Building an African Presence in the early 20th Century World,
April 30-May 1, 2010,
Columbia University, New York
In the early twentieth century, the west came under fierce scrutiny as artists, intellectuals, students, and statesmen sought to repair what they perceived to be an ailing civilization overtaken by imperial greed, war, and “The Machine.” “Africa,” once labeled the “dark continent” and expropriated from History, figured prominently in this quest and began to shine brightly as artists and intellectuals turned their attention to it as a source of revitalization and renewal, as a way to heal psychic scars and guide a traumatized postwar Europe. Africa emerged from these scholarly and artistic productions as a kind of object that the west could use to repair their own narrative and imagine their future anew. While their objectification of Africa was not intended to work in the service of black or African culture, it was seized upon and reinvented first by African Americans eager to return Africa to History and to establish their own authority within the universal and by Africans as they pursued their own political agendas as members of colonial empires. The new information and representations about Africa that emerged in the early part of the century enabled both groups to contribute to the process of building an African presence in the world and making an African contribution toward the larger project of creating a truly universal civilization.
The conference works from the premise that these political and cultural transformations and the efforts of peoples of European and African descent operated within single analytic framework. The result of their efforts was the reconstitution of Africa within a world context. The conference seeks papers that consider how to reframe this historical period with Africa located at the center of what scholars have previously approached as a strictly western or European discussion, and the ways that Africans and people of African descent rearticulated and re-imagined Africa within this global discussion about the future of civilization and humanity. It seeks papers that (a) consider the changing political and cultural landscape of this period and the ways that civilization, humanity and race figured within this conversation and how Africa and black culture were revised in relation to the new world order that was being articulated; (b) explore how Africans and people of African descent contributed to this discussion, and inserted Africa into World-History narrative and the political economy of the new world order; (d) consider the questions and issues raised by the movements as well as the places, events and circumstances that gave rise to connections and transactions; (f) investigate the ways in which different groups reached across national and imperial boundaries and created unity as women, men, workers, and as racialized and colonized subjects; and (g) explore how these different groups of people conceptualized the world, western civilization, modernity, citizenship, gender, and social and political rights are also encouraged.
Papers should be approximately 20 minutes long. Paper proposals should include title of the paper, name, affiliation, email and a 250 word abstract. Proposals must be submitted by October 16, 2009 to:
Prof. Mamadou Diouf (MEALAC/History/CGT)
Dr. Jinny Prais (Fellow, CGT)
Committee on Global Thought
440 Riverside Dr.
New York, NY 10027
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