What Transnational Historians Should Learn from Scholars of the African Diaspora

Saturday, January 9, 2016: 3:30 PM
Grand Ballroom C (Hilton Atlanta)
Andrew Zimmerman, George Washington University
Historians taking transnational approaches have still not properly acknowledged, much less adequately learned from, the much longer traditional of transnational approaches in the history of the African Diaspora. Notions of transnational transfer by historians not specializing in the African Diaspora rarely go beyond the “retention” model developed by Melville J. Herskovits more than half a century ago. Notions of entanglement or mixing resemble a very early stage of studies of creolization in which two static cultures mix. Scholars including Andrew Apter, Stephan Palmié and J. Lorand Matory, offer much richer models for transnational approaches that historians focusing on any region might make use of. This requires abandoning the perspective of elites that transnational history sometimes retains, perhaps from its roots in diplomatic or comparative history. It opens up history to become not just trans-national, but trans-everything, transgressive.
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