Speakers 2019

Speakers 2019

  • Abdo, Diya

    • Diya Abdo
    • English Department, Guilford College
    • PLENARY SPEAKER
    • Abstract Title: Every Campus A Refuge: Reimagining the University in a Time of Crisis

    Abstract:Inspired by Pope Francis’ call on every European parish to host one refugee family, Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR) advocates for mobilizing campus resources to temporarily house refugees on campus grounds and assist them in resettlement in the local area. Thus far, Guilford College, where the initiative first began, has hosted and assisted in resettling 42 refugees (23 of them children) from the Middle East and Africa. Under this program, each refugee family is temporarily housed (for an average of 5 months) in available campus houses or apartments and is provided with free rent, utilities, Wi-Fi, use of college facilities and resources, as well as a large community of support in the form of the college campus and its friends. The daily work of hosting and assisting in resettlement is done by trained college and community volunteers. The initiative has been adopted by several other colleges and universities nationwide that have collectively hosted over 80 refugees. At Guilford College, a refugee studies minor anchored by ECAR piloted in 2017. The minor curricularizes the educational and experiential components of the initiative and draws students and faculty into the interdisciplinary exploration of forced migration and refugee resettlement while supporting the work of ECAR.

     

    Bio: Diya Abdo is Associate Professor of English at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. Her teaching, research and scholarship focus on Arab women writers and Arab and Islamic feminisms. She has also published poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction; her public essays focus on the intersection of gender, political identity, and vocation. A first-generation Palestinian born and raised in Jordan, she is the founder and director of Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR), an initiative which advocates for housing refugees on campus grounds and assisting them in resettlement. Guilford College, now one of several ECAR campuses, has hosted 42 refugees so far – 23 of them children – from Syria, Iraq, Uganda, and the DRC. For her work on ECAR, Dr. Abdo was named a finalist in the Arab Hope Makers Award (2018) and has received service learning and civic engagement in higher education awards. She has been making presentations about ECAR far and wide, including at the United Nations.

  • Adésànyà, Adérónké Adésolá

    • Adérónké Adésolá Adésànyà
    • School of Art, Design, and Art History, James Madison University
    • PLENARY SPEAKER
    • Abstract Title: Embracing/Embodying Glo-cal-ity: New African Diaspora Artists' Aesthetics and Transnational Conversations

    Abstract:My research on New African Diaspora Artists (NADA) sheds light on the tempo, template and tenor of their aesthetics. However, more important is the premise that a common strand runs through their work, that is, the infusion of the local with the global, the oscillation between liminal and tangible spaces, and the exploration of archives that yield stunning and profound transnational work. The category of NADA that I study includes men and women who left Africa but never totally left; rather periodically return literally and metaphorically to dialogue with and about Africa. They return to Africa to explore the archives; and in their diaspora locations whether in North Carolina, New York, Netherlands, London, or Washington, their memories of homeland and New World experiences serve and empower their practice. They deal with the local and the global, they tell narratives of the nation, the self, and the ‘Other’. This medley of the here and now, the old and the new, the homeland and the diaspora give rise to the notion of Glo-ca-lity. The term glo-ca-lity enunciates the identity, distinctiveness and ideas of virtuosos in constant motions and shifts, personas simultaneously vintage and vibrant, and producers of compelling expressivity. The artists, Wole Lagunju, Wangechi Mutu, Sokari Douglas-Camp, Njideka Akunyuli-Crosby, and Toyin Loye, embody glocalityand their works exemplify transnational lexicons that increasingly define NADA.  

     

    Bio: Adérónké Adésolá Adésànyà is Associate Professor of Art History in the School of Art, Design, and Art History, and James Madison University. Adésànyà is a laureate of CODESRIA Gender Institute, Dakar, Senegal, and she trained as Mediator and Conciliator in Nigeria. She teaches African and African Diaspora art, focusing on entities on the margins, and promotes the visibility of muted voices. Her most recent publication places a family of Yoruba artists in art-historical context and establishes their link with eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century Yoruba artists as well as engages the changing structures of Yoruba artistic production and circulation. Adésànyà is the Coordinator of Africana Studies and periodically serves as co-Director of JMU Ghana Study Abroad.

  • Aziz, Amir Mohamed

    • Amir Mohamed Aziz
    • Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University
    • PLENARY SPEAKER

    Bio: A. Mohamed Aziz is a writer, poet, activist, and doctoral student at the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Rutgers University—New Brunswick. 

