Undergraduate Seminar: Forests of Gold: Performing History in Africa
Meets Together with AAS 358.011
One of the world's richest deposits of gold is found in the forests of southern Ghana. Here gold served as an impetus for the founding of a number of centralized states collectively known as Akan. These societies speak different dialects of the same language, Twi, and share many social, religious, political and culture practices. Gold continues to serve as a powerful symbol of wealth, power and prestige. The histories of these kingdoms, some dating back to as early as the fourteenth century, have been preserved over time in oral texts that have been "written" into the expressive cultures of the Akan. "Forests of Gold" examines the history of the Akan through the study of cultural practices that include political regalia, architecture, music, dance and oratory. The course considers how one can "read" these traditions as historical documents that provide a means for engaging the past in the present, what we might understand as a dynamic process for performing history. We will explore a number of questions. How and what do these modes of expression communicate? What is the nature of the historical knowledge they carry? How are these cultural practices used to define and sustain political and social authority in Akan societies? Many of these practices, especially royal regalia, circulate today in global contexts where they have acquired new meaning and significance as art objects, as commodities, as material heritage. What are the political, economic, aesthetic and ethical implications of these appropriations? These are just a few of the questions that will provide a framework for exploring the histories of the Akan.
HISTART Concentration Distributions: B. Sub-Saharan Africa, 3. Early Modern, 4. Modern and Contemporary.
Course requirements include a midterm, final and two short papers.