As the title promises, this book is full of great ideas for teaching about Africa. The nearly two dozen contributors (and, presumably, the target audience) constitute a fairly narrow group--those faculty teaching courses about Africa at North American universities--and yet they provide a broad range of approaches to teaching about Africa. As the editors acknowledge at the outset, the book focuses on practical, rather than philosophical, issues confronting teachers of African studies. As the editors also note, the book comes at a time when area studies are increasingly under attack, with more localized or more global programs preferred. What the book reveals, however, is that the current state of African studies teaching is alive and well, and that African studies methodologies--in particular--interdisciplinary and innovative--are at the academic forefront.
The book covers a wide range of disciplines, including anthropology, art, history, political science, religious studies, foreign languages, and geography. It devotes several chapters to using the arts--film, literature, music--as resources for teaching, and several more to broaching controversial subjects and current issues in the classroom--the African slave trade, ethnicity, HIV/AIDS, female circumcision, gender and development, making and keeping peace in Africa. Appropriately, the book devotes an entire section to the use of new technology in the classroom--describing an array of inventive ways of teaching Africa through technology. These include creating a web-based African art exhibit, assigning web quests to learn the map of Africa or disentangle the details of the crisis in the Great Lakes, linking technology and theory by using the internet for the very latest country specific information.
Great Ideas for Teaching About Africa raises a series of compelling issues for North American teachers of Africa. The book reinforces the need to introduce students to primary documents as historical sources and reminds of the importance of embedding into their historical and cultural contexts such controversial issues as female circumcision or even ethnicity. It recommends putting students at the center of their learning: for example, through the use of student-designed development projects that address gender inequity in an African country or role-playing exercises around HIV/AIDS or real life legal battles. The book emphasizes the imperative of exposing American students to African voices--those of musicians, filmmakers, artists, novelists, historians, religious leaders, intellectuals and more.
The speed with which information technology is developing
dates some of the specific references in this 1999 book. Indeed, the
outstanding websites for general information on Africa now number in
the dozens and include the following:
This is to say nothing of the country specific or subject specific sites which number in the hundreds. In addition, there are now literally dozens of African daily and weekly newspapers online. Similarly, many international organizations, non-governmental organizations, African governments, political parties and social movements, regional organizations, and research institutions and universities have impressive and informative websites. These provide students (and researchers and scholars, of course) with immediate, invaluable resources once only available at well endowed libraries or in country. They give us all an access to Africa once available to far fewer people.
The many contributors to this volume repeatedly invoke the same challenge when teaching about Africa at their universities: "The teaching of Africa is simultaneously a struggle to overcome centuries of 'filling in the gaps' and a struggle to tear down distortions and misinformation in order to rebuild knowledge" (p. 204). Great Ideas for Teaching About Africa provides a wealth of ideas for tackling this and related challenges.