The Erotics of History challenges long-standing notions of sexuality as stable and context-free—as something that individuals discover about themselves. Rather, Donald L. Donham argues that historical circumstance, local social pressure, and the cultural construction of much beyond sex condition the erotic. Donham makes this argument in relation to the centuries-old conversation on the fetish, applied to a highly unusual neighborhood in Atlantic Africa. There, local men, soon to be married to local women, are involved in long-term sexual relationships with European men. On the African side, these couplings are motivated by the pleasures of cosmopolitan connection and foreign commodities. On the other side, Europeans tend to fetishize Africans’ race, while a few search to become slaves in master/ slave relationships. At its most wide ranging, The Erotics of History attempts to show that it is history, both personal and collective, in reversals and reenactments, that finally produces sexual excitement.
“Don Donham’s new book is a stunning achievement—written in a condensed/synoptic/ telescoped form about a daring topic, it achieves its aim and then some. For me, it was a page turner, hard to put down.” CHARLES PIOT, Duke University, author of Nostalgia for the Future: West Africa after the Cold War
“An amazing book that combines detailed and convincing ethnography with wide ranging knowledge and ambitious theoretical analysis. The sophisticated rethinking of representation, exchange, power, and culture is smart and riveting.” CAROLE S. VANCE, Yale University, author of Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality
DONALD L. DONHAM is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. His previous books include Marxist Modern: An Ethnographic History of the Ethiopian Revolution and Violence in a Time of Liberation: Murder and Ethnicity at a South African Gold Mine, 1994.
Donham, D. 2018. The Erotics of History: An Atlantic African Example. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.45
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