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Navigating the African Diaspora

The Anthropology of Invisibility

Donald Martin Carter

Publication Year: 2010

Investigating how the fraught political economy of migration impacts people around the world, Donald Martin Carter raises important issues about contemporary African diasporic movements. Developing the notion of the anthropology of invisibility, he explores the trope of navigation in social theory intent on understanding the lived experiences of transnational migrants.
Carter examines invisibility in its various forms, from social rejection and residential segregation to war memorials and the inability of some groups to represent themselves through popular culture, scholarship, or art. The pervasiveness of invisibility is not limited to symbolic actions, Carter shows, but may have dramatic and at times catastrophic consequences for people subjected to its force. The geographic span of his analysis is global, encompassing Senegalese Muslims in Italy and the United States and concluding with practical questions about the future of European societies. Carter also considers both contemporary and historical constellations of displacement, from Darfurian refugees to French West African colonial soldiers.
Whether focusing on historical photographs, television, print media, and graffiti scrawled across urban walls or identifying the critique of colonialism implicit in African films and literature, Carter reveals a protean and peopled world in motion.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-xi

The location of my anthropological imagination began in Oakland, California, where I spent my childhood in the peculiar mix of social exclusion, racism, and normal life that the city offered. One must acknowledge one’s arrivals and departures, setting in this manner the basic structure of the trope of the voyage; for me it was a particular trajectory of black working-class life in Oakland, California, from which a ...

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pp. xiii-xv

This project is the result of an itinerant scholar traveling the byways of academic life. Th e idea for this book came to me as I attempted to plow through the rapidly growing literature on diaspora and also through my exploration of the world that Senegalese migrants and others introduced me to in Turin, Italy. Anthropology is somewhat like a game of pick-up basketball: you play with those who show up and share with ...

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Introduction: The Anthropology of Invisibility

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pp. 1-33

Journeys are an active engagement with the world, and are at the very least transformative and irreversible. Journeys have a sense of agency that we must keep alive through our explorations. Let me paraphrase the beginning of an old tale. It is a song of diaspora and concerns the people of the African diaspora and the twists and turns that have time and again driven people off course, transformed by the struggle to regain their way ...

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1 A Nonracial Education: On Navigating Diaspora, Anti-Black Caricature, and Anthropology

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pp. 35-69

Autobiography lurks in the background of almost every anthropological enterprise. This is a “social fact” one oft en discovers by chance. For me, it was in the odd inherited carpet in the apartment of an African/European anthropologist, linking him and his “people” to the imagined geography of his lineage. Or the aside during a talk that firmly located an ethnographer in her social world through the mention of some personal detail— a claim ...

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2 Remembering Khartoum and Other Tales of Displacement

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pp. 71-104

If we were to configure the architecture of contemporary anthropology, the resulting structure might reveal the explorations of experience, material culture, and space and time to be essential features of its fragile identity. One of the pioneering figures of this world was no doubt Godfrey Lienhardt, who mapped the meanings of Dinka cosmology in his classic Divinity and Experience (1961). ...

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3 The Inexhaustible Sense of Exile: Other Cultures in the Photographic Imaginary

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pp. 105-141

The Famished Road , a novel by Ben Okri, opens with the meditations of a spirit child contemplating whether to continue life in the mundane world or surrender and returning to the ethereal realm. In a phrase that speaks to the underlying tension within diasporic experience, Okri writes, “To be born is to come into the world weighed down with strange gift s of the soul, with enigmas and an inextinguishable sense of exile” (1992, 5). ...

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4 Crossing Modernity: The Journey from Imperial to Diasporic Nostalgia

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pp. 143-172

“In presenting culture as a subject for analysis and critique,” anthropologist Renato Rosaldo once wrote, “the ethnographic perspective develops an interplay between making the familiar strange and the strange familiar” (1989, 39). Presenting culture—whatever we might imagine these days the concept of culture to be—it seems to me is no longer an activity restricted solely to the ethnographer. ...

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5 Sites of Erasure: Black Prisoners and the Poetry of Léopold Sédar Senghor

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pp. 173-207

In this chapter and chapter 6, I present a meditation on the lives and work of two Senegalese scholars, politicians, filmmakers, and former colonial soldiers: the late Léopold Sédar Senghor, former president of Senegal, and the late filmmaker and cultural critic Ousmane Sembene. Th e work of these two figures encompasses a period in African history beginning in colonialism, passing through an era in which African ...

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6 Comrade Storyteller: Diasporic Encounters in the Cinema of Ousmane Sembene

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pp. 209-240

Ousmane Sembene (1923–2007) in his film Camp de Thiaroye brings together two of the most pressing issues for Africans during the 1940s (the era in which the film is set): citizenship and labor. The extension of citizenship to everyone in French West Africa and equal pay and parity with the European worker were the two political demands that began to take shape during this time; Sembene, as a former soldier and trade ...

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7 Travel Warnings: Observations of Voyages Real and Imagined

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pp. 241-270

The early lists of the traveler developed into guidebooks and finally travel reports, a record of the detailed observations of the traveler. All of this was organized into the form of a journal from the Renaissance on, crafting what was to become a highly ritualized form of knowledge through which the world was appropriated as information about an elsewhere (Leed 1991, 188). ...


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pp. 271-305


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pp. 307-326


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pp. 327-362

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About the Author

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p. 380-380

Donald Martin Carter is a professor of Africana studies at Hamilton College. He is the author of ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816673315
E-ISBN-10: 0816673314
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816647781

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2010