Samuel Agbamu (KCL) - 2016-17 Students

Africa in the Roman Imagination

This project aims to excavate ideas of Africa in literature from the Roman period, in order to investigate European “discoveries” of the continent, and the ideological deployments of these conceptions in the construction of Roman self-identity. Previous attempts to interpret ancient attitudes to Africa have focused largely on Greek texts, yet images of Africa in texts from the Roman period arguably offer more complex and nuanced views. Taking Sallust’s Bellum Iugurthina as a starting point, presentations of Africa will be interrogated for the meaning of “Africa” in different contexts, their ideological significance, and currency when speaking about Africa in the Roman imagination. An analysis of changing attitudes to Africa will contribute to an understanding of evolving constructions of Africa, illuminating a process of constant conceptual reinvention, culminating in the modern project colonialism in Africa, and its aftermath. This will involve engaging with ideas of African historical subjectivity, enunciation and knowledge production. The philosopher V.Y. Mudimbe claimed that African discourses have been silenced or “converted” by western discourses, and in the process, Africa was “invented”. This project will examine the role of Roman texts in this context.

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