African Studies Question
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Who Cares Essay: The main reaction students have had to HIST 106 is: “Why have I been lied to about African history?” This question comes, I think, from the numerous sources the course has that challenge stereotypes of Africa’s past—stereotypes that continue to inform a lot of our national educational landscape in spite of the ease with which we can take those down in an introductory course.
Write a 1,000-word (it’s fine if it goes a little over) evidence-based essay explaining why the general public (i.e., people outside this class) should care about African history, mainly by debunking some of the stereotypes we have discussed. Students must use at least two primary sources and at least one secondary source. You should support your argument with specifics. The argument should also build—as all good arguments do. Students are also free to make links between personal and community life a core part of the essay—even a central part of their argument if they desire.
All papers must have: an introduction with a thesis statement, body paragraphs that support the argument, and a conclusion. The majority of the paper should be in the body paragraphs with evidence (in other words, don’t write page-long introduction paragraphs). See below for citation guidelines. Please do not cite outside sources. Papers will be submitted on Blackboard. Please only upload in .doc, .docx, or .pdf file formats: .pages formats do not work on Blackboard.
Your paper should address the fact that stereotypes about Africa exist – and indeed you may explore some of these – but I am more interested in you looking at Africa’s deep history to debunk these stereotypes. Using sources from class, construct a narrative from one of the below topics to show that African histories are rich and worthy of study – if you can connect it to modern topics or examine how stereotypes about Africa still affect people, all the better. I’ll discuss this paper a little more during class.
Consider the following topics. You may choose between one and three (although one is ideal as it allows you to tease out more detail than otherwise):
- Technology, material culture, and development
- The roles of women and men in pre-colonial life versus conventional expectations
- The diversity of social and political structures versus the absence of complexity in our contemporary image of the continent
- Religion and spiritual life
- Stagnation versus progress in representations of African societies—How does material about western and eastern Africa present a different case of progress from a continent commonly associated with stagnation
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