I see teaching African history as a tremendous opportunity to shift American understandings of Africa. In addition to the African History Survey and specialized approaches to East African history, I have developed courses focusing on African history in relation to the following areas: health and healing, gender and livelihood, urban life in Africa, colonial and postcolonial science and technology studies.
At the University of San Francisco where I currently work, students take an African history survey for very different kinds of reasons. For some, it’s about heritage. For others, it’s about an interest in humanitarian action. For many, it fills a requirement. Whatever their reason for coming to the class initially, I want students to leave my survey of African history at the end of fifteen weeks with an appreciation that Africa and African history is at the center rather than at the periphery of global political economy. I orient the class around four main concerns: (1) critically engaging with current popular representations of Africa and contrasting these representations with the realities of everyday life in the past and present; (2) situating African history within the history of global political economy; (3) unearthing the voices of Africans themselves in the historical record; (4) introducing the ways in which historians use evidence. I integrate these strategies with a rich array of visual, sensory, audio, and written materials to close the figurative and literal distance between Africa and America. At the end of the course, I hope my students leave humbled, exhilarated, and with a greater appreciation for the centrality of the African continent and its history in their own lives and career trajectories. For the curious, here is a copy of the syllabus.