America in Africa: Mapping the African Question from American Diplomatic and Cultural Perspectives

Thursday, January 5, 2017: 1:30 PM
Room 501 (Colorado Convention Center)
Jeannette Eileen Jones, University of Nebraska
This talk discusses the uses of GIS technology in the digital project “To Enter Africa from America: U.S. Empire, Race, and the African Question, 1847-1919” As Benedict Anderson argues in Imagined Communities (1982), the map was one of the main vehicles for imagining the colonial state. The project uses historic maps of Africa produced before, during, and after the “scramble for Africa” (1853-1895). The collaborators are creating interactive maps that will highlight American cultural and diplomatic knowledge of Africa shaped by these colonial discourses, using sources produced by Americans living in and traveling through Africa (e.g., missionaries, explorers, Pan-Africanists, emigrants, and plenipotentiaries) between the Liberia declaration of independence (1847) and the drafting of the Treaty of Versailles (1919). The project uses maps from the David Rumsey Map Collection because of its comprehensiveness.

This presentation will focus on the part of “Mapping the African Question” that maps American plenipotentiary movement throughout the continent from 1847-1919, using the Official Congressional Directories, which recorded all diplomatic officials stationed abroad. By 1891, there were over 50 diplomats stationed in Africa, including the islands of the coast, in various official positions to include consul, consul-general, vice & deputy consul, vice-consul, consular agent, commercial agent, and vice-commercial agent. The maps presented will also include links to bibliographies of the plenipotentiaries, TEI-marked government documents, and historical information about each post that reveal their extent of their centrality to American understandings of the African Question. A timeline feature will allow the user to see where U.S. diplomatic interest in Africa shifted over space and time. The next phase of the map will include color-coded nodes with similar links to show where American missionaries, explorers, and African American travelers are in the continent simultaneously.

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