THE AFRICAN DIASPORA by Martin L. & Robert I. Rotberg--Eds. Kilson


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The collection that Professors Kilson (government, Harvard) and Rotberg (history and political science, MIT) have edited isn't quite the pioneering work that its foreword claims, both because the African diaspora--the worldwide communities of people of African descent--has become quite a fashionable academic topic, and because the book itself has too many gaps. Most missed (the defensive introduction notwithstanding) are political and literary pan-Africanism, and the almost unknown black diaspora in India and the southern Pacific islands. Reflecting the lack of overall structure, the pieces range from major overviews to reports on microtopics like Creole politics in Mauretania. Some of the former, however, add significantly to our knowledge. A chapter on Greco-Roman civilization offers evidence that blacks were both more familiar and more accepted than has previously been thought, and one on blacks in Britain, 1500-1800, demonstrates that the peculiarly ambiguous British form of racism has a long tradition. Also valuable in themselves are some of the narrow-focus essays revolving around wider topics like religion and Creolization. But too much space is devoted to relatively familiar areas--the slave trade, the United States, voodoo--where, moreover, the case-study approach is too particularized and spotty for the subjects. Altogether, The African Diaspora backs away from the conceptual risks and glories inherent in the grand sweep of the title. A collection for teaching, then, rather than reading, however admirable some of its parts.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press