With a few notable exceptions, European missionaries, soldiers, slavers, and natural historians rarely penetrated into the interior of sub-Saharan Africa until the late eighteenth century. Nonetheless, travel accounts by those who did venture to the continent during the early modern era provided an abundance of raw material for a sustained and complex discussion of the black African in Europe. Not surprisingly, whatever the context within which the African was evoked-be it in discussions of cultural relativism, the state of nature, or comparative anatomy-the 'Ethiopian,' 'Hottentot,' or 'Guinean' functioned as yardsticks against which European civilization measured its presumed technical, cultural and, increasingly, biological superiority. This was, of course, most acutely true after the later part of the eighteenth century when pseudo-scientific racial theories were used to justify the continued existence of the slave trade. Members of this seminar will become familiar with the European discourse on Africa by reading selections from travel accounts and natural history treatises as well as novels featuring European perceptions of the African. While we begin our examination of this topic with an overview of the history of cultural contacts between Europe, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa, this course is anything but African history. Indeed, the objective of this seminar will be to examine the evolution of the portrayal of Africans against a backdrop of shifting European concerns.
COURSE FORMAT: Seminar
Level: UGRD Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA RLAN Grading Mode: Graded
Last Updated on MAR-30-2006
Copyright Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, 06459