The Swahili Coast and the Indian Ocean: Some lessons in World History | Newberry

The Swahili Coast and the Indian Ocean: Some lessons in World History

Thursday, April 19, 2018

9:30 am to 12:30 pm

The Newberry

Dr. Jonathon Glassman, Northwestern University
Full. Waitlist only.
Newberry Teachers' Consortium

Since the Enlightenment, the myth of the African past has depicted Africans as isolated from history, destined to live in static “tribal” societies until the forces of change intruded in the form of colonial conquest. Such myths can be challenged by the history of the ancient city-states of East Africa’s Swahili Coast, which for centuries mediated commercial, political, and intellectual influences from across the Indian Ocean and deep into the African interior. We will examine the racial ideas that prevented an understanding of Swahili culture: ideas by which an urban, cosmopolitan culture like this was assumed to be a foreign transplant. But at the same time, we will consider the dangers of conceiving “history” as entailing only the broad features familiar from the history of the West, such as cities, long-distance commerce, literacy, and monotheistic religions. The presence of such features may prompt us to accept the Swahili coast as part of “history.” But what about other East African cultures, which lacked such features? Are they still to be regarded as somehow outside history, trapped in unchanging stasis?

Cost and Registration Information 

Newberry Teachers’ Consortium members may register for this seminar through their designated membership contact as space permits. Non-member educators may register for this seminar by purchasing an individual membership at the time of registration. Registration for all NTC seminars opens Wednesday, September 6, 2017. For more information about NTC membership, please contact Charlotte Ross, Teacher Programs Manager, at

The seminar will be followed by a catered lunch. Registrants should RSVP for lunch to assist Teacher Programs staff in reducing waste.

A link to the assigned pre-readings for this seminar will be distributed to participants via email.

If you believe you are registered for this seminar but have not received an email confirmation or reminder, please contact Teacher Programs staff.