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Maat and Order in African Cosmology: A Conceptual Tool for Understanding Indigenous Knowledge

Denise Martin
Journal of Black Studies
Vol. 38, No. 6 (Jul., 2008), pp. 951-967
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40035033
Page Count: 17
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Maat and Order in African Cosmology: A Conceptual Tool for Understanding Indigenous Knowledge
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Abstract

Maat is a comprehensive construct that existed throughout ancient Egyptian civilization. Cosmologically, maat is the principle of order that informs the creation of the universe. Religiously, maat is a goddess or neter representing order or balance. Last, philosophically, maat is a moral and ethical principle that all Egyptians were expected to embody in their daily actions toward family, community, nation, environment, and god. This work extends maat beyond the boundaries of ancient Egyptian culture and tests its conceptual elasticity by developing it into an analytical tool for studying classical African cosmological knowledge and how it relates to cultural expression. It focuses on the conceptualization of maat as the foundation of the universe and then uses the manner in which maat appears in ancient Egyptian culture as a basis for distinguishing patterns within classical African knowledge. This pattern contains 10 characteristics or dimensions: sacred, symbolic, visual, functional, moral, oral, communal, rhythmic, multidimensional, and holistic.

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