1st Edition

Maatian Ethics in a Communication Context

By Melba Vélez Ortiz Copyright 2020
    134 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    134 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Maatian Ethics in a Communication Context explores the ethical principle of Maat: the guiding principle of harmony and order that permeated classical African political and civil life.

    The book provides a rigorous, communication-focused account of the ethical wisdom ancient Africans cultivated and is evidenced in the form of recovered written texts, mythology, stelae, prescriptions for just speech, and the hieroglyphic system of writing itself. Moving beyond colonial stereotypes of ancient Africans, the book offers insight into the African value systems that positioned humans as inextricably embedded in nature, and communication theory that anchors good communication in careful listening habits as the foundational moral virtue. Expanding on the work of Maulana Karenga, Molefi Kete Asante and other groundbreaking scholars, the book presents a picture of civilizations with a shared lust for life, a spiritual connection to scientific speech, and the veneration of ancestors as deeply connected to the pursuit of wisdom.

    Offering an examination of Maat from a specifically communication ethics perspective, this book will be of great interest to scholars and students of Communication Ethics, African philosophy, Rhetorical theory, Africana Studies and Ancient History.


    I As Above, So Below, As Below, So Above

    I.1 An Undeniable Moral, Philosophical, and Intellectual Legacy

    I.2 Notes on the Particularities of This Inquiry

    Chapter 1: The Evolution of Maat as the Collective Guiding Principle in Pre-Colonial African Civilizations

    1.1 The Earthshattering End of the Last Ice Age

    1.2 A Genealogy of Morals

    1.3 Ecological Dimensions

    1.4 Conclusion: Maat as a Land Ethic

    Chapter 2: Ancient African Spirituality: Heaven on Earth

    2.1 The Communicative Dimensions of African Spirituality

    2.2 From Cosmology to Communication Ethics

    2.3 The Kemetic Work of the Soul

    2.4 Conclusion: Mythology as Allegory

    Chapter 3: Scientific Communication and the Divine

    3.1 Monologue as Internal Dialogue

    3.2 Maat as the Model of Maieutic Communication

    3.3 Direct Communication as Divine

    3.4 The School of Alexandria

    3.5 Conclusion: Morality as Technology

    Chapter 4: The Universal Moral Ideal of Maat

    4.1 Re-Enlightening the Enlightenment Transcendental Individual

    4.2 Communication as Key to Survival

    4.3 On Reasoned Pleasures

    4.4 Maatian Symetry and Balance as Visual Ethics

    4.5 Conclusion: Unaltered by the Winds of Change

    Chapter 5: Communicative Dimensions of Maat: Speech and Silence

    5.1 Speech as a Radically Creative Action

    5.2 Maat as Scientific Speech

    5.3 Speaking to Posterity: On the Preeminence of Listening and Silence as Communicative Virtues

    Chapter 6: Medu Netcher: A Picture Says a Thousand Words?

    6.1 Order

    6.2 Harmony

    6.3 Balance

    6.4 Transcendental Truths

    Chapter 7: A Lust for Lofe: Allegory and Poetry

    7.1 Maat in the Ancestors' Voice

    7.2 Love

    7.3 Family

    7.4 Sorrow

    7.5 Friends

    7.6 Nature

    Afterword: Speaking to Posterity


    A native of Puerto Rico, Melba Vélez Ortiz earned her PhD in Communication Ethics from the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009. Her areas of research are communication ethics and global environmental communication. Her work examines the ways in which the long-term success of conservation efforts depends upon fundamental shifts in cultural values, in aesthetic and moral communication, and in shared understandings of how the individual fits into social and ecological communities. She has a passion for intellectual history and ancient approaches to ethics. Her current research examines the ecological and communicative dimensions of ancient Pan-African ethics and values. She is Past-Chair of the Ethics Division of the National Communication Association and her research has been recognized and awarded at the national level. In addition, Dr. Vélez Ortiz has researched and published in the area of Latin-American/Caribbean/Latina-o philosophy and intellectual history.

    "Maatian Ethics in a Communication Context is a brilliant book. It is the eloquent result of an award-winning educator’s gift for communicating ideas with clarity and imagination. Documenting Maatian Egyptian ethics as the first systematic theory is history-making scholarship. This monumental book is destined to become a classic."

    - Clifford G. Christians, Research Professor of Communications, University of Illinois

    "Maatian Ethics in a Communication Context expertly excavates the ancient Egyptian tradition of moral philosophy and uses it to analyze the ethical dimensions of communication practice. It represents the most comprehensive account of Maat and its relevance for communication ethics available, and it surely will be of interest to those committed to engaging understudied world traditions in order to understand and improve human communication."

    - Scott R. Stroud, Associate Professor of Comunication Studies, Moody College of Communication, The University of Texas at Austin