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African Geographical Review
Volume 29, Issue 1, June 2010


Featured Reflection

Rebirth of a Strategic Continent?: Problematizing Africa as a Geostrategic Zone

Abou B. Bamba (Hobart and William Smith Colleges, USA)



It was during World War II that Africa publicly ceased to be the place of safari and became a continent endowed with a strategic significance. I argue in this reflection piece that American geographer-diplomats and politically-minded cartographers played a key role in this shift. Global historical forces and developments provided the ideal context to understand this attitudinal change among American decision-makers, geostrategists, and academics. I recommend that Africanist geocartographers 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 intelligence services have produced over the years. This is all the more necessary since the current constructions of the African continent as a strategic place in both policy and military circles seems to echo the geo-discursive representations of Africa during the Second World War.

Key words: maps, geopolitics, geographer-diplomat, Africa, critical geocartography