Africans and Empire (1000 words) Intro: Our third assignment uses a variety of primary and secondary sources to understand colonialism from African perspectives. Whether translating religious scripture or devising strategies for dealing with violent political systems, the sources reveal a much more nuanced picture than one of dominant Europeans and passive Africans. Indeed, readings from Cesaire and Boahen directly challenge the idea that European nations possessed more advanced and more desirable cultures of politics and economics.
Prompt: Stories of colonialism are most often told from those in power. How do Lisa Lindsay’s Atlantic Bonds, A. Adu Boahen’s, African Perspectives of Colonialism, and the other primary sources in this unit change the way you understand colonialism in Africa?
You may want to explore one of the following topics:
• Definitions of “civilization” and progress: How did Africans understand, shape, and resist European definitions of progress? What did they put in its place?
• Contested histories of before Europe: Sources written by Europeans denigrated existing social and political cultures and argued that anything they offered could improve African life. How do our main sources challenge this idea by telling different histories of the period before European rule? • Perceptions of justice: Whether religious life, slavery, or ideas about work, use our primary and secondary sources to explore African colonial subjects’ ideas about justice and well-being. What problems do they identify and what solutions do they offer? 7
• Despite similarities, there was no single experience of colonial rule: Use our sources to show the way that gender, age, place, and occupation shaped African experiences of colonialism.
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