What is the Black Atlantic? My Comparative Perspective

What is the Black Atlantic? My Comparative Perspective

Afro-Europe International Blog

Sibo Kano

Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic (1994) is a difficult read but it’s a very influential book. An author who builds further on Gilroy’s work and who writes very accessible books about blackness is Livio Sansone (professor of anthropology at the University of Bahia, Brazil). His book ‘Blackness Without Ethnicity’ (2003) was a very insightful read that I recommend to anyone interested in the subject. In this book he compares black Brazilian experience and cultural production with the African American experience (check this blog www.afrobrazilamerica.com on the difference between black US and black Brazil experiences). One of the chapters of the book even goes further and is based on his research among black youth in Amsterdam compared to black youth in Bahia and Rio. Generally Sansone has written interesting articles about blackness and Western Afro cultures (check this article) . Below I will give my understandings and perspectives on the Black Atlantic, as an inherent part of the broad social and cultural entity called ‘The West’.

There are black people living in all countries of the Americas, in Europe and of course in Africa. The history of all these black populations is interrelated and all in reference to their relation to white European culture. African nations are (unfortunately) a consequence of European history and international affairs. African elites have often Europe and European languages as a reference point for culture, knowledge and social emancipation. The same thing can be said in an even more thorough sense of Latin America. All these cultures, or at least its elites and urban populations are therefore according to me part of the same Western world.

But the black populations of these nations are not all the same, just as all these countries differ from each other although being interrelated in history. Black Brazilians experience race in a very different way than African Americans. Black Britons do not express their identity within the UK in the same way as Black French communities in France. Each country has its own dynamics, history, culture and identity. Still there is also much in common which is all centered around three elements: history, race and Africa…

Read the entire article here.

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