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Intellectual poverty and theory building in African mass communication research

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After years of heated controversy over philosophical orientations among communication researchers, a consensus seems to have emerged that recognizes the value of both the American and Europeans traditions. It was in the wake of the ‘ferment’ debates among communication scholars in the late 1970s and early 1980s that African communication scholars also started to take stock of their field and take a closer look at their historical and cultural experiences. In trying to situate their own unique perspectives within the study of communication, these scholars lamented the paucity of authentic African theoretical perspectives.

All human communication behaviour is grounded in culture. Hence, authentic African communication theories attempt to explain such behaviour from the African cultural context. Over the years, however, African communication researchers engaged more in ‘reactive scholarship’ than in original theory building and relied largely on Eurocentric theories to explain African realities. Our study seeks to assess what progress has been made towards theory building among African communication scholars, and to determine whether such efforts still remain largely ‘reactive’, consist-ing mainly of criticisms of Eurocentric models and theories.

The data revealed that after 30 years of debate on the ferment in communication research, there is still a gaping hole in African communication research, one that is devoid of authentic African communication theories that reflect the cultural, linguis-tic and social cleavages of the African society.
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Keywords: Afrocentric paradigm; Intellectual Poverty; predictive factors; reactive scholarship

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: American University of Nigeria 2: University of Lagos

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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