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Africa and the Making of the Modern World

Professor Jeremy Prestholdt

This series examines how African societies have both shaped and been shaped by broader global circumstances. It challenges misconceptions about Africa and develops alternative ways of understanding contemporary African realities by posing a series of questions: Why do we frequently misinterpret Africa’s past? How did colonialism and Apartheid affect African societies, and how did Africans bring them to an end? What did the Cold War and its demise mean for African states, and how do Africans imagine their future in a multipolar world? In answering these questions, the series illuminates the shared and divergent experiences that have affected people across the African continent, drawing them into larger spheres of relationships and shaping the modern world.

January 24: Africans and Perceptions of Africa

Much of what we hear about Africa is wrong. The continent is often portrayed as monolithic, historically isolated, and static, yet the study of Africa’s past reveals just the opposite. This lecture addresses how we have come to misunderstand Africa and highlights the dynamism of African economic, religious, and cultural engagements with the broader world. It focuses on Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Indian Ocean crosscurrents as well as long-distance connections across the African continent before 1900.

February 7: Africans and European Colonialism

Colonization by European imperial powers dramatically affected the economic, political, and social structures of African societies. Colonial governments developed systems of autocracy, exploitation, and brutality. This lecture asks why and how European states colonized African societies, how colonialism functioned over several decades, and how colonial domination by multiple imperial powers cemented political and economic practices that would prove difficult to transcend.

February 21: Africans and Freedom Dreams

Though European empires believed they would rule African societies for hundreds of years, Africans brought a swift and decisive end to colonial rule in the decades following the Second World War. This lecture asks why nationalism gained such strength over a relatively short period, and it explores how Africans dismantled foreign rule through both mass politics and martial resistance. The lecture also asks why one of the twentieth century’s most brutal forms of oppression — Apartheid — developed simultaneously in South Africa. Finally, the lecture explores how repression and determined resistance focused international attention on white minority regimes in southern Africa.

February 28: Africans and the Cold-War World

Independent African nations became central to Western and Soviet Cold-War strategic visions. The turbulent economic and political waters of the early postcolonial era contributed to political instability and authoritarianism on the African continent, but valuable natural resources and new alliances also created opportunities for independent states. This lecture asks how Africans navigated the Cold War era and how popular demands for a more equitable world order brought an end to minority rule in southern Africa but floundered on domestic power contests and the geopolitical interests of superpowers.

March 7: Africans and the Multipolar World

This lecture addresses the dramatic social, economic, and political changes that have affected the African continent since the 1990s. Conflicts, epidemics, and mass migration have attracted significant international attention, but African nations have also seen increased prosperity and democratization. African states have developed important relationships with powerful nations, such as China, that depart from earlier international alliances and promise new economic opportunity, while climate change poses a host of uncertainties.

Instructor: Jeremy Prestholdt is Professor of African and Global History at UC San Diego. He has conducted research in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone and specializes in the study of politics, consumer culture, and globalization. He is the author of Domesticating the World: African Consumerism and the Genealogies of Globalization. He received his PhD from Northwestern University.

Coordinator: Steve Clarey

Course Number: OSHR-70149   Credit: 0 units

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Dates Class Type Section ID Fee
01/24/2018 - 03/07/2018 In-class 128839 $0.00  

Day and Time: Wednesday, 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Location: Room 129, UCSD Extension Complex, 9600 N. Torrey Pines Rd., La Jolla