The African School of Economics in Hollywood: The Origins and Legacy of the Agoodjie

23rd Sep, 202212:48:51 PM GMT


After the release of the film The Woman King, the history of the Kingdom of Danxome has taken center stage. The film, inspired by the all-female unit of warriors called Agoodjie in the Kingdom of Danxome, used key findings in part from the African School of Economic’s years-long seminal historical research on the Agoodjie. ASE’s research was conducted by its Institute of African Studies, which focuses on research of African history, sociology and anthropology. ASE partnered with Princeton University’s Program in African Studies and the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Hub to facilitate a 2 day webinar called The Origins and Legacy of the Agoodjie. The event was hosted at Princeton University on September 16th and 17th. Leading academic experts attended from a variety of disciplines, highlighting the history and continued relevance of the Agoodjie.

The first day of the webinar introduced pre-colonial institutions in the Kingdom of Danxome and gave an overview of historical research on the Agoodjie, featuring historians specialized in West Africa, which included Serge Ouitona, ASE’s Director of the Institute of African Studies. In addition, ASE’s founder and president Leonard Wantchekon introduced his book Lives and Legacies of Fifty-one Amazons from Danxome Kingdom. The second panel explored the social, political, and economic institutions in West Africa, which ended with a screening of The Woman King and a message from the director Gina Prince-Bythewood.

Day 2 continued the intellectual vigor of the first, beginning with a debriefing and discussion on the Woman King led by Professor Wantchekon. The president of ASE then screened his documentary short film highlighting the life and legacy of Essèyi, one of the 51 Amazons of Danxome under Kings Guezo, Glele and Behanzin. The next panel discussed the representation of African women in the visual arts, including African filmmakers as well as prominent art historians. The last panel, titled “Preserving and Building on the Legacy of the Amazons – Future Directions and Policy Recommendations,” discussed the current state of affairs on gender in the Beninese military and society. Finally, the panel addressed where there was room for change in Beninese policy and society.

Following all the panels, there were dynamic Q&As thanks to the engaging audience. The webinar fostered dialogue, reflection, and action items, demonstrating the continued importance of the Agoodjie not only in better understanding the historical role of women in West Africa, but in reshaping a world history that has for centuries been dominated by Eurocentric worldviews and gender norms.

For more information on the history behind The Woman King, check out these recent news articles:

The Guardian : “’This is an old story of heroism, of feminism’: Thettruth behind The woman king”
Time : “The Complicated History Behind The Woman King”
Independent : “The descendants of The Amazons Are Now Fighting To Recapture Their Humanity”

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