MONOCULTURE – Sources of Inspiration for Léopold Senghor


Leo Frobenius (1873-1938) was a German ethnologist, archaeologist, and proponent of a culture-historical approach to ethnology. He is also considered to be one of the key figures that influenced the Négritude movement. In the introduction to An Anthology published on the occasion of Frobenius’ hundred years anniversary, Léopold Senghor claimed that the latter had not only “revealed Africa for the rest of the world”, but also “Africans to themselves”. Indeed, in his Kulturgeschichte Afrikas, the German ethnologist not only points out that the “barbarian negro was a European invention”, but also elaborates on such concepts as emotion, intuition, art, myth, and Eurafrica, which would become crucial for Senghor’s understanding of black subjectivity. Paideuma. Umrisse einer Kultur- und Seelenlehre (Paideuma. Outlines of a Soul and Culture Theory) is considered Frobenius’ most significant contribution to ethnography. Paideuma can be described as a unique faculty or manifestation of an attitude to life formed by a specific environment and upbringing. Therefore, man is understood as a product of culture, not the contrary.

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