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Body Histories in Africa

CHUM 349
Fall 2019 not offered
Crosslisting: HIST 341
Certificates: African Studies Minor, African Studies Minor
Course Cluster: African Studies, African Studies Minor, African Studies, African Studies Minor

African bodies have long generated intrigue and misunderstanding. Outside observers, such as missionaries, travelers, colonial administrators, and anthropologists, have documented practices such as scarification and spirit possession as they simultaneously rendered their African practitioners "other." All too often the body as an instrument for creative expression, ritual healing, or social action was lost in translation. More recently Western feminists have focused their attentions on female circumcision. The persistence of circumcision (for both girls and boys) and other bodily practices speaks to their enduring social value and symbolic meaning. What can we learned from these and other body histories in Africa? In this course we will examine embodied rituals such as spirit possession, which marks the body as a site for human engagement with the supernatural. The widespread practice is also a gendered technique of healing documenting shifting understandings of health and illness. In addition, we will study the practice of "sitting on a man" by which women addressed the body politic through dance and collective nudity. The revealed body in motion shamed men into action and has been employed in the 21st century to shame oil companies for their greed and environmental destruction. In this and other examples, we will approach the body as an archive: it is an archive in motion and subject to social renewal. Our embodied evidence will allow us to explore shifting histories of religion, art, sexuality, the economy, and politics from the precolonial era to the contemporary moment. By taking the body as our lens we will also learn new ways to examine the African past through histories of aesthetics, value, labor, hierarchy, and knowledge production.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA CHUM
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (AFST-MN)(HIST-MN)

Last Updated on JUL-23-2024
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