Body Histories in Africa|
Fall 2021 not offered
|Course Cluster and Certificates: 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.
||Gen Ed Area Dept:
|Course Format: Seminar||Grading Mode: Graded|
||Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (AFST-MN)(HIST-MN)
Selections from Megan Vaughan, CURING THEIR ILLS (1991); Lynn M. Thomas, POLITICS OF THE WOMB (2003); Luis White, SPEAKING WITH VAMPIRES (2000); Additional Readings TBA
|Examinations and Assignments: |
Group Presentation, 3 Short Papers, Final Research Project
|Additional Requirements and/or Comments: |
This course requires a significant amount of class participation.
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