Academic journal article The Journal of Caribbean History

The African Diaspora: A History through Culture

Academic journal article The Journal of Caribbean History

The African Diaspora: A History through Culture

Article excerpt

Patrick Manning, The African Diaspora: A History through Culture, New York: Columbia University Press, 2009, xxii + 394 pp.

African diaspora studies should be considered as being divided into two genres. The first began as a way to counter the study of people of African descent by persons of non-African descent whose writings belittled the people, culture and accomplishments of Blacks. It evolved into a collection of intellectual works that provided a voice to those who had been lost in the homogenized research concerning early forced migration of Blacks, enslavement in the Americas, and the effects of slavery and oppression on Blacks in the African diaspora. Joseph E. Harris helped to lead the way by enlightening readers as to the scope of this diaspora through his examination of the various dimensions of the African experience.1 Through his work, readers have garnered a deeper understanding of various peoples within the African diaspora.

During the first period, the cultural dynamics of displaced African descendants emerged only as an underlying theme in understanding the effects of slavery and oppression. In essence, African diaspora studies became dedicated to providing a voice to the voiceless. The second and more recent scholarly period is moving beyond providing a voice for the voiceless, and examining the cultural ties of peoples of African descent, regardless of differences in geographical location or cultural adaptation. The recent work, The New African Diaspora, which Isidore Okpewho and Nkiru Nzegwu edited, examines migration and social conditions as aids to understanding cultural changes in identity throughout the African diaspora.2

Patrick Manning's book offers a compendium of the first period and exploratory evidence for an understanding and development of the second period. Manning is interested in examining the African diaspora through cultural history. As such, he contends that "I present the history of black people as a history of community rather than race" (p. 12). He quite correctly and accurately compiles scholarly information dedicated to African diaspora studies in a manner that provides a general understanding of this diaspora, while at the same time, demonstrating a need for further development in African diaspora studies by focusing on culture and community.

Unfortunately, the generalization of prominent theories of freedom and equality that continues the homogenization of people and events typifies this work. In this sense, it is a textbook that chronologically outlines the experiences of people of African descent without evidence that would introduce new theories on relatively well-known topics or events, such as the Middle Passage or the Abolitionist Movement in North America. The African Diaspora, as a result, reads as if it were written for the interested novice, or perhaps a student beginning to focus on African diaspora studies, rather than someone who is more familiar with the historiography concerning the African diaspora and interested in the cultural synthesis of well documented people and events throughout this diaspora. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.