In recent years, scholars have made laudable efforts to demonstrate the ways Africans and their descendants adapted European colonial institutions to suit their own social and political purposes. In these formulations, African-Americans ingeniously retool the ingredients of empire to define themselves as thoroughly “modern.” However, few of these studies consider specific African histories and cultures, on their own terms, as crucial in the formation of the Americas. In this lecture, James Sweet suggests ways that a more balanced consideration of African histories and ways of thinking might transform our understanding of Atlantic history writ large.
James Sweet is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The body of his research and scholarship focuses on the following topics and related issues: images of Africa in the West, Afro-Atlantic history, Africa in the Americas, the African diaspora, the idea of race and its meanings, the history of Brazil and South Africa, and the rhetoric of nationalism. In 2003 he published the book Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship and Religion in the African Portuguese World, 1441-1770. His most recent book is Domingos Alvares, African Healing and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World, published in 2011.