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Fall 2023 Reading Group

Africa and the world

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Historically dubbed the Dark Continent by European explorers and colonizers, Africa is known for its rich cultural diversity and colorful traditions. Universally acknowledged as the world’s most natural resource-rich continent, Africa is home to the world’s poorest countries and people. Noted for its cultures of close-knit communities, mutual support and peaceful co-existence, Africa has seen some of the most violent and intractable conflicts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. A continent of great geopolitical and economic significance to the world where both East and West continue to scramble for dominance, Africa remains marginal to the consciousness of large numbers of people in the global north.

In this reading group, we will explore the validity or otherwise of the claim that Africa’s current predicaments derive from the continent’s encounters and interactions with Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and North America. How and to what extent did Africa’s encounters with various global actors, events and processes impact and shape the continent’s current political, economic, and cultural realities. Our readings and discussions will cover Africa’s encounters with the slave trade(s), capitalism, European imperialism, the World Wars, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Pan-Africanism and Nationalism, the Cold War, and Apartheid. At every point, we will seek to assess to what extent these events and processes shaped Africa’s current realities, and to what extent must the blame be placed at Africa’s own doorstep.

This reading group offers participants an opportunity to be reasonably familiar with Africa, its recent history, politics, societies, cultures and current affairs.

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: 9/6, 9/20, 10/4, 10/18, 11/1, 11/15.