Bower on Translocality, Small Magazines and Nigerian Poetry

Our next seminar takes place on the 14th of May in Seminar Room 2 of the Leeds Arts Humanities Research Institute at 4 pm. The open to all.

Abstract

Translocality, Small Magazines and Nigerian Poetry by Rachel Bower

This paper considers some of the small literary magazines that emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Ibadan and Leeds, with a particular focus on the poetry published in The Horn (University College, Ibadan, est. 1958) and Poetry and Audience (University of Leeds, est. 1953). I look closely at the work of Minji Karibo, a student at Ibadan, and also consider other magazines, including Outposts (Hull), Ibadan (Ibadan) and Fresh Buds (Nsukka). The paper focuses on these specific examples as case studies from the period of decolonisation, in which multiple and diverse literary communities experienced a series of locally specific transformations. The concept of translocality therefore underpins this investigation into the African literary materials that developed in this period.

The informal, often student-run, magazines from this period were underpinned by literary relations between Nigeria and the UK, and sometimes by direct collaboration between poets in Ibadan and Leeds. Writers with connections to both cities contributed to or edited The Horn and Poetry and Audience for instance, including Wole Soyinka, J.P. Clark, Aigboje Higo, Kalu Uka, Tony Harrison, James Simmons, Martin Banham, John Heath-Stubbs and Geoffrey Hill. Some of these writers are now celebrated as national literary heroes. This paper not only adds to existing evidence showing that student magazines were important in constituting literary communities in Africa (and the UK) during this period, however, but also shows that we must look beyond the ‘nation’ if we are to better understand how literary relations shape literary aesthetics – in this case, African literary materials in English. The paper combines close reading with an analysis of the literary fields in which these magazines were produced, to show how translocality and collaboration are key to understanding the craft of a key generation of poets in Britain and Nigeria during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

About Our Speaker

Dr Rachel Bower

Dr Rachel Bower is a poet and a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. She is the author of Epistolarity and World Literature, 1980-2010 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and Moon Milk (Valley Press, 2018). She is the co-editor of a special issue of English Studies on Tony Harrison, and a special issue of The Journal of Commonwealth Literature on the crafts of world literature. Rachel also edited the Verse Matters anthology with Helen Mort (Valley Press, 2017). Her poems have been published in Stand Magazine, New Welsh Reader, The Interpreter’s House, Frontier, Popshot Magazineand many other places and she has also been shortlisted for the London Magazine Poetry Prize and won several other poetry prizes. 

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Kaur and Malson Kelly on African Decolonisation and Colonial Education

Finding Africa Seminar

16 April 2019

Leeds Humanities Arts Research Institute (Seminar Room 2)

4-5.30 pm

Abstracts

Re-thinking African Decolonisation: representation of self and the motherland by African travel writers by Kirapreet Kaur

Travel writing, as a genre, has a unique power to construct, deconstruct and reconstruct the identity of any foreign space and its inhabitants for the world. It is through travel literature that the world has seen, felt and traversed the other world. This genre has not only been instrumental in defining, describing and detailing the unseen lands, such as Africa, for the other part of the world, specifically the western world. Rather, it has also influenced the ways through which the indigenous know and understand themselves and their land.  

For a significant amount of time the genre has been known as a western tool of representation of faraway lands for western utilitarian and adventurous eyes. However, since last decade a notable shift in this power structure of knowledge production can be seen with the fame of African authored travel narratives about Africa. African authors could be seen grappling with the westernised construction of African identity, through their travel narratives. Though the canon of African travel writers could be seen confronting the stereotypical image constructed by the Victorian travellers, still the relevance and continuous presence of the colonial nostalgia cannot be ruled off.

This paper proposes to discuss the travel narratives by three contemporary African travel writers: Orford Catja, Sihle Khumalo and Maskaram Hailey. The paper will discuss the representation of African space by these travellers in context with their own struggle for identity. How the authors position their identity in context with bigger African identity? What influence do (or do not) the Victorian travellers hold in the contemporary world of African travellers? How relevant is this influence when compared to the African space, that is, how deeply (or not) the colonial nostalgia is rooted in the African structure of self-knowledge?

