Catherine Gallouët, professor of French and Francophone Studies and Africana Studies, recently presented at the international conference of the Groupe de Recherches sur les Représentations Européennes de l’Afrique et des Africains (GRREA). Held at the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, the conference focused on the representation of Africa in European scientific discourse during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Gallouët, who also helped organize the conference, delivered a presentation and analysis on the depiction of giraffes by Europeans, exploring how the “fabulous, but nonetheless real animal” was represented in bestiaries, imagined voyages and encyclopedias, at a time when no European had seen a live specimen.
These representations, Gallouët argues, show how Europe was constructing its own knowledge about the unknowable, namely Africa, using sources from ancient Greek and Roman texts of Western civilization as well as fantasied travel narratives, to theorize a prejudiced and highly subjective narrative about Africa.
Gallouët is the author of several books, and some 50 articles and book chapters. Currently, she is on sabbatical pursuing her research about Eurocentric representations of Africa, and completing translations of the French author, Marivaux. Several times chair of the French and Francophone Studies Department, she was dean of William Smith College from 2014 to 2017. At the moment she is also preparing an international conference on the discourses about food and drink that will be hosted at HWS in October of 2018.