  • Bámgbóṣé, Gabriel

    • Gabriel Bámgbóṣé
    • Program in Comparative Literature, Rutgers University
    • Abstract Title: The Self in Poetic Language: Poetics of Hapticality in Abena Busia’s Traces of a Life

    Abstract:How does poetic language propel the imagination of writing oneself as traces that dis/appear in the lives of others? I grapple with this question to examine the relationship between self writing and poetic language in Abena Busia’s Traces of a Life: A Collection of Elegies and Praise Poems. The poetry collection beautifully weaves together portraits of many lives encountered through the lived experience of movement across borders. I want to specifically ask: What does it mean to write about oneself without authorizing oneself? Why is it that the un/conscious desire to de-authorize oneself is central to this poetic work whose title promises the vision of “a life”? And how does this de-authorization of oneself open up the self to others in haptical relationality? In this presentation, I will argue that the poetics of hapticality generates the modality through which the self in figured and refigured through others in Busia’s poetic language. I will read the striking figuration of “the hand” of the self as a metaphoric trope that reaches to and for others. I will also make an analytic move that imagines the figure of the hand as the writing hand that extends its touch to re/claim other histories and other subjectivities. Through poetic language, writing becomes an act of touching others as a radical poetics of hapticality that imagines the ethics of intersubjective understanding in the world of movement.

     

    Bio: Gabriel Bámgbóṣé is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University, New Jersey. He taught in the Department of English at Tai Solarin University of Education, Nigeria. He also taught Yorùbá as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) in Africana Studies Program at New York University, New York. His interests in scholarship include African literature, folklore, and popular culture; African women's poetry; feminist, postcolonial, and decolonial thoughts. Bámgbóṣé is also a poet and the founding editor of Ijagun Poetry Journal. His work has appeared in Comparative Literature and CultureContemporary HumanitiesThe African SymposiumFootmarks: Poems on One Hundred Years of Nigeria’s NationhoodAke ReviewThe Criterion, and Journal of Social and Cultural Analysis among others. He is the author of the poetry collection, Something Happened After the Rain.

  • Bergère, Clovis

    • Clovis Bergère
    • Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
    • PLENARY SPEAKER
    • Abstract Title: Clever Improvisations, Hashtags and Choreographies of Protest in Guinea

    Abstract:Young Guineans are increasingly turning to digital technologies to organize protests and contest political authority. This paper charts the common origins and divergent paths of two recent youth-led protests in Guinea as a way to explore the relationship between street protests and online organizing. This paper begins by deconstructing essentialist notions of protests that locate the “real” center of protest necessarily in the street, and confine the digital public to an organizing role. As I show, by adopting an approach that accounts for the contingency of protest assemblages, we are able to move away from locating protest a priory. Building on recent work on the choreographies of protests (Foster, 2003; Gerbaudo, 2012), the paper then turns to West African notions of dance, and contemporary Guinean dance such as gigoteau in order to reclaim a theory of organizing that stems of a Guinean understanding of political transformation and account for Guinea’s notoriously unpredictable political sphere and postcolonial historical trajectory. Gigoter or Wriggling About then becomes a lens through which to reflect on political agency as it is mediated by digital technology in contemporary Guinea, and African postcolonial contexts more broadly.

     

    Bio: Clovis Bergère is a visual ethnographer whose research examines the politics of youth as they are realized in relation to digital media in Guinea, West Africa. He recently completed his PhD in Childhood Studies at Rutgers University-Camden, with a specialization in global youth media. His dissertation, “Digital Society and the Politics of Youth in Guinea,” explores social networking as a locus for the mediation and re-imagination of political subjectivities in Guinea. He is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication, University of Pennsylvania where he is working to turn this dissertation into a book manuscript.


     

  • Brioni, Simone

    • Simone Brioni
    • Department of English, Stony Brook University
    • Abstract Title: Collaboration as a Decolonial Practice

    Abstract: If migration literature invites us to reconsider the conceptual boundaries of nation-states and rearranges prevailing ideas about their ‘others’, it might be instructive for literary criticism to follow its lead and find new ways to discuss its content, contexts and the experiences of its authors. This paper argues that collaboration might be one of these ways. In particular, this paper presents a collaborative project with writer Shirin Ramzanali Fazel, which reflects upon key issues in her career, including the processes of translation and self-translation in her works Lontano da Mogadiscio[Far From Mogadishu] and Nuvole sull’Equatore [Clouds Over the Equator], the challenges surrounding publication both at home and abroad, and the conflict created by her works’ assertion of an alternative view of history that disrupts settled Italian colonial memory.

