06 April 2016

Africa is not a country!

In spite of many students' regular claims in term papers and on tests, anthropology instructors know that Africa is not a county. (To be fair to our students, claiming that Africa is a country is a crime that journalists and politicians in the West regularly commit.)

Over the past few years in my intro classes I have taken the time to discuss this common misnomer/ slip of the pen with my students. For one, it often means that I don't have to write "Africa is not a country!" a dozen times come marking season, but I find that it is also a useful discussion to have when introducing the issues of representation, ethnocentrism/ Eurocentrism, power, and colonialism. In doing this, Kai Krause's True Size of Africa map has been very useful. (I sometimes also like to show this 4 minute clip from The West Wing on the Mercator projection map that most students know.)

Other links:
  • Inspired by both Krause and The West Wing, The True Size of... is an interactive mapping tool that allows users to compare the sizes of any country.
  • Al Jezeera's Reality Check: Africa is not a country (3 October 2015) debunks a slew of stereotypes in just 2 minutes
  • Africa is not a country (The Guardian, 24 January 2014) highlights media prejudice against Africa
  • For those who insist, Africa is a Country is a critical blog whose authors/ artists and editors "deliberately challenge and destabilize received wisdom about the African continent and its people in Western media."