2020 Conference: Beyond Censorship?

CFPs for Panels, Roundtables, Seminars

Sujets tabou et censure dans les médias africains francophones : zones géopolitiques de conflits (État de « Ambazonia » et régions de l’Ouest du Cameroun ; la Casamance au Sénégal ; le Sahara Occidental Sahraoui au Maroc).
Session type:
Organized by: Anthere Nzabatsinda
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Le présent panel voudrait examiner les modalités de censure et d’auto-censure dans les médias francophones d’Afrique contemporaine, relativement aux sujets de régions et zones géopolitiques en Afrique où les régimes politiques des États exercent la censure sur les médias. Presse écrite, médias audio-visuels, internet et médias sociaux, c’est là des espaces médiatiques où se forment les discours publics et intellectuels transformés par la censure et l’auto-censure face aux sujets géopolitiques qui gênent les pouvoirs institutionalisés en place. Les communications dans ce panel discutent dans quelle mesure ces discours sont transformées et reconfigurés sous les effets de la censure.

“Mine by Blood:” Imagining Hidden/Untold Stories in the Spaces Between America’s Binaries in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer Possible Panel for Presentation at the African Literature Conference in Washington DC from May 27th – June 1st, 2020
Session type:
Organized by: G. Oty Agbajoh-Laoye
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is not just the James Baldwin that Toni Morrison was waiting for. He is the new or contemporary African American and African Diasporic spokesperson bridging the old, contemporary and future generations of African descent people, especially in the United States. The Water Dancer, his refreshingly suspenseful and well-crafted debut novel is what America’s master narrative does not want anybody to write. It epitomizes what African descent penmanship or better still people through time in America have endeavored to document between the covers of one novel of epic stature. The Water Dancer signifies on, revisits, deconstructs, and rebuilds important elements in African experience in America. It documents the totality of the African American diasporic literary tradition through time. Hiram Walker, the main character and narrator uses “[his] gift of memory” to conjure, using his words, “inhale… the facts” (168) from self-declarative voices of forefathers and foremothers to the fictional world of African American life and experience in America. The objective of the novel is to act as a “Conduction” in the tradition of a Moses—Harriet Tubman, [as Mama Moses] return these people, our people, to the freedom given to all” (172). The explicit combination of myth/history, research and journalism, the novel’s documentation of race, class and gender in White and Black America—is relevant today. The novel’s classification interestingly remains relevant in the eras of post-civil rights, contemporary Black Rights and the re-emergence and legitimization of white supremacy in America. An important addition is the timely effort to proffer explanations that might help distant and future generations understand the making or racialization of the American landscape.
This panel invites papers that address the wide range of conceptual, critical, thematic, and stylistic issues and elements in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer. The papers are not limited to race, class and gender in American experience, African Diaspora Discourse, the slave narrative, African American tradition, technique, style, and more within the framework of the theme of 2020 African Literature Conference.

Homecoming: In the Indelible Spaces Between Censorship and Success: Celebrating Toni Morrison as Ancestor through her Works and Contributions to African American and African Diaspora Literature
Session type:
Organized by: G. Oty Agbajoh-Laoye
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The difficult and debilitating experience of occupying the space where Othello, the solitary African in the upper echelon of Venetian nobility in Desdemona “had to prove [himself] over and over again” is a familiar trope in Toni Morrison’s works. In several essays, Morrison identifies racism, sexism, and classism as some of the major elements that her characters must overcome to survive tragedy. She writes in the “Foreword” to The Bluest Eye.
"There can’t be anyone, I am sure, who doesn’t know what it feels like to be disliked, even rejected momentarily or for sustained periods of time … to be actually hated—hated for things we have no control over and cannot change … it is some consolation to know that the dislike and hatred is unjustified—that you do not deserve it …[with] emotional strength and/or support from family and friends, the damage is reduced or erased. When I began writing … I was interested in something else. Not resistance to the contempt of others, ways to deflect, but ‘the far more tragic and disabling consequences of accepting rejection as legitimate, as self-evident … that some [are] victims of powerful self-loathing … others surrender their identity … most others, however, grow beyond it" (ix-xi)
This is what Morrison does in her entire career and indisputable position as one of America’s best writers. If she had taken some of her reviews to heart, she would not have gone beyond the first novel and the accolades and attention would have been untold fairy tales.
Morrison understood America’s (and growing world’s) stratified society where certain people are “doubted and deceived at every turn” (Desdemona 53) because of ethnic, racial, gender and class differences. Toni Morrison epitomizes the theme of 2020 African Literature Conference. Her literary career occupies the indelible spaces between censorship and undeniable success. We invite participants to pay homage through short presentations across genre on our dearly beloved author’s literary contributions to African Diaspora, African American, American literary discourses, and more.

