The colonization counterfactual

Rachel Strohm

One of the questions I’m often asked by friends who haven’t studied African history is what might have happened to the continent if it hadn’t been colonized.  It’s interesting to look at the following map of African politico-tribal units circa 1844 by Swedish artist Nikolaj Cyon in the light of this question:

Alkebu-lan[click for full size – it’s worth it!]

I haven’t been able to find any firm documentation on the origin of the name Alkebu-lan, although a variety of questionably sourced websites suggest that it’s an Arabic phrase meaning “land of the blacks” – supposedly an original name for Africa.  Cyon notes in a presentation that the map represents the culmination of an alternate history where the Black Plague killed significantly more Europeans than was actually the case, presumably reducing the amount of early colonization which would have occurred.  Thus, while many of these territorial groupings appear feasible to…

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Balancing Life, Staying Focused

Last night, we had dinner with a friend of my husband’s. We were all talking about the need for passion in anything that you want to accomplish. Passion is the thing that keeps you going  in the face of adversity, when any other rational person would have called it quits. I agree. But this type of single minded focus does have consequences on your day to day life. Continue reading

Life begins at the end of you comfort zone

Beginnings are intimidating, especially in the context of writing essays and papers. My husband tells his students that the blank page can be very intimidating because you have to create meaning out of nothing. No easy task, eh? Whether it is writing a blog, an essay or a personal statement, beginnings set the tone. The writer is under a lot of pressure to get things right.The best advice I got about writing a beginning was also from my husband 🙂 Skip the beginning and start writing the body. This actually works! Continue reading

Yes you should follow your dreams, but be prepared to face your fears

When I decided to return back to school it was so that I could create the career of my dreams. I have always wanted to work as a diplomat. To build this career, I made a plan. First, I wanted to complete a degree  in International Studies. Although I have one degree from the University of Toronto, I opted to complete a second degree at Glendon College; to improve my research, writing and critical thought. I will complete graduate studies  after my second BA and ultimately pursue my PhD and a career with the Canadian Foreign Service. As I am in my thirties, I do have quite a bit of work experience. When I am applying for internships I am often unsure if this works in my favour. I think that more often that not, internships are intended for students who lack work experience. I have work experience, with many transferable skills. I don’t have much of experience in the field I want a career in – International Relations – and so, much of my extra time is being spent trying to accumulate that experience. I am putting myself out there, applying for every possible opportunity to try and catch my break and have a door open (so to speak). Continue reading

Life throws you a curve ball

The last few weeks of 2013 were quite eventful for my family and I. We were one of the many Torontonians affected by the power outage due to the ice storm. My power went out twice for extended periods on two separate occasions. Obviously, the power outage hadn’t been factored into the plans we made for the holidays. Our holiday plans consisted of packing and moving. Who moves during Christmas? We do. We just bought our first place and we were determined to move in before the New Year and avoid any possibility of continuing to pay rent. Continue reading