Professor Semley considers the West African port city of Porto-Novo to explore two contradictory visions of that port: as a cosmopolitan quartier latin and the l’enfant terrible of French West Africa. In her lecture, she examines Porto-Novo’s diverse origins based in migrating West African groups beginning in the eighteenth century through the nineteenth century immigration of Brazilians and repatriated slaves from Sierra Leone. These Atlantic migration patterns reflect the physical mobility of the population, changing social identities, and multiple intellectual strategies for understanding the relationships between Africa, the Americas, and Europe. She asks, how much do these earlier interactions contribute to the twentieth century situation when the French saw the populations in Porto-Novo working with (as a quartier latin) or against (as a l’enfant terrible) Western ideologies and modernity? Had people in Porto-Novo actually been trying to carve out a different space somewhere in-between that both engaged and challenged colonial assumptions? How does the idea of a “trans-African” city help define that alternative space?
Professor Semley’s lecture is part of the Center for the Humanities lecture series on ‘Worlding’. This event is free to the public.
Date: Nov. 15
Time: 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Place: Russell House