Soft Power Censorship in Contemporary African Literatures, Film, Visual Arts, and Public Cultures
Session type:
Organized by: Moustapha Diop & Bojana Coulibaly
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In his address at the 1981 African Literature Association Annual Meeting in Claremont, California, Mongo Beti pondered the logic underlying the ALA Award Committee’s decision to restrict allocation of travel funds to African writers residing in America. At the time still based in Cameroon, Beti regarded this perplexing paradox as yet another hurdle African writers had to overcome in order to gain visibility in the global marketplace. Today, Beti’s complaint may come across as quaint, especially to our post-whatever ears in thrall to the siren songs of literary nomadism, itinér(r)ance, circulation in the transnational spaces of literary-cum cultural festivals such as Étonnants Voyageurs and kindred congregational pieties. Barring the “happy few” partaking in intellectual sects and literary salons, an assortment of new age uncletoms basking in what Fanon presciently called “the magic circle of mutual admiration,” a hold on global mobility still acts as a powerful gag to muffle the speech of creative minds whenever they set out to reclaim and revive the griotic tradition of naming, blaming and shaming, as opposed to ingratiatingly praising public figures.
The question is not whether the spirit of a Fela or Lapiro animates current self-styled militant artivists, but whether thin-skinned dictators and their cronies are the only sheriffs in town?
Are there other enforcers of the status quo dressed in less rugged outfits and wielding more sophisticated, less rudimentary weapons to secure consent from us with no shots fired and no blood spilt? How do subtler, more devious mechanisms of soft power censorship play out across the old ideological faultlines of nation, class, race, ethnicity, gender? Are we complicit in "the manufacture of dissent," even as a third wave of protests, led by grassroots actors outside the state/civil society binary, sweeps across the continent? If censorship inhabits any body politic like a virus, what are its new strains and grades of malignancy in contemporary Africa?

The panel’s organizers welcome papers on the aforementioned issues and their relevance to the question of censorship and self-censorship in the area of culture (literature, film, visual and verbal performance, music, political satire, publishing, etc.) in Africa. Please email your abstracts (less than 2000 characters) to Bojana Coulibaly at bojana_coulibaly@fas.harvard.edu

Popular Comedy and the Limits of Evading Censorship
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Organized by: Izuu Nwankwọ and Esther de Bruijn
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Popular comedy may be the genre most recognizable for its capacity to evade censorship: in its claims to just-making-fun and to exaggeration, in its slippery half-gestures, it has a particular edge in escaping regulation. Because these unofficial forms—whether stand-up comedy, comics, popular fiction, video films, or social media—have generally not been taken seriously by their audiences, they have often remained beyond the serious concern of state institutional censorship bodies, allowing them noted liberties of expression. This seminar will include three panels that will look into how, nonetheless, those liberties have attracted new forms of censorship, and how comedic expression may be subject to, and even contribute to, social institutions of censorship (such as religious censorship).

Much of this seminar will focus on stand-up comedy, in order to bring more attention to this prevalent popular art in Africa. Its inexpensive price point, its adaptability to both live and media distribution, its improvisational nature familiar from historical storytelling performance, and, probably most pertinently, its frequent African-language performance, makes it a genre that speaks directly to the peoples of the continent. It is precisely the direct connection with the audience and the attempt to appeal to them with potentially offensive material that creates the grounds for censorship. We are, however, interested in papers on a variety of popular genres that tease out the thorny relationship between soliciting humour and creating offense in comedy, that examine the effects of official and unofficial censorship on (or in) comedic forms, and/or that consider the factor of location (specific immediate localities versus possibly distant social media spaces) in the limits of censorship.

Send abstracts or inquiries to: inwankwo@uni-mainz.de and esther.debruijn@kcl.ac.uk

Tropes of the Unsaid
Session type:
Organized by: Adeleke Adeeko
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A Rather Late CFP for African Literature Association Conference, 27-31 May 2020, Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington DC

For the 2020 conference of the African Literature Association (https://conference.africanlit.org/2020-theme) Adeleke Adeeko is seeking presenters for the panel TROPES OF THE UNSAID.

Paper proposals are expected to examine ways texts, construed very widely, negotiate interdictions, including those not imposed by the socio-political powers that be. Among the topics that might be addressed are: textual silences, genres of taboo, esotericism, speech pragmatics, (ir)reverence, excess, minimality, etc.

Proposals about “non-literary” media—music, political cartooning, film, theatre, comics, festivals—are especially welcome.

If enough proposals are received, the presentations will be converted to a conference seminar dedicated to the memory of Professor Tejumola Olaniyan (1959-2019).

