The ‘invention’ of Africa as an ethno-geographic space of otherness whose systems of knowledge are pitted against European structures of thought is commonly recognised as an early modern construction serving Europe’s colonialist enterprise. Yet Latin ‘Africa’ was already ‘invented’ by Greco-Roman authors, whose ethnographic gazes bear commonalities with later colonialist literature that allow us to bridge the gap between antiquity and modernity on the history of Western constructions of subaltern identities. This talk will focus on the representation of the African space in specific Greco-Roman authors writing between the end of the Republic and the early empire (Sallust, Strabo, Mela, Lucan Seneca, Pliny), arguing that these descriptions contribute to the construction of Africa as a shifting landscape and a blank slate which later colonialist European imagination will mould for its own purposes.
About the speaker
Elena Giusti is Associate Professor of Latin Language and Literature at the University of Warwick. She is the author of Carthage in Virgil’s Aeneid: Staging the Enemy under Augustus (Cambridge, 2018) and has published extensively on Latin and Greek literature and thought. She is currently writing a monograph entitled Rome’s Imagined Africa (courtesy of the British Academy), co-editing the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Classics and Race (with Rosa Andújar and Jackie Murray) and organising a conference on Classics and Italian Colonialism (with Samuel Agbamu) at the Museo delle Civiltà in Rome.