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Narratives of African Civilizations

Semester and Year SP 2018
Course Number IDSEM-UG1197
Section 001
Instructor Dan Dawson
Days Mon
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4
Level U
Premodern or
Global Cultures



African civilizations speak to us as much through monumental edifices, visual artifacts, sign systems, oral tradition, and films as they do through alphabetic texts. In their varied expressions, these societies, ancient and contemporary, present us with new ways of knowing. When we encounter these social imaginations through their multiple texts, the experience is reflexive, double-imaged, because of the complex interaction of the perceptions of Africa with the West’s own image of itself. Texts may include hieroglyphics, architectural symbolism, music, visual art, epics, folktales and proverbs, cosmologies and rituals (such as the ancient  Egyptian Book of the Dead ),  The Epic of Sundiata  (which explores medieval Ghana and Mali), and the society of the Dogon and its extraordinary cosmology. African modernist art and writing will also be represented, through novels like Conde’s  Segu  and Dangarembga’s  Nervous Conditions , and films like  Keita, Finzan  and  Ceddo . Using ideas both ancient (African Cosmology of the Bantu-Kongo by Fu-Kiau) and contemporary (I n Search of Africa  by Manthia Diawara), African civilizations will speak through their own words.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)