Africa and Its Significant Others: Forty Years of Intercultural Entanglement

Africa and Its Significant Others: Forty Years of Intercultural Entanglement

Africa and Its Significant Others: Forty Years of Intercultural Entanglement

Africa and Its Significant Others: Forty Years of Intercultural Entanglement


"This volume is written about the place of Africa in today's African Diaspora, about what sisterhood between African and European women really means, about the drawbacks of an overly strong focus on culture in debates about Africa, about Europe's reluctance to see Africa as other than its mirror or its playing field, about the images of Africans in seventeenth-century Dutch writing, about genital excision, the flaunting of the African female body and the new self-writing, about new ways to look at classic African novels, and about the invigorating, disturbing, political art of intercultural reading." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Isabel Hoving

When did the intimate dialogue between Africa, Europe, and the America’s begin? Looking back, it seems as if these three continents have always been intertwined. There is ample proof to argue that, from the very beginning, they have been decisive in each other’s development in many different ways. Europe created its own modern identity by using Africa as a mirror, but Africans were travelers before Europe’s age of discovery: there is evidence suggesting that they had even sailed to the America’s, and they are said to have visited Europe long before Christ. Other studies, such as Bernal’s Black Athena, explain how African cultures lay at the root of European culture: they shaped Egyptian culture (which can be said to be African in a strictly geographical sense, as well as in the sense of its own cultural heritage), and this informed the classical Mediterranean cultures on which, to a great extent, European cultures based themselves. Nowadays this intertwining has become an inescapable reality of the world’s cultures. Africa emerges as a highly visible presence in the Americas, and AfricanAmerican styles capture Europe’s youth, many of which are of (North-) African descent.

The point we want to make is not so much that the studies on the African presence on the world stage offer powerful arguments for a critique of traditional Eurocentric views of the continents as essentially different from each other. They do offer valuable arguments; but they have already become participants in complex debates about the exact role of Africa in the global past, and about the relevance of that history for presentday debates. We will not enter that important field of inquiry here. Rather, our point is that these studies and debates testify to a deep desire to see the continents as essentially, radically intertwined. This desire motivates some scholars’ enthusiasm about studies that propose to define Europe as partly African (see above), or Africa as Western (as parts of Africa were regarded as part of the Roman Empire), or Africa as embracing Arabia (Mazrui).

This desire is worth a closer look. It has partly come about in specific, African responses to Europe’s anxious insistence on its own autonomy, and partly in response . . .

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