Please send your proposals to aadeeko@gmail.com by December 15, 2019.

Beyond Censorship: The Image of the Censures and Self Censorship
Session type:
Organized by: Addisu Hailu
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Beyond Censorship: The Image of the Censures and Self Censorship
Session type: Pannel
Organized by: Addisu Hailu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Send abstracts or inquiries to: sidahailu@gmail.com

After throwing the Haile Selassie regime that pioneered official suppressions of freedom of speech in Ethiopia, the Derg military junta enthroned itself with Socialist form of government. And like its predecessor, the Derg officially made Freedom of expression unthinkable too. Both regimes were able to create frightening images for the harsh measures they took on writers, artists and the common people for being consumer. The purpose of this study is to show the figure of the censures in the eyes of the artists and the direct impact on the art. The data is collected from a book entitled “Maekeb” literally to mean-censorship through close reading. It was written by Endalegeta Kebede, famous novelist in Ethiopia currently. The book thoroughly deals with the history of censorship in three different Ethiopian governments, (The Imperial Period, the Derg period and the EPRDF period). To make the study manageable, the Haile Selassie and Derg regimes are taken as samples since in both regimes censorship is official. As a result, it is observed that censorship caused damage on the quantity and quality of the art and literature. In addition to this, the frightening image of the censures drove away plenty of writers, artists and play writes to overseas countries to escape imprisonment. Others who dared to stay on their business unwillingly developed the habit of ‘self-censorship’ before submitting a copy to censorship office that directly harms the natural development of the art.
Panelists are invited on any aspects of censorship that explores its impact on African art, literature, the Artists, the writers and the people. Issues like the following would be pertinent to the conference. The image of the censures, the impact of censorship on the art, the suffering of the writers and artists, self censorship, people in censored states, official and unofficial censorship, the current state of censorship, etc. these and other related papers would be perfect.
NB. Abstracts should be not more than 300 words.

Beyond Censorship: Literary and Filmic Representations of Secular Heterodoxy in Politics, Body Politics, Ethnic and Gender Relations
Session type:
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The punitive powers of religions, dictatorial political authority, and conservative traditions have compelled many African writers and filmmakers to resort to various types of artifice to engage critically with the cultural orthodoxies of their communities and nation-states without jeopardizing their works. Realities on the African continent curbed their ability to exercise key characteristics of modernity, namely liberty and reflexivity. However, some made themselves exceptions to this rule by thumbing their noses at these orthodoxies as they depict politics, body politics, ethnic and gender relations in ways that even may shock liberal readers in Africa. Calixthe Beyala’s Femme nue, femme noire, Bolya Baenga’s Les Cocus posthumes, Malika Mokeddem’s Des rêves et des assassins, and Joseph Gaye Ramaka’s Karmen Gueï are pertinent examples of such literary and filmic productions that display a liberal mindset. This panel invites papers on liberal works that pertain to the evolution of representation in African literature and cinema, these works dealing with the aforementioned themes. Panelists should reflect on the heterodoxies of these productions and their implications for politics, religion, conservative traditions and the youth in 21st-century Africa. How do they question what it means to be an African? In what ways do they expose Africa’s vulnerability or contributions to evolving universal ideologies, practices and concepts? What is their reception and how do they construct a new morality in Africa, if at all, after the advent of Christianity and Islam?

Session type:
Organized by: Matt Omelsky and Ken Harrow
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The purpose of this panel is to focus on the question of time, broadly construed, in African and African diasporic cultural production. We each have papers to present on the panel, but we seek two additional papers that speak to some aspect of time in literature, cinema, music, or another aesthetic form. Approaches might include: memory, trauma, prophecy, divination, futurity, time travel, myth, utopian desire, philosophies of history, time and the body, presence/immediacy, apocalypse/end times, or speculative histories/futures. We also welcome work that directly engages questions of time and aesthetic form, such as narrative time, uses of the archive, and tempo and pacing.