‘That Which Eats at You Is Within You’: Dismembering Colonial Education and the Traumatic Consumption of the Mother Tongue in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Longue Durée Narrative by Aislinn Malson Kelly

In the spring of 2018, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s 1988 novel Nervous Conditions was placed on BBC Culture’s list of “100 stories that shaped the world,” a list meant to reinscribe the global importance of the selected texts and to contribute to their durability as cross-cultural and transnational “classics” and open a discussion about the endurance of some texts and not others. It is important to be aware of Nervous Conditions’ place in this global literary canon and its continued prominence in the academy because this novel and its sequels are, in part, bearing witness to a traumatizing and epistemicidal colonial education. Before the third book was published, the scholarly conversation about Dangarembga’s first two novels hopefully anticipated that This Mournable Body would narratively close the traumatic wounds opened in Nervous Conditions. This closure is subverted and complicated by the final book, published in 2018, which shows that Tambudzai Sigauke’s difficult project of recuperating herself in postcolonial Zimbabwe continues beyond the final page of the novel, just as the project of decolonization continues and is continuous with earlier processes of existence and resistance. That is, Dangarembga’s novels are structured in the style of what I am calling a literary longue durée, a textual space and temporality that bears witness to the continuity of colonial and postcolonial circumstances and that is informed by the traumas of a colonial education. Through a deconstructive micro-analysis of passages from all three books featuring the linked themes of language, education, punishment, consumption, and nourishment, I argue that colonial education is a force that consumes the mother tongue (language), is responsible for an epistemicidal bingeing and purging cycle of consuming only imposed literatures and histories, and is in tension with the consumption of food and the recuperative (consumption as recuperation) gesture of Tambudzai’s own mother’s tongue.

About our Speakers

Kiranpreet Kaur is a Ph.D student at Department of African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham. She is working on both British and African authored African Travel Writings under the supervision of Dr. Rebecca Jones and Dr. Kate Skinner from the Department of African Studies and Anthropology and Dr. Asha Rogers from Department of English. Her work focuses on African identity construction in colonial and postcolonial Anglophone African Travel narratives. She holds an M.Phil degree in English from the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India.  She has published in various research journals and has also published a book that is a collection of poems in Punjabi language. Along with this, she has worked as a creative head for Bombay based Film Company. She has written fiction and non-fiction for them for two years.

Aislinn Malson Kelly

Aislinn Kelly is currently pursuing an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature, Culture, and Thought in the School of English at the University of Sussex. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of North Florida (UNF) in Fall 2017 with a BA in English. She is interested in the way literature uses archives and in the textual-biological tension between bodies and the archives that represent, replace, and erase them. Her literary-critical interests inform her practice. She has assisted a historian in the Weston Library, Oxford, with transcribing colonial papers and has experience working on a number of archival projects, including the digitization of the Eartha M. M. White papers in the UNF special collections. Most recently, she has helped move the print archive of the Total Theatre Magazine into an online repository. Her other research interests include disability studies and non-canonical WWI literature. Her article “Passing Through a World of Birds: The Performance and Signification of Blindness in Stephen Kuusisto’s Planet of the Blind” was published in 2018 in The Sigma Tau Delta Review. She has presented her research on WWI writing at the 13th International Robert Graves Society Conference, at St. John’s College, Oxford, and the SHARP affiliate panel at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA88).

Nivesjö and Rooks on Townlife, Sexuality and the Bush

Our first seminar in the 2019 series will be delivered on 02 April in Seminar Room 2 of the Leeds Arts Humanities Research Institute at 4 pm. The open to all.

ABSTRACTS

“A revolting immoral place”: Town Life and Sexuality in R.R.R. Dhlomo’s An African Tragedy by Sanja Nivesjö

R.R.R. Dhlomo’s An African Tragedy (1928) – one of the first novels published in English by a black South African author – written in the form of a morality tale and steeped in Christian ethics, depicts the moral corruption of a black man from the countryside in the urban environment of 1920s Johannesburg, and the effects of this corruption on his family in the rural village.

In the 1920s, hegemonic forces in the nascent South African nation posited the rural as the black person’s “natural” home, at the same time as black urbanisation was rapidly increasing. I argue that Dhlomo negotiates the theme of urban-rural relations and mediates ideas of race and their relation to space through the trope of sexuality. The urban seemingly becomes a hostile environment through its sexually corrupting influence of prostitutes, single men, loose sexual morals, and syphilis, which constitute a threat to the rural Christian patriarchal family. By reading the novel from perspectives that critically interrogate sexual norms and space as a social construct, I argue that the black person’s lived experience of space and sexuality, as represented in the novel, disrupts and displaces this moral lesson of black familial happiness in the countryside to indicate Dhlomo’s engagement with a more complex spatial belonging.

