Yurugu - An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior
Ani's 1994 work, Yurugu: An Afrikan-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior, examined the influence of European culture on the formation of modern institutional frameworks, through colonialism and imperialism, from an African perspective. Described by the author as an "intentionally aggressive polemic", the book derives its title from a Dogon legend of an incomplete and destructive being rejected by its creator.
Yurugu, described in Dogon mythology, by the people of Mali, in West Africa, as incomplete, in search of the secrets of AMMA (the creative principle) of which he wants to “gain possession.” Acting with anxiety and impatience, and aggressiveness, he is incessantly restless. Yurugu is responsible for disorder in the universe. This being conceived in denial of the natural order, then acts to initiate and promote disharmony in the universe. In African Cosmology such a being is deficient in spiritual sensibility, is perpetually in conflict, is limited cognitively, and is threatening to the well being of humanity.
Examining the causes of global white supremacy, Ani argued that European thought implicitly believes in its own superiority, stating: "European culture is unique in the assertion of political interest". In Yurugu, Ani proposed a tripartite conceptualization of culture, based on the concepts of:
- Asili, the central seed or "germinating matrix" of a culture, it's essence.
- Utamawazo, "culturally structured thought" or worldview, "the way in which the thought of members of a culture must be patterned if the asili is to be fulfilled", and
- Utamaroho, a culture's "vital force" or "energy source", which "gives it its emotional tone and motivates the collective behavior of its members".
The terms Ani uses in this framework are based on Swahili. Asili is a common Swahili word meaning "origin" or "essence"; utamawazo and utamaroho are neologisms created by Ani, based on the Swahili words utamaduni ("civilisation"), wazo ("thought") and roho ("spirit life"). The utamawazo and utamaroho are not viewed as separate from the asili, but as its manifestations, which are "born out of the asili and, in turn, affirm it."
Ani characterised the asili of European culture as dominated by the concepts of separation and control, with separation establishing dichotomies like "man" and "nature", "the European" and "the other", "thought" and "emotion" – separations that in effect end up negating the existence of "the other", who or which becomes subservient to the needs of (European) man. Control is disguised in universalism as in reality "the use of abstract 'universal' formulations in the European experience has been to control people, to impress them, and to intimidate them."
According to Ani's model, the utamawazo of European culture "is structured by ideology and bio-cultural experience", and its utamaroho or vital force is domination, reflected in all European-based structures and the imposition of Western values and civilisation on peoples around the world, destroying cultures and languages in the name of progress.
The book also addresses the use of the term Maafa, based on a Swahili word meaning "great disaster", to describe slavery (or African Holocaust). African-centered thinkers have subsequently popularized and expanded on Ani's conceptualization. Citing both the centuries long history of slavery and more recent examples like the Tuskegee study, Ani argued that Europeans and white Americans have an "enormous capacity for the perpetration of physical violence against other cultures" that had resulted in "antihuman, genocidal" treatment of blacks.