In the introduction to “Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization,” Martin Bernal carves out space for a new paradigm of thought regarding Greek history, which disrupts the prevailing notion that ancient Greece is the foundation of Western civilization. Bernal distinguishes between the Ancient and Aryan models of Greek history, the first of which posits that Greek culture resulted from colonization by Egyptians and Phoenicians of native inhabitants and the second of which posits that Greek culture resulted from the mixture of Indo-European-speaking Hellenes due to invasions from the North of ‘Aegean’ or ‘Pre-Hellenic’ culture. He explains that throughout history, Europeans have perpetuated the Aryan model in order to repress the truth of the matter, which according to Benal, is that Egyptians and Phonecians, which were intentionally categorized as a dark, non-European, barbaric race, played a major role in the formation of “Greek” culture. He offers a “Revised Ancient Model,” which posits that Greek culture actually resulted from both colonization and invasion, yet insists that original population existing in Greece was less “Greek” and more Indo-Hiitite—acknowledgement of which means accepting that our entire foundation of thought that considers Greece a Western culture and the birth of Western civilization is based on a racist and continentally chauvinistic fabrication of Ancient Greece. For scholars in rhetoric, that means also acknowledging that the foundation of our discipline is based on the work of people, mostly “Caucasion” men (including Artistotle), who were/are actively protective of and adamant about Greece’s Hellenic superiority and subsequent others who since the 15th century have reifed the notion that rhetoric is founded in Western thought.
“…[M]odern archaleogists and ancient historians of this region are still working with models set up by men who were crudely positivist and racists” (9).
According to Malea Powell, we need to:
take what we do best as a discipline—reflect, rethink, revisit, and revise the stories that create who we are….We reimagine ourselves, our pedagogies, our scholarship, our discipline in relation to a long and sordid history of American imperialism….[I]n coming to terms with our relationship to the colonizing consequences of writing in our past, we will begin, indeed, to tell new stories of “who and what, and that we are” (“Rhetorics” 428).
I would also say we need to reimagine ourselves, our pedagogies, our scholarship, our discipline in relation to a long and sordid history of cultural imperialism dating back to ancient Greece and European imperialism. How has our discipline been and how is our discipline still complicit in the dominant paradigm of Eurocentric intellectual thought, which for centuries has upheld the West, the “first world,” as the center and apex of civilization? What does it mean that the lens through which we study all persuasive practices is comprised of deeply embedded layers of imperial and racist ideologies? How do we shatter this lens? And even more, importantly, how do we begin to see the persuasive world through a new lens, a new paradigm of though? If so, what would that new paradigm entail? Are we constructing it as we speak?