Studying African history has allowed me to appreciate the challenging nature of constructing a continent almost entirely through the eyes of European historians. Given the backdrop of colonial domination, it seems ironic that the story of African liberation has been defined by European observers rather than Africans themselves. In fact, the very definition of ‘Africa’ had been created by its interaction with other civilisations, demonstrating the long history of European intervention which increasingly became racially defined during colonisation. Western colonisers pushed to conceptualize and classify Africa in order to create an African race and identity.
Said’s framework of ‘Orientalism’ demonstrates Western obsession in defining themselves upon inferior, “feminine” societies, which perhaps helps us to identify why colonisers felt the need to label, identify and invent boundaries in an unfamiliar land. Has European intervention stigmatised Africa forever? Does the Pan-African movement symbolize European ignorance and their failure in truly representing African people? These questions reflect the combination of two contrasting historical viewpoints in Modern African History, the European perception of indigenous societies and the emergence of the “African perspective” emphasising traditional African structures. It’s this aspect of controversy and complexity surrounding the construction of Africa during colonisation which has particularly fascinated me about African history, especially given that the repercussions are still visible today.