“Rhetoric from the Ruins of African Antiquity” Kermit Campbell

In “Rhetoric from the Ruins of African Antiquity,” Kermit Campbell challenges George Kennedy’s notion that traditional societies such as ancient and medieval African cultures reflected little on language use. Campbell claims that African rhetorical practices need to be based African historical records and cannot be categorized simply or easily judged as “non-literate.”  Campbell also rejects Kennedy’s claim that rhetoric in ancient traditional societies is largely a conservative force. Campbell argues that such “categories obscure the nuances of” distinct rhetorical practices that need to be regarded on their own terms.  Campbell also demonstrates how some traditional “nonliterate” societies employ rhetoric for reasons other to preserve social ranking and traditional values, as Kennedy claims. Although Campbell admits the impossibility of theorizing all African rhetorical traditions, Campbell describe some instances of verbal language in use in the Nubia, Axum, and Mali cultures, which demonstrate that these cultures actually used oral and written language in complex and rhetorical ways. Campbell’s ultimate point is that although broad general claims about African rhetorical practices cannot be made since not enough research has been conducted on ancient African rhetorics, what is certain is that ancient African traditions are as rich, diverse, and complex “as any in the Western world.


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