Tubman Speaker Series: Richard Anderson and “The Making of the Aku: Ethnicity in Sierra Leone’s Yoruba Diaspora”

The Harriet Tubman Institute is pleased to present a talk by Richard Anderson: “The Making of the Aku: Ethnicity in Sierra Leone’s Yoruba Diaspora” on Thursday, November 14, 2013 from 3:30-5:00pm at 305 York Lanes.

This talk, which is part of the Tubman Speaker Series, will focus on the social, cultural, and intellectual history of Yoruba speakers landed in nineteenth-century Sierra Leone as a result of the British Navy’s efforts to suppress the transatlantic slave trade. From the 1820s onward, Yoruba in Sierra Leone were known as the “Aku,” and were identified by several colonial governors and subsequent historians as the “largest and most cohesive group” in the colony. Yet in their homelands the Aku had known themselves by much more localized identities and did not possess a common name. This talk traces the origins and various meanings of “Aku” in Sierra Leone and beyond, the role of language in shaping identity, and the interaction between Islam, Christianity, and Orisha worship in defining the Aku. It considers the shifting relationship between diaspora and homeland, as Aku merchants and missionaries returned to coastal towns near their ancestral homes.

Richard Anderson is a fifth-year PhD candidate in Africa history at Yale University, focusing on pre-colonial and colonial West Africa. His dissertation, entitled “Recaptives: Community and Identity in Sierra Leone, 1808-1863” explores the social and cultural history of freed slaves settled in and around Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown. Prior to Yale, Richard completed his BA in History and Political Science at the University of Waterloo, and a Master’s in African Studies at the University of Oxford.

For more talks, please see our Tubman Speaker Series for 2013/2014 and the Working Paper Series.

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