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Products for grant HB-263188-19

The Texture of Change; Cloth, Commerce and History in Western Africa, 1700-1850
Jody Benjamin, Regents of the University of California, Riverside

Grant details:

Memory in Fragments, Layers and Sound: Tracing the History of Bamana Kaarta in the Eighteenth Century (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Memory in Fragments, Layers and Sound: Tracing the History of Bamana Kaarta in the Eighteenth Century
Author: Jody Benjamin
Abstract: This paper will discuss convergence and dissonance across a range of sources for Bamana-speaking Kaarta, a non-Muslim led polity in the West African Sahel that sat at the intersection between networks of trans-Saharan and Atlantic trading networks in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In response to a generalized lack of attention to Africa in narratives of early modern history, Africanists have emphasized the parallel and interconnected nature of processes unfolding in continental Africa with those elsewhere, while at the same time pointing out distinctive qualities that modify or qualify larger Atlantic or global trends. Though indispensable for historians, African oral and European written sources for the West African Sahel were created for distinct purposes, organized around divergent premises and centered different audiences. Limits imposed by available sources and certain conceptual frameworks have continued to pose significant challenges— especially for incorporating the historical experiences of non-elites, and of relations across gender, ethnicity and other forms of socially constructed difference. How should historians of western Africa approach these sources to illuminate the complexity and contingency of earlier contexts for a polity heavily reliant on mercenary warfare in the larger economy of slaving while also asserting itself within a religiously and culturally heterogeneous region? This paper will argue that comparative close readings, and contextualization of traditional oral narratives, archival documents and material sources can produce historical insight submerged within these sources about the beliefs, attitudes and assumptions about the people of Kaarta and their dynamic interactions with a wider world.
Date: 01/30/2020
Conference Name: Early History of Africa Symposium: New Narratives for a History of Connections and Brokers, UCLA,