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HIST 200 Lecture 1 Sept 6 2013 Introducing Africa.docx

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McGill University
HIST 200
Rachel Sandwell

Introducing Africa  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 o 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 changed?  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 continent  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 19th century)  "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"
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