Miriam R. Goheen [d] (Section 01)
The right to represent oneself has always been an important piece of symbolic capital and a source of power. External representations of Africa have consistently distorted and misinterpreted the peoples and cultures of the continent. Within Africa, this right--to produce and display particular images--has been inseparable from both secular and sacred power. The discrepancy in interpretation of various images, whether these are in the form of visual objects or in the form of philosophies or concepts, has produced a misunderstanding of African institutions and art? In addition, historically the right to represent and claim one's identity has become increasingly politicized. Control over various representations and images of Africa and things African has become contested. Using an interdisciplinary focus from the fields of art history, history and anthropology, this course will examine representations and interpretations of images of Africa both from within and from outside the continent. Ultimately we will link these various forms of power and legitimacy to consider the complexity behind the development of an idea of Africa.
The assigned readings for this seminar draw on literature from a wide range of disciplines as well as on films and novels. These assignments are designed to teach students the ways in which knowledge and understanding of seemingly disparate and unrelated fields of inquiry combine and are essential to our understanding of this large and diverse continent in the twenty-first century. This includes both our understanding of larger philosophical questions such as the relationship between control over categories of meaning and representation of both groups and individuals in the calculus of power at various historical moments, and the realities of the historical forces, contingencies and contests that have led to the situations of African peoples and States in today's global political economy. Students will complete weekly reading and writing assignments ranging from learning African geography and a map quiz to filling out question sheets on assigned readings designed to teach them how to read for overall themes and questions rather than facts alone, to turning in questions on the readings and being responsible in small groups for leading class discussions. Students are expected to participate actively in class discussion, and most assignments are designed to encourage lively discussion.
Fall semester. Professor Goheen.