An African Tragedy thus allows its reader insight into the contradictory conditions under which black South Africans lived in the city of the 1920s, and the ideological position that the rural space held, and how these conflicting experiences took expression and were imagined in early English language literature. 

“This Fucking Forest”:
The Bush as a Traumatic Space in African Literature by Elinor Rooks

The bush occupies a special place within African literature. From the earliest moments of African publishing—Amos Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1955)—the bush has functioned as a particularly potent literary space, one which blurs boundaries between the real and fantastic, the internal and external, the past and the present. These literary uses of the bush are rooted in the history of African vernacular theories of the bush. Vernacular theories of the bush make many uses of it, including reckoning with traumatic histories. Just as the bush enfolds villages abandoned to war, it holds the spirits and ghosts that enact these troubling histories.

I propose to explore literary uses of the bush as a space of trauma, focusing on Tutuola’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1957) and Chris Abani’s Song for Night (2007). Both authors use the bush as a space of death, war and memory. Set during two civil wars—the Yoruba Wars and the Biafran War—the novels track dislocated boys journeying through nightmarish, ghostly forests populated with spirits embodying the terrors of war. Abani’s protagonist retraces his steps, moving through the distorted spaces of traumatic memory, towards acceptance of his own death. For the ghost My Luck, there is no stable boundary between the inner and outer worlds—his memories are overlaid onto and merge with the blighted countryside. There is no distinction between the ruined landscape and his ruined mind. Although the bush functions similarly in Tutuola’s novels, critics have missed this. Abani’s clear use of the bush helps highlight its functions in Tutuola. Just as the physical bush resists mapping, the literary bush opens smooth textual spaces, enabling authors to tackle painful topics with fierce freedom.

About our Speakers

Sanja Nivesjö

Sanja Nivesjö is completing a joint PhD at the Department of English, Stockholm University, Sweden and Justus Liebig University, Germany. She is interested in South African literature, sexuality and gender studies, and queer theory. Her PhD project looks at the relationship between sexuality and spatiality in 20th and 21st century South African literature in English. From a queer theoretical perspective she looks at how sexuality is both represented and used as a trope in the literature to negotiate belonging to different types of spaces, and in extension a belonging to community and, perhaps, to the nation. She has published an essay on the queering of literary form and content in response to a crisis of whiteness in Nadine Gordimer’s novel The Conservationist (1974) and in J.M. Coetzee’s novel In the Heart of the Country (1977). Together with Heidi Barends from UCT, she is the guest editor of a forthcoming special issue on Olive Schreiner’s novel From Man to Man (1926) for the Journal of Commonwealth Literature.

Elinor Rooks

Elinor Rooks is an independent researcher in African literature, history and culture. She completed her PhD at the University of Leeds with her dissertation, “Vernacular Critique, Deleuzo-Guattarian Theory and Cultural Historicism in West African and Southern African Literatures,” focussing on the novels of Bessie Head and Amos Tutuola. She is currently researching responses to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and is authoring a book on Tutuola. She also serves as the reviews editor for Red Pepper Magazine and works as a freelance editor.

CFP: Contemporary Africas, Creative Africas: Conceptual and Methodological Advances in African Studies 2019

Call for Papers

Contemporary Africas, Creative Africas: Conceptual and Methodological Advances in African Studies

University of Leeds

4-5 April 2019

How does one make sense of Africa – as a place and an idea – today? How should we study the dynamics in African societies and cultures as part of our constantly shifting world with its paradoxes of globalisation and locality, postcoloniality and neo-colonialism, a neo-liberal world order and alternative collective imaginaries? How are cultural objects and performances shaping the way that Africa is figured imaginatively and what kind of politics is emerging around cultural representation? What are the innovative concepts and methodologies needed to engage and understand Africa, both as a site of critical new plays for power – between ‘the people’ and ‘the state’ for instance – and as an actor in a changing global political environment? What theoretical and methodological advances are required to push African Studies as a field beyond its problematic histories and trajectories, and to take seriously the quest for decolonisation?

Building on its long history of a multidisciplinary and critical study of African societies, cultures and politics, the Leeds University Centre for African Studies invites proposals for panels and papers with cutting-edge empirical and theoretical research into Africa’s multiple realities, dynamics and meanings. We specifically welcome contributions that probe new methods and concepts from across the social sciences and humanities in order to advance our understanding of Africa as a place and an idea, and the state of African Studies as a field.

