Whats with all the racism geared twords African history?

May 2018
80
On earth.
#41
African History is controversial because the mere way that we view Africa in our culture is contradictory to the notion that any history could be in it. Therefore, learning about the possibility of history in Africa is hard for some people to accept - people don't like change, and they don't like their notions challenged. This is further compounded by the association of black people with multiple stereotypes that would put them as "unruly" - the opposite of civilized. How could these unruly people build civilization? While many don't want to admit it, these ideas kind of undercut our culture, especially American culture.
 
#42
I would agree with HiddenHistory, but I think there are two additional reasons for why African history is controversial and underresearched (outside African universities):
1) There are the more right-leaning views of Africans as described by HiddenHistory, but there are also very deeply rooted perceptions coming from a left-wing perspective that are very persistent: the image of the "noble savage" who lives in harmony with nature and is both anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist. When doing global history, there was much reluctance to talk about African empires or trade, as it was viewed as a kind of "relativism" or "apologetic" for European history, a history perceived as 500 years of exploitation and oppression. It also goes against the medial images of "poor" Africans, hardly masters of their of faith, requiring aid by the few good samaritans in Western society. I am using hyperbole here to make the point clear, but this was and oftentimes still is, in my estimation, the view more left-leaning people entertain.
2) Most people in most of the world no very little about Africa aside from the right and left leaning simplifications. Scholars at universities outside Africa have usually been trained in their own regions history plus some Western and a bit of Asian history, and research into the vast and multitudinous field that African history is, in many countries, fairly young, while the lion's share of the meager research we have has come out of 19th century imperialist traditions is, thus, mostly justifyably, but sometimes unjustifyably, rejected. Hence, it requires an massive amount of dedication and work to dare doing so. And then there are also source issues, language issues and more.
 
May 2016
4,307
Portugal
#44
2) Most people in most of the world no very little about Africa aside from the right and left leaning simplifications. Scholars at universities outside Africa have usually been trained in their own regions history plus some Western and a bit of Asian history, and research into the vast and multitudinous field that African history is, in many countries, fairly young, while the lion's share of the meager research we have has come out of 19th century imperialist traditions is, thus, mostly justifyably, but sometimes unjustifyably, rejected. Hence, it requires an massive amount of dedication and work to dare doing so. And then there are also source issues, language issues and more.
I don’t know from what country are you, Entreri, but we always talk about the realities that we know better. For the case of my country, Portugal, what you wrote here in point 2, is incorrect. Naturally the focus in the universities in the social science is in Portugal but in the biggest universities there are major and masters in African Studies. And I have the idea that the situation is similar (or probably even more developed in France).

Naturally there is still much to research, and that needs to be done mostly by African universities. The big issue here is that the financial resources in Africa are usually quite low, and here is where the cooperation between universities must be improved.
 
Jul 2012
2,469
Benin City, Nigeria
#46
but there are also very deeply rooted perceptions coming from a left-wing perspective that are very persistent: the image of the "noble savage" who lives in harmony with nature and is both anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist.
I don't think this exists much. Maybe this exists in a few countries and not most others, but I haven't encountered this kind of characterization often.

I believe that the "noble savage" characterization is more applicable to what some people in the West tend to think about some Native American groups.

The image of Africans that many people seem to have (when talking about Africa south of the Sahara) is not of a "noble savage" unless maybe one is talking about some people's perception of the Zulu (and even in this case there are many that don't consider them "noble"). This is especially true when talking about pagan African cultures in my opinion, which I rarely ever see simply being romanticized for being free of the supposedly "corrupting" elements of modern western capitalistic societies.

Also, while I wouldn't necessarily use the term "anti-capitalist" as a descriptor, I would consider some African cultures to have a communal or non-individualistic outlook (while some others - for example, Dyula traders among the Mande - were/are definitely very commerce oriented and had what could be considered a capitalistic orientation).
 
#48
I don’t know from what country are you, Entreri, but we always talk about the realities that we know better. For the case of my country, Portugal, what you wrote here in point 2, is incorrect. Naturally the focus in the universities in the social science is in Portugal but in the biggest universities there are major and masters in African Studies. And I have the idea that the situation is similar (or probably even more developed in France).

