First Global History Seminar of the semester: ‘Africa is a Country’: Challenges of Writing African History

Speaker: Dr Matt Graham (University of Dundee)

Title:  “Africa is a Country”: Challenges of Writing African History

Date and Time: 3rd October 2018,  4.30 pm

Venue: Fairlie Room, Main Library.

The Scottish Centre for Global History (School of Humanities) invites you to their first AHRI research seminar this semester. Dr Matt Graham, historian of modern South Africa, will speak on Africa is a Country: Challenges of Writing African History.

Africa is the most misunderstood region in the world. It is a continent that generates an enormous amount of public and scholarly interest and attention, yet is also subject to significant misrepresentation and generalisation that does little to account for its diversity or complexity. Africa is home to 55 nation-states, over one billion people, and is the most linguistically varied place on earth with over two thousand languages spoken, but all too frequently, it is often viewed as a homogeneous, single entity. Nonetheless, in the west such a perception is commonly encountered and perpetuated. The all too common phrase that ‘Africa is a country’ abounds.

Based upon a recently completed book project ‘Contemporary Africa’, which tackled various historic, political, and social themes concerning the continent, this paper will explore, analyse and assess the key challenges and theoretical conceptualisations about writing a ‘history’ of Africa. The paper will discuss the ways in which the project developed and evolved, some of the problems concerning positionality and the choice of case-study, and why such a project is relevant despite the obvious pitfalls of writing about ‘Africa’.