SCRUTINISING EUROPE’S MENTAL MAPS OF AFRICA, 1500 - 2000: A CONFERENCE REPORT BY JAN G. PLATVOET From 4 to 7 October 2001, forty-four scholars from Europe, Africa and the USA gathered in Schloss Thurnau, the conference centre of Bayreuth University, Germany, to review ‘European perceptions of the religions of Africa’ in the di V erent academic traditions of Europe from the earliest period of contact until the present. Six papers were con- cerned with aspects of the ‘foundational’ period of the study of the reli- gions of Africa, roughly 1500-1800. In three of these, by Frieder Ludwig (Bayreuth/München), Robert Debusmann (Bayreuth) and Jan Platvoet, glaring di V erences in the representations of African indigenous religions by 16th- and 17th-century merchants were discussed as inspired by denominational positions or commercial pragmatism. In three others, by Wolbert Smidt (Hamburg), Werner Ustorf (Birmingham), and Jean- Godefroy Bidima (Paris), the part the Enlightenment, in particular Kant and von Herder, played in establishing, or counteracting, Europe’s neg- ative view of the native religions of Africa in the 18th and 19th cen- turies was examined. European perceptions during the missionary and colonial era, roughly 1800-1960, were examined in ten papers. Adam Jones (Leipzig) high-
Journal of Religion in Africa – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2002
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