Inventing Africa is a critical account of narratives which have selectively interpreted and misinterpreted the continent's deep past. Writers have created alluring images of lost cities, vast prehistoric migrations and golden ages of past civilisations. Debates continue on the African origins of humankind, the contributions of ancient Egypt to the world and Africa's importance to global history. Images of 'Africa', simplifying a complex and diverse continent, have existed from ancient Mediterranean worlds, slave trading nations and colonial powers to today's political elites, ecotourists and aid-givers. Robin Derricourt draws on his background as publisher and practitioner in archaeology and history to explore the limits and the dangers of simplifications, arguing - as with Said's concept of 'Orientalism' - that ambitious ideas can delude or oppress as well as inform. Defending Africa against some of the grand narratives that have been imposed upon its peoples, Inventing Africa will spark new debates in the history of Africa and of archaeology.
Robin Derricourt is Conjoint Associate Professor in History at the University of New South Wales. His career has included archaeology teaching and fieldwork, heritage administration, and editorial responsibilities for book publishing programmes in history, African studies and archaeology. As author his books include Ideas into Books, An Author's Guide to Scholarly Publishing, Man on the Kafue, People of the Lakes and (with C. Saunders) Beyond the Cape Frontier.
Preface: The Construction of African Pasts 1. The Changing Shape and Perception of "Africa" 2. Mythic and Mystic Africa 3. Looking Both Ways 4. Egos and Fossils 5. Stirring the Gene Pool 6. Ancient Egypt and African Sources of Civilization 7. Old States Good, New States Bad 8. The Present of the Past End notes Index