Domingos Alvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World

By Conyers, James L., Jr. | The Historian, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Domingos Alvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World


Conyers, James L., Jr., The Historian


Domingos Alvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World. By James H. Sweet. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2011. Pp. 300. $37.50.)

The explanation of the African diaspora presented in this book is a conceptual historiograpy and categorized as an intellectual biography. Phrased another way, James H. Sweet has examined African history and culture with emphasis on structuralism, institutionalization, and etymology. Equally important, the book demonstrates an interesting, well-written, and rigorous methodological approach to studying the commonalities of the life and politics of Domingos Alvares.

Sweet begins the study with a narrative introduction, which contextualizes the life of Alvares while in captivity. Etymologically, the author uses informative and subjective terms, such as "enslaved," "European empire," "colonialism," "dislocation," and "assimilation," which throughout this study lend reference to the direct and indirect systemic subordination of people of African descent. Furthermore, Sweet expounds on this discussion by describing the residual effect of colonialism, writing that

   All of this is well and good for understanding revolutionary and
   emancipatory outcomes, but it does little to reveal the impacts of
   African institutions and ideas on the making of the Americas (let
   alone on Europe), especially in the years prior to 1750. Nor does
   it take into account the ways that processes of empire building,
   social dislocation, and transculturation, often understood as
   exceptional to the Americas, unfolded in parallel and overlapping
   fashion in West Africa (5).

Accordingly, the record of human events in narrative or conceptual formation with emphasis on the "Black Atlantic" follows the paradox of the meaning, value, and substantial analysis of African sovereignty. Likewise, the author locates Alvares in space and time, with reference to West African historiography and the challenges of imposing enslavement. …

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