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Section I of the anthology explores the topics of courtship, marriage, and sex in African culture, addressing kinship relations as a support system for children, polygyny and Christian marriage in Africa, female husbands in Igbo Land, and more. Section II is devoted to African religions, rites, and traditions, including the Charismatic Renewal movement in Ghana, modern practitioners of ancient religions, and “magic” in contemporary Africa. Section III recognizes African clothing, art, and dance, discussing dress for special occasions, tribal dances of Africa, the presence of the hijab in Nigeria, and the complexities of modern masculinity in the Maasai people. The text closes with a section on death and dying, introducing readers to the symbolism of masks, the living, and the dead, the concepts of good and bad death in Kwahu-Tafo, Ghana, and African funeral rites sites for performing, participating, and witnessing trauma.
Edited with the perspective that African history cannot be appreciated without a rich understanding of the relevance of its diverse living cultural traditions, Essentially Africa is an interdisciplinary anthology suitable for courses in African history or culture, cultural anthropology, folklore, international relations, and global public policy.
Rachel Davis: I think my favorite thing about all of the readings in this class was that they were all not only informative in nature, but were also objective and unbiased. Absolute honesty without any persuasive rhetoric is what I want out of my education, so that I can form my own opinions and hear others in a controlled and leveled setting.
Sarah Tam: I really liked the pieces that were in the reader book. They were more like news articles and it made it easier to read than chapters out of a textbook. It also gave us a glimpse into real life issues and a look into the culture. Most of the topics we read about are not common news story and never discussed. I loved being able to take a look at some real world issues that are usually swept under the rug or forgotten about. The story about the "magic" in Africa and the female genital mutilation were the most intriguing readings from this class in my opinion. It opened the door for more honest conversations and cut out the stereotypes that are so often portrayed about African culture.
Sarah Obeso: I think what I liked most about the readings were the fact that all of them, in conjunction with the discussions, confronted you to ask yourself what was troubling, surprising, or different.
Catherine Fields: What I liked most about the readings was the fact each reading covered a controversial topic that I personally never knew about.
Joshua Rodriguez: I believe that the readings that were assigned in this class were truly a great tool to learn about Africa. I believe that they did a great job at providing very important information. The readings really opened my eyes to how little knowledge that we learned about Africa and it's history from school and the history books.
Jasmine LaGrant: The readings for this class were absolutely amazing to me overall. They were all very informative and taught me a lot about the different cultures and societies of Africa and their history. The readings were also very diverse in the various topics that were presented and discussed, which I loved. The choice of readings were phenomenal for the course and I can say that I have gained a lot of knowledge about Africa that I will cherish because of this class.