     

    Bio: Simone Brioni is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Stony Brook University. His research focuses on migration in film and literature, cultural studies and postcolonial studies with a particular emphasis on contemporary Italian culture. His articles have been published in refereed journals including AltreitalieCinergie, Écritures, Incontri. Rivista europei di studi italiani, Italian StudiesScience Fiction StudiesStudi Culturali, and The Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies.His most recent publications include the monograph The Somali Within: Language, Race and Belonging in ‘Minor’ Italian Literature (2015) and the co-edited volume The Horn of Africa and Italy: Colonial, Postcolonial and Transnational Cultural Encounters (2018).

  • carrington, andré

    • andré carrington
    • Department of English and Philosophy, Harvard University
    • Abstract Title: Watching Wakanda: Desiring Blackness in Marvel’s Black Panther, from page to screen

    Abstract:Our travails with representational forms in the Anglophone and Francophone world demonstrate that visibility is not always an advantage for African and Black Diasporic subjects. Yet sometimes, alternative readings and disidentificatory performances can break through the normative codes of modern print and visual cultures. This presentation re-orients the spectacle of Black Panther (2018) to explore how Black authors and audiences renegotiate relations of exploitation attendant to comics, cinema, and media criticism. It argues for a multimodal approach to the analysis of powerful images and a cosmopolitan sensibility in the arena of cultural politics.

     

    Bio: andré carrington is currently the Beatrice Shepherd Blane Fellow in the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and Associate Professor of African American literature at Drexel University. His first book, Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction, interrogates the cultural politics of race in the fantastic genres and their fan cultures. He is now at work on a second book manuscript, Audiofuturism, on the cultural politics of race in science fiction radio drama. Carrington’s writing on Black Studies in literature and culture appears in journals, books, and blogs; he is a contributor to the forthcoming collection Keywords for Comics Studies and the newly-published After Queer Studies: Literature, Theory, and Sexuality in the 21st Century. In May 2019, he will be participating with co-founder Jen Camper in the third Queers & Comics international conference at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

  • Charry, Eric

    • Eric Charry
    • Music Department, Wesleyan University
    • Abstract Title: Hip Hop Africanized

    Abstract:Hip hop is the latest in a long line of global currents that have been integrated into African expressive cultures, yielding uniquely African musical styles. The dispersion of Islam has deeply imbued ways of singing and playing musical instruments. Christian missionary brass bands and hymn singing wrapped up in the European tonal system have given birth to unanticipated new styles. Cuban music, coming from outside the Francophone and Anglophone colonial worlds, had its own massive influence beginning in the mid-twentieth century, as did American rock and soul music shortly thereafter. Hip hop came from the diaspora, but it brought certain sensibilities that clashed with older generations, while it spoke to restless younger generations. In the face of all of these currents, recognizable, though perhaps intangible African aesthetic sensibilities are still present. How is it that electric guitar styles from Guinea, Zimbabwe, or the Congo are readily identifiable? Are there similar regional, ethnic, or national markers for hip hop in Africa? What does it mean when a global current like hip hop gets Africanized and what is the nature of the process?

     

    Bio: Eric Charry is Professor of Music at Wesleyan University. He has published extensively on music in Africa, including dictionary and encyclopedia entries, the books Mande Music (University of Chicago Press, 2000) and Hip Hop Africa (Indiana University Press, 2012), and most recently the chapter “Music and Postcolonial Africa” (in The Palgrave Handbook of African Colonial and Postcolonial History, 2018). His New and Concise History of Rock and R&B is scheduled to be published by Wesleyan University Press in late 2019.

