In This Review

Mistaking Africa: Curiosities and Inventions of the American Mind
Mistaking Africa: Curiosities and Inventions of the American Mind
By Curtis A. Keim
Westview Press, 1999, 209 pp.

This sparkling little book aims to enlighten American undergraduates encountering Africa in the classroom for the first time, but even veteran Africanists will benefit from its dissection of the stereotypes and myths that surround everyday perceptions of Africa in the United States. Many Americans, the author says, use Africa as a psychological foil to reinforce their existing attitudes toward America -- either as a safe, comfortable, and highly "developed" country, or as a debased and imperfect society in need of wisdom from a more wise and pure continent. He suggests that Americans drop their misleading quest for the "real" Africa, along with evolutionist ideas about culture and development, and learn to understand Africans as they present themselves in all their diversity -- as "others" who are in fact not so different.