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Department 1

Africana Studies

Department 2



At a time when the U.S. Department of Defense is putting the finishing touches to the establishment of a military command for Africa (known as AFRICOM) and the People’s Republic of China’s influence on the continent seems to be on the rise, a detour through the history of America’s past geographical imaginations of Africa appears as a necessity. This is especially crucial since the current constructions of the African continent as a strategic place in both policy and military circles seems to echo the geodiscursive representations of Africa during the Second World War. In fact, it was in the early 1940s that Africa publicly ceased to be the place of safari that past or sitting American presidents toured and became a continent endowed with a strategic significance. I argue in the lines that follow that American geographer-diplomats and politically-minded cartographers played a key role in this shift. More significantly, I suggest that global historical forces and developments provided the context to understand 2 this attitudinal change among American decision-makers, geostrategists, and academics. Finally, I recommend that Africanist geographers in academia engage the many (past and present) parallel geographic epistemologies regarding Africa, including the ways of seeing and the body of cartographic knowledge about the African continent that military and/or intelligence services and institutions have produced over the years, both in times of war and peace.

Required Publisher's Statement

This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article whose final and definitive form, the Version of Record, has been published in the African Geographical Review (2010) © Taylor & Francis, available online at: