The Future of Africa's Past: Material Culture, History and Heritage
Cross-listed: AAS 480
What do we know about Africa's past and how do we know it? One of the most important sources of insight concerning the history of Africa, especially its precolonial past, comes from studying artifacts—things that people made and used, and that have survived the test of time. The Future of Africa's Past examines the material culture of African societies as historical "documents," as evidence of the social, political, religious, and economic processes that shaped these societies. In addition to thinking about the significance of these things in the past, the course considers what they mean in the present. What roles do historical artifacts play in shaping the contemporary societies with which they are associated? Employing the interpretive methods of art history, archaeology, and history, the course explores the ideologies that have transformed artifacts into art, how these material objects have been given new meanings, new value, and how they circulate in various global contexts. Attention is given to the ethical concerns associated with collecting and exhibiting other peoples' cultures, as well as to the political and economic dynamics of interpreting the past as heritage.
Course components include a midterm exam, a final exam and a research paper. Class sessions will include lectures and discussion centered on a core set of readings, supplemented with periodic film and video viewings.
History of Art Major Distribution Categories: B. Sub-Saharan Africa, 1. Ancient, 2. Medieval, 3. Early Modern
Museum Studies Minor Elective Category: Institutions