African Studies Log What Does Africa Mean? Research Proposal

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African Studies Log

What does Africa mean? What is Africa to the millions of black Americans who were brought to the United States in captivity? What is it to those who live in European nations, to those who still live on the content? What has Africa contributed to the literature, art, theology, and philosophy of the East and West? And why has Africa, unlike any other continent, been the subject of such conversation, criticism, and analysis?

By taking this class, I was introduced to these questions, and though I am not much closer to answering them, I have learned the importance of considering them. Before I took this course, I thought Africa was just another continent with a rich history that affected its inhabitants. My perspective has changed now, and I know Africa is important to us all. Through taking this course of African studies, I learned to see Africa in many different ways. Africa is a continent, a landmass rich with plant and animal vegetation. Africa is a political unit, a country that major powers argue about and nongovernmental organizations seek to aid or use as a shield. Africa is a land of stories and art, music and mythology, a pillar of worldwide creative studies. Finally, Africa is an identity, a gem that is carried in the heart of those who have known its magic through residency, ethnicity, and heritage. For some, Africa represents liberation, and for others captivation. Regardless, Africa is much more than a landmass. This class has helped me learn this.

In order to exhibit my learning, I have chosen to discuss Africa in partnership with three authors who view Africa through three different lenses. Through my summary and reactions of these three articles -- Collin a. Palmer's "Defining and Studying Modern America's Diaspora," D.T. Niane's rendition of an oral tradition, "Sundiata -- Keita: The Lion King," and Chris Lowe's "Talking About Tribe: Moving to Stereotypes to Analysis" -- I will show how I understand the different themes of African Studies, and how they merge together to allow for different people to experience Africa in different ways.

Chris Palmer's "Defining and Studying the Modern African Diaspora" primarily views the continent of Africa in a sociological or anthropomorphic manner. Palmer maintains that five different diasporas have characterized the continent of Africa since its beginning. The first occurred about 100,000 years ago, and was considered the earliest and perhaps most definitive exodus of the African people. The second diasporic stream consisted of the removal of those who spoke the Bantu language from certain parts of Africa to others, while the third involved the movement of traders and slaves to the Middle East and parts of Europe. This diasporic stream occurred around the fifth century B.C.E., and it resulted in the creation of African communities in other areas such as Asia and the Middle East. The fourth stream is the most popular, the one that resulted from the slave trade, and the fifth consists of the movements of ethnic Africans both inside and outside of Africa.

Discussing the African diasporas this way has taught me quite a bit. First, it suggests that the African people were always moving because of some kind of outer or inner pressure. In addition, the focus on the modern diaspora suggests the view of Africa as a shared identity in addition to a continent. By understanding this view of Africa, I am more aware of the friendship or common bond that those who are tied to the content through their heritages feel. As a group of related people, then, the movements of those who share the African bond both in and out of Africa are significant. These movements allow researchers and others who share the African bond to recognize trends and assess the motivations for such moves, as well as their destinations. This information will allow researchers a better understanding of the way a shared African heritage affects the modern person, as well as the values of such a person. If I had read this article before this class, I'm sure I would have simply seen it as another dry history. Now, I know that it shows how African history has been a mix of unity and diversity that has shaped many lives, in addition to history. Thus, the theme of this article not only suggests the repeated persecution of Africans and their forced and un-forced exoduses, but it also convinces the reader to understand that Africa is both a nation and a state of being.

This theme is carried over into Chris Lowe's article, "Talking about 'Tribe': Moving from Stereotypes to Analysis," which suggests that the word tribe should no longer be used by the mainstream media in connection with Africa. Like Palmer's article helped me to see Africa as a concept that transcends boundaries and dwells in the hearts of individuals who have shared the African experience, Lowe's article has taught me how damaging stereotypes can be to this group. In his article, Lowe writes that the use of the word tribe has often been interchanged with the word Africa or African. When people read mainstream media sources, they are not surprised to see the word tribe connected with Africa. Even though this is so, tribes have no specific connotations. In the mainstream media, they are used to signify everything from great kingdoms of the past to incredibly groups who have managed to create powerful states, like the Zulu in South Africa. Because the word tribe has no specific meaning, then, the author argues that it should be abolished. In addition, Lowe argues that the word tribe has with it negative stereotypes that make events in Africa seem more primitive. Although a conflict may be nearly identical to one that is happening across the world, people who use the mainstream media for information may see Africa as more primitive because the word tribe is used. If I had read this article before I took this class, I'm sure I would have questioned it much more than I do now. I realize, after reading this, how important word stereotypes can be.

Thus, Lowe's article taught me that damaging stereotypes, such as the word tribe, not only harm Africa in the political sense, but also hurt those across the world who have shared the African experience. In addition, the fact that the word tribe is still used my mainstream media to denote Africa allows me to understand the difficulties that the continent continues to face when it comes to its perception in the modern world.

Finally, D.T. Naine's retelling of an African story traditionally told in the oral tradition, "Sundiata -- Keita: The Lion King," had taught me that, despite attempts to modernize the way with which Africa is treated, it will always have its roots. This traditional African story is about a king who fulfills a prophecy, having a son with an ugly women who has special powers. The king is foretold that the son will be great, but when he is born less than perfect the king does not loose heart. Despite the attempts of a sorcerer and a jealous first wife, the young son, Sundiata, eventually conquers the evil sorcerer and starts a collective security arrangement that shows his diplomatic, political, and physical strengths. After reading this story, I learned that Africa may have many characteristics that distinguish it from other cultures, but I also understood that the Africans have many characteristics that are similar to those of other cultures. Like the folklore of other cultures, Africa's folklore tells the story of the ideal hero, as well as the values that are important in its culture. Also, like many types of folklore, this African tail tends to both demonize women and hold them in esteem. Reading the traditional tale helped me to better understand those traditional African values, as well as the universalities that make those who share the African experience feel a common bond. Furthermore, the story emphasized the importance of peace in African culture. The King, Maghan, was told that if he married the disfigured women, he would sire Mali's greatest king. Until Sundiata becomes king, the story is filled with war and violence, but after his ascention to the throne, he begins a peaceful rule. Thus, the characteristic that made him the greatest king was peace. Before I took this class, I would not have thought of Africa as a peaceful nation. Now, I understand that those who perceived Africans to be less than peaceful transposed the characteristics of the nations that exploited them onto those who live or lived on the continent.

Thus, this class has furthered my understanding of Africa, allowing me to recognize that Africa can be seen through many lenses, that it is both a physical place and a gem in others' hearts. The three readings that I chose to illustrate this point have themes that work together to show the uniqueness of Africa and its many views. Palmer's article shows some of the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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African Studies Log What Does Africa Mean?.  (2009, March 7).  Retrieved February 16, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/african-studies-log-africa-mean/6979616

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