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Ani's ground-breaking 1994 work, Yurugu: An African-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.
|"Marimba Ani speaks" – Yurugu and the European asili|
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 conceptualisation of culture, based on the concepts of
- Asili, the central seed or "germinating matrix" of a culture,
- 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 addressed the use of the term Maafa, based on a Swahili word meaning "great disaster", to describe slavery, and Afrocentrist thinkers 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.
- Melanie E. L. Bush (28 July 2004). Breaking the code of good intentions: everyday forms of whiteness. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-7425-2864-2. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
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- Susan Hawthorne (2002). Wild politics: feminism, globalisation, bio/diversity. Spinifex Press. pp. 17–19, 388. ISBN 978-1-876756-24-6. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
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- Marimba Ani (1994). Yurugu: an African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior. Africa World Press. pp. xi, 1. ISBN 978-0-86543-248-2. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
- Marimba Ani (1994). Yurugu: an African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior. Africa World Press. p. xxv. ISBN 978-0-86543-248-2. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
- Alamin M. Mazrui (2004). English in Africa: after the Cold War. Multilingual Matters. p. 101. ISBN 978-1-85359-689-6. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- Susan Hawthorne (2002). Wild politics: feminism, globalisation, bio/diversity. Spinifex Press. p. 388. ISBN 978-1-876756-24-6. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- Marimba Ani (1994). Yurugu: an African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior. Africa World Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-86543-248-2. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
- Philip Higgs (2000). African voices in education. Juta and Company Ltd. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-7021-5199-6. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- Pero Gaglo Dagbovie (15 March 2010). African American History Reconsidered. University of Illinois Press. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-252-07701-2. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
- Marimba Ani (1994). Yurugu: an African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior. Africa World Press. pp. 427, 434. ISBN 978-0-86543-248-2. Retrieved 17 September 2011.