Diasporic Africa: A Reader

By Michael A. Gomez | Go to book overview

Introduction
Diasporic Africa: A View from History

Michael A. Gomez

It is a commonplace for many that the dawn of modernity commenced with the transatlantic slave trade. With the exportation of millions of Africans and their labor, parts of Iberia, the Mediterranean, and the New World were transformed into endless fields of agricultural (and in some instances mineral) production that proved critical to the economic and political development of various European states. Nascent imperialism was funded by an array of labor arrangements that included the indentured and those working for wages, but they were overshadowed, at least into the nineteenth century, by a practice of slavery that became almost exclusively tied to Africans and their descendants. The African presence and contribution was certainly foundational, but it was also ongoing in what would become the Americas.

The African was not the sole representative of the “Old” World in the New. Europeans and Asians also made the voyage, albeit under very different circumstances. Collective conditions obtaining in Old World provenances, ranging from the conceptual framework of the “nation” to the “tribe,” retained some meaning in the Americas, but as these concepts had been previously developed within Europe or Asia as a means of distinguishing among territorially and culturally contiguous groups, their applicability to the starkly novel realities of the New World, where “Europeans” and “Asians” and “Africans” were now juxtaposed alongside native “Americans,” underwent significant attenuation. Indeed, Europeans and Africans emerged in the New World, where only English and French and Wolof and Hausa and the intimacies of the village had existed in the Old.

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