Naturally there is still much to research, and that needs to be done mostly by African universities. The big issue here is that the financial resources in Africa are usually quite low, and here is where the cooperation between universities must be improved.
Dear Tulius, thank you for your perspective! There are African studies courses and even institutes in my country, too. What I was trying to say is that when looking at Africa's relative importance in terms of population, geography and culture, especially considering "race-relations", immigration", and economic development, there is far too little research on African history that could help us, as non-Africans, understand these things compared to the enormous wealth of historical research into other continents.
African history is most prominent in African studies, but African studies itself is much more than history and for more attention it would be necessary to offer African history courses more frequently within history majors, courses created by historians and not regional scholars. The same problem, of course, is true for other regions, too, but in my experience, Africa receives by far the least attention. What I forget to mention was that when talking about Africa, I mean primarily sub-saharan and pre-colonial Africa, because colonial and Islamic history are much more prominent. However, I just checked data on offers of African studies and African history courses and I have to admit that things have changed in the last 10 years, there seems to be more research and more teaching.
 
#49
I don't think this exists much. Maybe this exists in a few countries and not most others, but I haven't encountered this kind of characterization often.

I believe that the "noble savage" characterization is more applicable to what some people in the West tend to think about some Native American groups.
The image of Africans that many people seem to have (when talking about Africa south of the Sahara) is not of a "noble savage" unless maybe one is talking about some people's perception of the Zulu (and even in this case there are many that don't consider them "noble"). This is especially true when talking about pagan African cultures in my opinion, which I rarely ever see simply being romanticized for being free of the supposedly "corrupting" elements of modern western capitalistic societies.

Also, while I wouldn't necessarily use the term "anti-capitalist" as a descriptor, I would consider some African cultures to have a communal or non-individualistic outlook (while some others - for example, Dyula traders among the Mande - were/are definitely very commerce oriented and had what could be considered a capitalistic orientation)
The "noble savage", "anti-capitalist" and "anti-imperialist" was, as I said, hyperbole, but I admit I should not have written that because it is misleading. What I wanted to address is the following: For example, we often have African culture festivals around here. However, when going there, African culture is reduced to basically two things: colorful clothes and happy singing and dancing, sometimes there is a bit African art (like shields covered in animal hides), mostly and these are usually embedded in a view of Africans as always smiling, always happy, and easygoing. There is very, very little in terms of other arts, other entertainment, philosophy, architecture, urban life, business, the great empires, great wars and networks that characterized parts of the continent in the past. Compare that to, say, any Islamic festival, where such things are always present, people admire Islamic architecture and the great Empires, they know at least a bit about the Quran and even if they reject it, can respect Islamic social organization as having reached a certain level of complexity. In my view, this is simply not the case with "Africa" and the reason is that many people stick to a view of Africans that is, basically, a counter point to what they dislike about their own culture. The festival was an example, this image is present in media, in school, in university, too. All of this is embedded in a larger discourse portraying Africans primarily as perpetual victims of European oppression. Now, I am not saying there are no other images or other discourses or that these are the dominant ones, just that they are aspects that explain why people who aren't right-leaning also help perpetuate the controversial nature of African history and the relatively minor attention it receives.
 
Jan 2019
12
Norway
#50
I would agree with HiddenHistory, but I think there are two additional reasons for why African history is controversial and underresearched (outside African universities):
1) There are the more right-leaning views of Africans as described by HiddenHistory, but there are also very deeply rooted perceptions coming from a left-wing perspective that are very persistent: the image of the "noble savage" who lives in harmony with nature and is both anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist. When doing global history, there was much reluctance to talk about African empires or trade, as it was viewed as a kind of "relativism" or "apologetic" for European history, a history perceived as 500 years of exploitation and oppression. It also goes against the medial images of "poor" Africans, hardly masters of their of faith, requiring aid by the few good samaritans in Western society. I am using hyperbole here to make the point clear, but this was and oftentimes still is, in my estimation, the view more left-leaning people entertain.
THANK YOU. Very good point.

A good example is the topic of slavery, the most controversial and distorted part of African history. Left-leaning people who subscribe to the "noble savage" myth, portray the Atlantic Slave trade as if Europeans were just capturing Africans by millions with nets, forgetting that it was simply not possible. It is complete non-sense to believe that Europeans would have been able to capture 12 million slaves without the cooperation of certain African states and by just slave raiding.

The reality is that slave raids by Europeans were rare, and that the few attempts at slave raids were usually failures(read "Warfare in Atlantic Africa" by John Thornton, if you want to read more about the subject). Instead, Europeans had deals with certain African entities who lived on the Atlantic Coast(Dahomey, Asanteman, etc...), where they would trade slaves in exchange of firearms and other goods.

Portraying Africans as victims of the Atlantic slave trade, is, in a certain way, promoting the noble savage myth, because it creates a "reluctance to talk about African empires or trade", as you said, as discussing these two things completely destroy the idea that Africans were just the poor victims of European raiders, rather than businessmen who saw an opportunity in raiding other people and selling slaves to the Europeans in the exchange of goods.
 

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