  • Deleger, Ouafaa

    • Ouafaa Deleger
    • Department of French, Rutgers University
    • PLENARY SPEAKER
    • Abstract Title: The piano as a cultural passage: Le piano Oriental, Z. Abirached

    Abstract:In her graphic novel, Abirached uses the piano as a bridge for dialogue. She alternates the story of her own relationship with French and Arabic languages with her great-grand-father story who spent his life trying to make an occidental instrument (the piano) generate oriental music without changing its physical aspect. This paper will analyze Abirached’s view on how languages merge into one to reflect who we are. Echoing the notion of Khatibi’s “bi-langue,” the piano becomes the physical link. By changing the sound of a quarter of a pitch with his foot when he plays, the great-grand-father allowed an exchange where each language is interlaced with the other one to create a new one. Therefore, the instrument symbolizes the cultural passage. This passage refers not only to a maritime metaphor with a back and forth between two continents, but also to the difficulty to understand the weaving between the Self and the Other. It emphasizes a reflexion on an invisible border that is in flux and has an effect on identities to the point of altering them. The piano characterizes the flexibility and the sensitivity of humanism which I situate at the center of this analysis. I will examine the passage first through the artificial aspect of cartography and the problematic of being sedentary, and finally through the inherent multiplicity in the “bi-langue” which underlines the intrinsic heterogeneity of the being.

     

    Bio: Ouafaa Deleger is currently a third-year Ph.D. student in the French Department at Rutgers University. She grew up in Paris where she studied law and graduated with a Master from the University of Paris XII. Taking advantage of an expatriation in Louisiana, she also holds a Masters in Political Science from the University of New Orleans where she focused in her thesis on the Emancipation of Muslim women in Muslim societies. French culture is diverse and keep enriching French literature. For this reason, she is interested in studying the questions of language and identity through the lens of Maghrebian, African and Caribbean literature, but although through the lens of literature written by women in this part of the world.

  • Diawara, Manthia

    • Manthia Diawara
    • University Professor, New York University, Tisch School of the Arts
    • KEYNOTE SPEAKER
    • Abstract Title: Global African Studies: Some Thoughts from Edouard Glissant

    Abstract: In this presentation, I want to argue for the relevance of Edouard Glissant's theory of "Tout-monde" to the "Global African Studies. Glissant, a Caribbean poet and philosopher, is well known for his theories of "Creolization" and "relation," as well as concepts like "Opacity" "trembling Thoughts," "Becoming" and "Solidarity of Intuitions."

    With the theory of "Tout-monde," (often translated as "All Worlds," or simply as "One World in Relation," Glissant’s hypothesis is that the world has become united unexpectedly and against the will of the former colonizers whose intentions were to "discover" foreign lands, conquer and colonize them, in order to exploit them. Glissant has also referred to this newly connected world, this new totalization against the Eurocentric definition of the world, as the new "Baroque," or "Chaos-monde," made possible by the advent of modern technological innovations and the movements of decolonization.

    If the aesthetics and philosophies of the Tout-monde" are such that every voice demands to be heard as an echo of our newly formed solidarities, what are the implications of this to the global African studies' project?

    Bio: Manthia Diawara is a writer, filmmaker, cultural theorist, scholar and art historian. Diawara holds the title of University Professor at New York University, where he is Director of the Institute of African American Affairs.

    Diawara was born in Bamako, Mali and received his early education in France. He later received a Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1985. Prior to teaching at NYU, Diawara taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California at Santa Barbara. Much of his research has been in the field of black cultural studies, though his work has differed from the traditional approach to such study formulated in Britain in the early 1980s. Along with other notable recent scholars, Diawara has sought to incorporate consideration of the material conditions of African Americans to provide a broader context for the study of African diasporic culture. An aspect of this formulation has been the privileging of “Blackness” in all its possible forms rather than as relevant to a single, perhaps monolithic definition of black culture.

    Diawara has contributed significantly to the study of black film. In 1992, Indiana University Press published his African Cinema: Politics & Culture and in 1993, Routledge published a volume he edited titled Black American Cinema. A filmmaker himself, Diawara has written and directed a number of films.

    His 1998 book In Search of Africa is an account of his return to his childhood home of Guinea and was published by Harvard University Press. Diawara is a founding editor of Black Renaissance Noire, a journal of arts, culture and politics dedicated to work that engages contemporary Black concerns. He serves on the advisory board of October, and is also on the editorial collective of Public Culture. In 2003, Diawara released We Won’t Budge: A Malaria Memoir, the title a tribute to Salif Keita’s anthemic protest song Nou Pas Bouger.

