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Navigating African Maritime History$
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Carina E Ray and Jeremy Rich

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780986497315

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780986497315.001.0001

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Swimming, Surfing and Underwater Diving in Early Modern Atlantic Africa and the African Diaspora

Swimming, Surfing and Underwater Diving in Early Modern Atlantic Africa and the African Diaspora

Chapter:
(p.81) Swimming, Surfing and Underwater Diving in Early Modern Atlantic Africa and the African Diaspora1
Source:
Navigating African Maritime History
Author(s):

Kevin Dawson

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9780986497315.003.0005

This essay explores African activities in rivers, lakes, and the Atlantic Ocean - bodily relationships, such as swimming, surfing, and diving, as opposed to those occurring in boats. It demonstrates that these skills were considered lucrative and profitable to slavers, and that enslaved Africans were used as pearl and debris divers and often tasked with clearing fisheries. It explores the racist ideologies of the New World, explaining that African swimmers were depicted as having ‘animal-like’ instincts rather than possessing the supposed logic and intellect of Europeans, a method of claiming white superiority in spite of evident white physical inferiority. The essay combines both a study of water-based leisure activities in Africa, an underexplored area of maritime history, with a contribution to the understanding of racist ideologies and mindsets at work in the early modern Atlantic world.

Keywords:   Racist Ideologies, History of Racism, New World Racism, History of Swimming, Slavery

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