Social construction ex. national border - does not exist before social, it is made by people - in this
case not technically visible
o Shaped by social, political, and historical forces therefore changes over time
But it is eminently real (i.e. it has real effects)
What gives unity and content to a course on African history?
What is Africa? 2 approaches
o Valentin Mudimbe and "The invention of Africa" - born in Democratic Republic of Congo
What forces that changed African history?
What makes something African philosophy? Is it the identity of the person explaining
the ideas, is it the identity of the ideas being presented?
He looked upstream and looked at how other things became African
Changes in art and representation
Ex. Trade objects/Curio (15th century) shifted in 19th century to "African Art" -
that become seen as bad art, we can't compare it to European art
How European context influences and shapes categories and ways of knowing - what
Rise of slave trade - exploitation
Rise of social Darwinism - idea of "great chain of being" - Europeans were seen
at the top and everyone else in a descending order on that chain as less
evolved/developed (18th/19th C)
Mass political and military resistance in West Africa (against European incursion)
- usually for trade, including slave trade
Development of "Africa Studies" discipline - specific knowledge
All of this came with an idea of continent identity - to legitimate exploitation of
The shift is from difference to the same
Africa objects became read as art so that they could be classified as not as good
as European art (in the civilizations and racist representations of the 18th and
"The African has become not only the Other who is everyone except me, but rather
the key which , in its abnormal differences, specifies the identity of the Same" - he's
saying the Europeans began to use a certain construction of Africa that erased all the
differences in the continent - Europeans represented Africa as one unit of sameness
that was worth the Europe - degrading representations of this world are used to self
identify (create a European identity) to show that "we are not that"