井底之蛙

8/26/2005

Viewing Africa from Asia

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:42 pm

(This is a comment on Tim Burke’s syllabus on Images of Africa cross-posted from his blog. I am putting it up here to see if anyone has any suggestions on images of Africa in East Asia)

I’m not sure what literature there would be on Indian views of Africa, (Bend in the River comes to mind) because they were never articulated as part of a larger imperial project. You need an imperial state for archives and to encourage people to think of what they are doing as “changing Africa.” I’m pretty sure there were a lot of Indians in East Africa, and that they had at least an economic impact.

As for East Asia (the place I know best) there is some stuff that probably would not matter. Kenzaburo Oe’s A Personal Matter has a character who obsesses about Africa, but that is just using Africa as a conveniently blank Other. There is a lot of that. I can’t see why it would matter much to African history. I assume you know Phillip Snow’s The Star Raft, which has some stuff on Chinese attitudes towards Africa in the context of development aid, where it would actually matter. I would have to think that some of the Africans who studied in China or Russia must have written memoirs or something by now.

Another topic you might want to consider is the relationship between the imperial and popular and post ’45 aid-organization discourses and the academic discourse you are asking them to join. Donald Lopez did a very interesting book called Prisoners of Shangri-la on basically that topic but dealing with Tibet. I liked the book a lot because he traced the development of the popular discourse very well (Tibet has a much more unitary image than Africa) but also because he was pretty clear that this popular discourse and the academic one were closely related. Of course there is a lot of stuff on how modern Asian studies is connected to the imperial projects.

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