We are interested in any proposal that addresses the above questions. For instance, we welcome paper and panel proposals about:

  • Civil Society and Social Movements in Africa
  • African Politics and Political Economies
  • Religious Transformations in Africa
  • African Arts and Creative Cultures
  • Africa in the Current World Order
  • Decolonising African Studies
  • Gender and Queer Africa
  • Representations of Africa
  • African Urban Worlds
  • Methodological innovations in African Studies
  • Ethical challenges in African Studies

    How to Apply

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EXTENDED DEADLINE CFP: African Places, African Spaces (UK) 2019

Call for Papers

African Places, African Spaces

Finding Africa Seminar Series

University of Leeds

2019

In light of contemporary concerns with decolonisation and meditations on the meaning of the continent of Africa, both within the academy and beyond, we invite papers concerned with African Places, African Spaces as part of our 2019 seminar series hosted in collaboration with the Leeds University Centre for African Studies and Leeds School of English.

For this series, we are interested in papers that address the ways in which Africa is figured as a place and how it occupies space in global thought. This interrogation involves questions about African ontologies, epistemologies, philosophies and literatures comparatively within the continent itself, in relation to other postcolonial contexts, and in terms of its contentious relationship with ‘the West’ or ‘North’.

Proposals can also address the primary question in relation to any of the following:

  •      What place does Africa have in global literature?
  •      What are the material aspects of life in African cities and villages as depicted in  literature?
  •      How do explorations of these spaces inform how we view the relationship between individuals and their communities, and between the ‘local’, ‘regional’, ‘national’, ‘continental’, ‘diasporic’ and ‘global’?
  •      How does Africa occupy discursive, cultural and material spaces?
  •      How does Africa travel in film, journalistic, academic, literary and online spaces?
  •      Can we think of contemporary African travel writing (e.g. Noo Saro-Wiwa’s Looking for Transwonderland, Sihle Khumalo’s Dark Continent, My Black Arse & Chibundu Onuzo’s Welcome to Lagos) as examples of reflecting on the spatiality of Africa? 

We are accepting proposals from any discipline and especially interdisciplinary work in this area. Proposals must be a maximum of 300 words (in Word format) and submitted to findingpocoafrica@gmail.com by 31 January 2019.

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CFP: Conference on Recovering Subterranean Archives 2019

Call for Papers 

Recovering Subterranean Archives Conference 

Stellenbosch University

17-18 January 2019

 

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The recent passing of South Africa’s poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile has occasioned an outcry regarding the relative absence of exiled writers in this country’s curricula and public discourse. South African literary history maintained, until the mid-2000s, the idea that the 1960s was a period of silence in South African cultural production. Numerous prominent writers were exiled by the stranglehold of apartheid, and these absent histories are directly linked to the regrettable state of cultural workers, dead and alive, who were actors in the worlding of South African literature, when a fascist regime sought to provincialize and delegitimize their intellectual pursuits. The effects of this are a warped and distorted perception of our knowledge systems – an onto-epistemic disillusionment.

Because of banning, censorship and the threat of imprisonment, South African cultural workers have produced art in almost every continent, in what could be deemed subterranean conditions, and the consequence of this is the lacuna we are confronted with today in our attempts to recover, engage, expose, teach, and promote their work. Our project ‘Recovering Subterranean Archives’, is directed at research into a range of literary, visual, and performance texts that currently remain in exile. The project’s main objective is to investigate South Africa’s deterritorialized national culture. The call for decolonization is a call for this library to surface and to be disseminated, diffusing the uniformity of colonial archives and epistemology which persist even under democracy.

Accordingly, we would like to host a two-day conference in which we explore South African cultural work in exile. Areas of interest include (but are not limited to)

  • The evolution of Black intellectual culture;
  • national literatures;
  • Citizenship;
  • world literature and the vernacular,
  • Bantu migrations and contemporary exile,
  • middle passage and contemporary black diasporas,
  • national languages and their transnational permutations,
  • border crossings and temporalities,
  • intersections of anti-apartheid, anti-coloniality, pan-Africanism, and tri-continentalism.

We will circulate a programme once all abstracts have been received. All submissions should be 300-word abstracts, which can be emailed to wmbao@sun.ac.za and uphalafala@sun.ac.za no later than 15 November 2018. Please include your affiliation (if any), along with your contact details and any access, dietary or other requirements you have. We welcome proposals for the delivery of presentations through art, performance, poetry, multimedia or any other mode of creative expression.

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