Jane Plastow: Stiwanism and Gendered Identities in Jinja (Uganda)

We are pleased to announce that Jane Plastow will open our next set of seminars on the theme of African Feminisms with a paper co-authored with Katie McQuaid, the abstract which may be found below.

The seminar will take place on Monday,  13 February 2017 at the Leeds Humanities Research (LHRI) Institute Seminar Room 1 at 5pm. All are welcome and entrance is free.

 

AbstractUntitled

This paper concerns the ethnographic and theatre-based work of Katie McQuaid and Jane Plastow in a working class district of Jinja, Uganda, over two years between 2014 and 2016. Working in the context of entrenched urban poverty alongside the community we sought to develop understanding of the shifting nature of gendered, intergenerational identities in an East African city and how men, women and youth navigate their daily realities and sustain their future aspirations. We are concerned here to explicate our changing understandings in relation to African and western feminisms, particularly Stiwanism, over the course of the work. 

We explore the relative silencing of women, culturally, educationally and structurally in this community, and how, combining ethnographic research and Frierean-inspired community theatre, we sought to open up spaces in which women felt confidence to participate, at first in single sex spaces,  and later in whole community debate, as equals with their men. The focus of the paper is on how we came to find an engagement with the concept of Stiwanism hugely useful in conceptualising our long term process of working alongside men and women in search of a ‘plentiude of praxis’: strengthening and promoting an urban community’s capacity to unite across social barriers in recognising systemic injustices and inequalities, and challenging these through community-led interventions in pursuit of common social justice outcomes. 

We conclude by raising our on-going issues with Stiwanism in relation to its capacity to envisage how men can be supported in challenging patriarchal practices, and how women can negotiate competing aspects of ethnic identity and modern aspiration, whilst simultaneously resisting essentialist narratives that confine their voices and activity.

About Katie McQuaid and Jane Plastow

Jane Plastow is primarily an Africanist with special interests in African theatre, African literature, education, development studies and politics. She is also concerned with women’s studies in Africa and worldwide with Theatre for Development. She has particularly strong links with East Africa and the Horn of Africa; especially Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, in all of which she has worked in recent years. Plastow also works as a theatre director, usually but not exclusively in the area of African theatre, and teach across a range of courses dealing with contemporary theatrical practice.

Katie McQuaid is an anthropologist currently working on the INTERSECTION project, researching intergenerational justice, environmental responsibility, climate change and sustainability in Uganda, combining social science and arts-based methods (fieldwork Jan-Nov 2015). Her wider work focuses upon violence, humanitarianism and human rights amongst refugees from violent conflict. She conducted two years’ ethnographic fieldwork in Uganda (2011-2012) with refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, considering how violence and human rights are experienced and articulated amongst those living within humanitarian regimes. This research explores the practice of Congolese human rights defenders and the complex persecution and marginalisation of sexual minorities.

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Liberating the Female Voice from the Patriarchal Order of the South African Pastoral Tradition: Anne Landsman’s The Devil’s Chimney by Ruth Daly

6308201._UY200_The next Finding Africa seminar, hosted in association with the University of Leeds’ Centre for African Studies (LUCAS), will be on 24 May 2016. Ruth Daly will present a reading of Anne Landsman’s The Devil’s Chimney in her paper titled ‘Liberating the Female Voice from the Patriarchal Order of the South African Pastoral Tradition’.

The seminar will take place on 24 May 2016 at 4pm in Seminar Room 1 of the Leeds Humanities Research Institute (physical address: 31-2 Clarendon Place, Leeds). Entrance is free and all are welcome. Continue reading

Elinor Rooks to speak on The Radical Developmental Politics of Bessie Head’s A Question of Power

Bessie Head
Bessie Head

The next event on the Finding Africa calendar is a seminar by Elinor Rooks (University of Leeds). Rooks will give a paper on “Cattle, Gardens and the Madness of Power: The Radical Developmental Politics of Bessie Head’s A Question of Power” in Seminar Room 008 of the Berrick Saul Building at the University of York at 5pm on 30 September 2015.

