Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome
Via Omero 10
20 June 2023
The ‘invention’ of Africa as an ethno-geographic space of otherness whose systems of knowledge are pitted against European structures of thought is commonly recognised as an early modern construction serving Europe’s colonialist enterprise. Yet Latin ‘Africa’ was already ‘invented’ by Greco-Roman authors, whose ethnographic gazes bear commonalities with later colonialist literature that allow us to bridge the gap between antiquity and modernity on the history of Western constructions of subaltern identities. This talk will focus on the representation of the African space in specific Greco-Roman authors writing between the end of the Republic and the early empire (Sallust, Strabo, Mela, Lucan Seneca, Pliny), arguing that these descriptions contribute to the construction of Africa as a shifting landscape and a blank slate which later colonialist European imagination will mould for its own purposes.