Please contact us asap:
Matt Omelsky matthew.omelsky@rochester.edu
Ken harrow harrow@msu.edu

Censorship and Stand-up Comedy in Africa
Session type:
Organized by: Izuu Nwankwo
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Stand-up comedy has become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in various parts of Africa today.
Its prevalence is in the main buoyed by its improvisational nature which makes it relatively cheaper to enact than
other more conventional genres and adaptable to different formats (media and live) of distribution. Also, from
performances in Arabic in the north, to Pidgin in the West, and the deployment of Kiswahili and Sheng in the East,
not forgetting the mix of vernac and Afrikaans in South Africa as well as other medley of colonial and indigenous
languages, African stand-up speaks directly to the peoples of the continent in their most prevalent languages.
Nevertheless, for two major traits that it has, stand-up comedy is one performance that has recently attracted
calls for increased censorship. Firstly, it is performed with direct speech, sometimes a conversation with the
audience. Secondly, its humour is mostly derived from potentially offensive situations. For speaking directly to the
audience, much of what comedians say appear to be their personal opinions and when such thoughts are
considered politically incorrect, they often attract offence rather than mirth. As such, much of what good
comedians do is to raise issues that could be offensive and then deftly steer their audiences in the direction of
amusement rather than abuse.
But what about those times when the comedian fails to successfully tell a joke in an amusing manner? What
happens when the comedian is unable to maintain the balance and veers towards offending those that have come
to find amusement? How do comedians especially in Africa, with its multitudinous cultures and sensibilities
navigate these differences and continually keep audiences amused rather than abuse? What official and unofficial
censorship affect stand-up comedy in specific localities of Africa? What problems and difficulties arise from the
distribution of stand-up events through social media into spaces far removed from the context and performance
dynamics in which they were originally produced? With much of its materials coming from potentially offensive
circumstances, to what extent will increased censorship negatively affect stand-up comedy in Africa especially
given that jokes do not elicit the same level of mirth for each repeated telling?
These and many more questions as well as answers to them coming from the practice of stand-up comedy in
different parts of Africa will interest us. We are hoping to convene a seminar which will be made up of two or
three panels in order to create more interest in the study of stand-up comedy in Africa.
Abstracts should be between 250 and 300 words

Campus Forms
Session type:
Organized by: Anne W. Gulick
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This panel invites papers that will explore the distinctiveness of the African campus novel, as well, more generally, as African literary approaches to the university as an idea, an institution, and a physical space. In the U.S. and the U.K. the campus novel is a satirical genre, a comic and largely conservative form that exposes the foibles and excesses of (mainly white, middle-class) campus life but tends to sideline student experiences and stops short of interrogating the institution writ large. While African literature certainly includes a good number of satirical takes on the university (e.g. Austin Bukenya’s The People’s Bachelor and Vincent Chukuemeka Ike’s Toads for Supper), this archive boasts a much wider range of approaches to exploring the university—from Nollywood melodrama to kunstlerromane to plays that stage the central tensions and conflicts of contemporary movements to decolonize knowledge and its institutions. Papers for this panel might address any aspect of the campus and its literary forms in African writing. Possible areas of inquiry might include campuses as physical spaces; campuses as sites of wellness or unwellness; narratives of Africans studying abroad; literary renderings of student movements, past and present; learning communities both within and beyond the boundaries of the institution; and literature’s relationship to past and present debates about decolonizing the university. This panel is sponsored by the Journal of African Cultural Studies and is part of an effort to develop a Campus Forms network comprised of scholars from multiple disciplines, located in myriad regions, and at all different points in their careers who are working on various aspects of university life and its cultural representations. Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words, as well as a short biographical sketch, to agulick@mailbox.sc.edu by 30 October.

The Asian Presence in East Africa: History, Identity and Communities.
Session type:
Organized by: Gaurav Desai and James Ocita
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In August 2022, Uganda will mark the 50th anniversary since the 1972 expulsion of Asians from Uganda by a decree of the then President Idi Amin. The expulsion involved the migration of over 27, 000 into the U.K., around 6, 000 into Canada, around 5, 000 into India and smaller numbers into countries as disparate as Australia, Norway, Germany, Mauritius, Kenya, New Zealand, Malawi and Pakistan. A few chose to defy the expulsion order and stayed. While many of these exiles set up new homes in their host countries, a few families returned in the late nineties and early twenty-first century. The Asians in Uganda today comprise of some of these returnees, those who never left in the first place, and new arrivals from the subcontinent with no special historical ties to the region. These groups live in a non-racial postcolonial Uganda, experiencing in different ways what it means to be an Asian Ugandan, returnee, immigrant, etc., and how these social categories complicate identification processes, questions of inclusion and exclusion, rights and questions of social justice, and ideas of home in the post-expulsion and increasingly globalizing Uganda, among other concerns. The experiences of Asians before and after the expulsion, or, in other words, the first and the second Asian questions, afford us important ways of framing the conversations between peoples, cultures, ideas and regions in cognizance of the global context of, and opportunities activated by, these entanglements.

Papers for presentation at the ALA 2020 conference are invited on any aspects of this history. We hope to publish a Special Issue or Section of JALA to appear in 2022 in commemoration of the expulsion. Please send abstracts to both Gaurav Desai at desaig@umich.edu and James Ocita at jocita01@gmail.com

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