*A podcast of this seminar is now available here: Finding Africa Podcast. Continue reading

Arthur Rose on “Dwelling in Triomf; or Building the Infrastructure for Postapartheid Dasein”

triomf The next seminar in the Philosophy and Literature stream of Finding Africa entitled, Dwelling in Triomf; or Building the Infrastructure for Postapartheid Dasein will be given by Dr. Arthur Rose.

Rose recently completed his PhD thesis, Cynical Cosmopolitans? Borges, Beckett, Coetzee, at the University of Leeds. It argued that the integration of politics, aesthetics and subjectivity in the late works of these writers may best be understood through the lens of Ancient Cynicism. He is currently thinking about the thematic and structural use of strike in English, French and Spanish mining literatures.

The seminar will be at 6pm in the BS/008 seminar room of the Berrick Saul Building at the University of York on 8 June 2015. Entrance is free and all are welcome. Continue reading

Furman and O’Connell on HIV/AIDS, Moral Responsibility, and South African Literature (Rescheduled for 1 June 2015)

hiv-aids Finding Africa is pleased to announce that the theme for the next seminar in the Philosophy and Literature stream will be HIV and AIDS. Katherine Furman, from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences will tackle the controversial question, “Is Thabo Mbeki Morally Responsible for his AIDS Denialism?” Furman’s paper will be followed by a presentation by Dr. Gráinne O’Connell from the University of Sussex on “‘Post-AIDS’ Futures, Global Health Governance and Representations of HIV and AIDS in Post-Apartheid Literary Fiction”. The seminar will take place on 1 June 2015 at 5.30pm in The Treehouse at the University of York’s Berrick Saul Building. The event is both free and open to all. Continue reading

Journalism and Media Studies: Richard Stupart Abstract

The relationship between mass media and African ‘development’ has been an object of critical study for media studies scholars since at least the 1980s. The 1985 Live Aid concert, and the BBC coverage of the Ethiopian famine that inspired it, indicated that media coverage and the ability to mobilize resources for foreign assistance were connected – although this relationship was only beginning to be theorized. In this paper it is argued that two of the most influential models of the media’s power to mobilize assistance that subsequently developed remain under-theorized, and may operate in ways substantially different to their applied conceptions. Further refinement is needed if the role of the media in constructing distant suffering and mobilizing solidarity with those affected by it is to be productively understood. The paradigms of the ‘CNN Effect’ as the power of the media to compel humanitarian action, and ‘compassion fatigue’ as the tendency for audiences to lose empathy for distant victims after over-coverage of their plight have informed a long history of media advocacy related to Africa’s conflicts, famines and disasters. Though forming the conceptual foundation of media strategies ranging from the Kony2012 viral media campaign to the advertising of Oxfam and the United Nations, these theories of media influence are subject to numerous critiques from both more nuanced understandings of media power and actual case appraisals.

Continue reading

Brendon Nicholls on Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy: Environment, Psyche and Objects (Abstract)

My paper adapts Freudian libido theory and Kleinian object relations theory to account for the tactically psychopathic subject in military conflagrations such as Biafra. The universal threats to soldiers’ lives (violence, disease, starvation) and the shifting theatres of war mean that the subject must become a function of circumstance and environment, calculating its continuing survival upon incremental advantage or optimal pleasure. Likewise, the object-attachments of the libido become insecure, fluid and fickle.

Saro-Wiwa’s protagonist in Sozaboy, Mene, and the universal soldier, Manmuswak (“man must eat”), repeatedly alter their military (and national) allegiances throughout the narrative as the events of war overtake them. In Sozaboy, the State’s ability to govern has completely broken down. Therefore, who one is inevitably becomes a function of where one happens to find oneself. To put this another way, both Mene and Manmuswak negotiate a situational micropolitics, in which identity is dictated by the immediate circumstance of power instead of the deep comradeship of ethnicity or nation. These subjects of civil war calculate their affiliations upon the crude and fluid algebra of pure expediency, in order to ensure their chances of survival.

My paper will conclude that this flattening of the subject corresponds in Sozaboy to the increasing autonomy of part-objects. These part-objects code for an environmental consciousness that exceeds the bounds of the subject and that arises from the beleaguered disposition of the appetites in Biafra. In short, I argue that the distensions and distortions of the body in Sozaboy address the politics of oil production and the pollution of the Niger Delta environment.