Rethinking Africa and the African Diaspora – syllabus
(AFRS-3500 / 3 credits)
The goal of this course is to provide a deeper understanding of the Idea of “Africa” and the African diaspora from a decolonial perspective. By engaging with the intellectual, social, and political characteristics of everyday life in Senegal and the U.S., students will examine dominant narratives about people of African descent to critique colonial interpretations of Africa and move toward a consciousness that decolonizes the “idea of Africa” and the African diaspora. Further, this course attempts to evaluate the way this critical and experiential engagement with mainstream understandings of the meaning of “Africa” is essential to the decolonial futures of people of African descent. The course will have three major concentrations: 1) the hegemonic discourses and practices rooted in the colonial matrix of power that have, since the 14th century, participated in the invention of “Africa” and the dehumanization of people of African descent; 2) the competing anti-colonial discourses and political practices that have questioned the colonial matrix of power. We will focus on how these engagements do not succeed in completely delinking from the modern paradigm, and therefore continue to participate in another re-invention of “Africa” that still places African-descended cultures and peoples at the periphery of knowledge production; 3) the often silenced, yet nonetheless articulated decolonial voices and creolized cultures that allow for a more Afro-centered understanding of the presence of people of African descent in the world. The analysis of these three major ways of understanding “Africa” and African-descended peoples will be done in light of students’ everyday experiences in the U.S. and in Senegal, thereby allowing us to determine what “Africa” and the “African diaspora” mean to us rather than what they are. We will interrogate the ways practices in host families, places of worship, artist workshops, entertainment, markets, political spheres, and workplaces, etc., expose the way discourses on “Africa” have participated in our own conceptions of, and relation with, afro-descendants and how engaging these discourses and practices can prepare us to not only reconceptualize the pluriversality of the continent but also re-imagine the future of African-descended peoples in decolonial terms.