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).