Assistant Professor of African Studies
Too often 'Western' historical narratives consider Africans and African Diasporans as 'People Without History'. Such a notion also refers to people who possess few or no formally written histories. Employing historical archaeology, this class examines the material traces individuals and communities in the past left behind as important, alternative historical resources for interrogating the European colonial library, and re-writing the histories of slavery and the slave trade. Excavating the "hidden histories" of Africans and African diasporans, free and enslaved, our aim is to insert the voices of those marginalized, silenced and erased. This course focuses on the major themes and questions in the historical archaeology of the Africana experience, on both sides of the Atlantic, in Africa and the Diaspora. Throughout this course we will adopt an interpretive approach that draws upon the use of 'words and things' (objects, texts and oral narratives), exploring the connections and influences between Atlantic Africa and the Diaspora.
This course is an introduction to African art and material culture. In this class, we will focus on the major themes, ideas and debates that have shaped and continue to shape the theoretical and methodological frameworks for the studying and representation of African objects. In this class, our goal is to engage with the possibilities, problems and challenges presented by art historical, anthropological, archaeological and material culture approaches to African objects. This class examines African objects' pivotal role, within and external to the African continent under imperialism, colonialism and nationalism, particularly in light of collecting, museums, heritage,development and human rights. We will pay close attention to the ways in which African objects have been categorized, interpreted and displayed exploring issues such history, economics, politics and identity. We will also examine the politics and practical aspects of contemporary African cultural heritage practice by engaging with some of the associated controversies and ethical responsibilities. We consider questions such as: How did African objects arrive into nineteenth century European museums? What is the relationship between African material culture and the colonial imagination? And, how has this relationship between objects and the "invention of Africa" changed over time? Who "owns" African art? How do we work with African artifacts given international codes and conventions, yet also respect local, communal and indigenous rights?
Africa is known as the continent of orality. Notions of African antiquity as quintessentially pre-literate, non-literate or illiterate remain decidedly intact in the Western imaginary. Moreover, the widely held perception is Africa's lack of written traditions as known in other societies is evidence of Africa's lack of history, and in turn civilization. Still, documenting writing and graphic writing systems in the African past is not difficult: Egyptian hieroglyphics, Coptic texts in Egypt and Ethiopia, Vai script in Liberia, Bamum script in Cameroon, Nsibidi script in Cameroon and Nigeria, as well as Arabic and Ajami scripts throughout the continent. This introductory course explores African writing and graphic writing systems as materialized traces of knowledge central to the ways in which Africans construct and document ideas about themselves, others and the world around them. Our focus will be the translation of non-visual forms of knowledge into visual, material representation. In this course, we will examine the means by which African writing and graphic writing systems synthesize ideas, thoughts and actions through the use of signs, symbols, pictorial and/or scripts, sometimes involving objects. We will consider the rise and fall of indigenous writing and graphic writing systems, in addition to the rejection and adoption of foreign writing systems. In particular, we will pay close attention to just how African writing and graphic systems contain potentials for political, economic and social gain, central to projects of domination, power, authority and agency, as well as inspire sacred, divine thoughts, as objects of devotion and worship.
Lions and Maasai, elephants and Bushmen, camels and Tuareg - Africa is seen as the continent of colorful cultures, picturesque people and thatched huts. This course introduces students to some of the key themes and debates in the anthropology of tourism, exploring the commodification of culture and nature in Africa as objects with marketable value. We will examine the historical, political, social and cultural contexts in which African countries, communities, and individuals articulate and sell notions of the "exotic", "tradition", "authenticity" and "indigeneity". Engaging with ethnographies we will examine the various forms of tourism: safaris, volunteerism, adventure tourism, eco-tourism, roots tourism or pilgrimage, romance and sex tourism. Examining relations between 'hosts' and 'guests' - brokers, tour operators, guides, 'experts', tourists and local populations - we will focus on the possibilities, problems and challenges presented by tourism in North, South, East and West Africa. Paying close attention to the ways in which the 'tourist gaze' produces and reproduces notions of race, class, gender, sexuality and desire, students will be asked to reflect upon and theorize their own tourist experiences. We will also discuss internal tourism, namely the reasons why when Africans become tourists, they rarely visit their own country.