“Nilotes,” “Hamites,” & “True Negroes:” Anthropology and the Discursive Economy of Race and Africa

A talk by Dr. Jemima Pierre, Associate Professor in African American Studies and Anthropology at University of California, Los Angeles
Co-sponsored by the Council of African Studies and Department of African American Studies at Yale

Talk Abstract:
This presentation takes as a point of departure Charles G. Seligman’s The Races of Africa (1930) to both explore the early history of anthropology’s race-making practices through Africa and African peoples, and to reflect on their long term epistemological and theoretical legacies. Seligman’s Races of Africa, which went through multiple editions and was regularly published until 1979, is particularly significant because, not only did it contribute immensely to racial science, but it is also one of the first recognized texts to provide a presumed scientific justification for the separation of the African continent into “North Africa” and “Black Africa,” to shape all ethnological research on the continent, and to leave a lasting racialized ethnographic lexicon to describe African people. I am particularly interested in excavating the discursive economies of the signs of “race” and “Africa” produced and circulated by anthropological theory and method.

More about Dr. Pierre:
Jemima Pierre (Ph.D.) is Associate Professor at UCLA, jointly appointed in the Department of African American Studies and the Department of Anthropology. She is also a Research Associate at the inaugural Centre for the Study of Race, Gender and Class at the University of Johannesburg, as well as a co-editor of the online political education site, Black Agenda Review. Her research and teaching interests are located in the overlaps between African Studies and African Diaspora Studies and engage three broad areas: 1) race and political economy; 2) transnationalism and diaspora and; 3) the cultural politics of knowledge production. She is the author of The Predicament of Blackness: Postcolonial Ghana and the Politics of Race (Winner of the 2014 Elliot Skinner Book Award in Africanist Anthropology; long listed for the 2013 OCM – BOCAS Literary Prize; Recipient for the 2012 Bevington Fund First Book Grant). Dr. Pierre was a 2019-2020 recipient of the University of California President’s Faculty Research Fellowship.

Dr. Pierre is currently completing a book manuscript on the discipline of anthropology’s epistemological and racial legacies in and about the African continent, while continuing a longitudinal archival and ethnographic study of resource extraction in West Africa through the frameworks of coloniality and racial capitalism. Dr. Pierre’s essays on global racial formation, Ghana, Haitian studies, immigration, and African diaspora theory and politics
have appeared in a number of academic journals including, Current Anthropology, Anthurium, Journal of Anthropological Sciences, Cultural Anthropology, Feminist Review, Social Text, Identities, Cultural Dynamics, Transforming Anthropology, Current Anthropology, Journal of Haitian Studies, Latin American Perspective, American Anthropologist, Philosophia Africana, Politique Africaine, Black Scholar, and Boom California.

April 19, 2021
6 pm EST, join via Zoom
Admission: free, with registration
Registration: Event has ended

View the full spring schedule here.

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