaafricadialogue <>
Subject: Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - God and Research Autonomy


I am in agreement with Olayinka's remarks. Christianity is one of the most political of religions.

Analyze carefully the Old Testament. What is it?  Is Hebrew nationalism not an important aspect of the narrative? Correct me if I am wrong. Religions such as these  are useful  for the communities involved -  to give hope  in an era of stress. In that way religions such as these serve a useful psychological purpose -  and they emerge in a sociological/anthropological/ historical  context. Some deep philosophy emerges as well in terms of how men and women in society should or could behave  in society -  but as a thinker you have to step back and reflect on what the agenda really amounts to.


Ken, Obatala was not voluntarily added to the list of saints by orthodox Catholics. Candomble in Brazil and Santeria in Cuba emerged in the context of rebellion and subversion by the enslaved Africans. They had to hide their beliefs or  cover them up for reasons of survival. Their  so-called masters were monotheists but they themselves were polytheists, worshipping the old African  religious system. 




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