  • Gbogi, Tosin

    • Tosin Gbogi
    • Interdisciplinary Program in Linguistics, Tulane University
    • Abstract Title: Postcolonial Resistance, Transethnic Vernaculars, and New Youth Identities in African Hip Hop Cultures

    Abstract: A remarkable feature of hip hop cultures in Africa is their symbolic engagement with the “connective marginalities” (Osumare 2001, 2007 & 2012) of the youth on the continent. Equally remarkable is their decolonial project which overthrows the hierarchy of languages and the strategic fashioning of ethnic identities engendered by colonialism. Importantly, not only do African hip hop artists trouble and resist essentialized ethnic and linguistic identities that have for long defined the post-colonial contours of the continent, they also gesture to reimagine, transcend, and reinvent the almost fixed geographies of these identities through the invention and/or intensification of new transethnic “resistance vernaculars” (Potter 1995). Focusing on four sub-Saharan African contexts (Nigeria, Kenya, Gabon, and South Africa), I sketch in this presentation a preliminary outline of this counter-discursive enactment of postcolonial resistance in African hip hop cultures. I specifically ask: how does African hip hop language and discourse rework and/or postpone the colonial iterations of the African postcolony?  

     

    Bio: Tosin Gbogi received a BA in English Studies from Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Nigeria and an MA in English Literature from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK. His essays on African literature and African hip hop cultures have appeared in Matatu: Journal of African Culture and SocietyIbadan: Journal of English Studies, and Pragmatics. Gbogi was a 2012-2013 Fulbright Scholar at Tulane University, New Orleans, where he is also currently finishing up his doctoral studies in the Interdisciplinary Program in Linguistics. He is the author of two collections of poetry, the tongues of a shattered s-k-y (2012) and locomotifs and other songs(2018).

  • Gueye, Marame

    • Marame Gueye
    • English Department, East Carolina University
    • Abstract Title: A Woman is Another Woman’s Cure: African Women, Immigration, and Digital Sisterhood

    Abstract: In Wolof (the lingua franca of Senegal where I am originally from), nit, nit moo’y garabam (a human being is the cure of another human being) and mbooloo moo’y indi doole (union creates power) are two concepts that preconize that without each other, people would not accomplish much. For immigrant women from Africa, these two concepts are central to their survival in the US because they were displaced from a region of the world where community, especially a community of women, constituted the ground on which they stood. For me, this lack of community on the professional and family levels creates a host of challenges as I try to navigate career and family. As someone who is passionate about female empowerment, I have been questioning the value of my scholarship, and wanted to explore ways to make it meaningful beyond the academic setting. In the past couple of years, social media, especially Facebook, has allowed me a space where I am able to merge the two. As the world laments the overuse of social media and our need to get off our cellphones because they consume our lives and keep us away from meaningful human interactions, if we use social media responsibly and with a purpose to create positive changes, we can accomplish tangible things. Building on the concepts of “a human being is the cure of another human being,” I have created the community of other women that I/We needed in order to navigate our immigrant lives in America. Through digital sisterhood, we are creating a movement that is deeply rooted in a culture that views a woman as dependent on a community of other women in order to survive.

    Bio: Marame Gueye is Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Literatures at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature with certificates in Feminist Theory, and Translation. Her research is on Women's Verbal Art, Hip Hop, and Immigration. She is the founder of “Une Senegalaise aux USA” (USAUSA), an online community of 3000 women from Senegal who live in the US in which members use their own skills and expertise in order to empower each other.

  • Highfield, Jonathan Bishop

    • Jonathan Bishop Highfield
    • Literary Arts and Studies, Rhode Island School of Design
    • Abstract Title: Riding the Indian Ocean’s Waves: Displacement of People and Movement of Food Across Four Continents

    Abstract:The trans-Indian slave trade and its successor, the trade in indentured workers, transformed the regions bordering on the Indian Ocean in the 17th-20th centuries. The transportation of the first enslaved people by the Dutch to South Africa creates both the apartheid “Coloured” designation and Cape Malay food, perhaps one of the first fusion cuisines, as the enslaved combine foodways from their homes in India, Java, the Philippines, supplement the ingredients from their homes with Khoi-Khoin knowledge of local ingredients and the uniqueness of the terroir, as demonstrated in works by Rozena Maart and Zoë Wicomb. In their novels, both Lindsey Collen and Amitav Ghosh unpack the ways cultures and cuisines overlap with the influx of indentured workers and their overseers in Mauritius. In The Buru Quartet, Pramoedya Ananta Toer illustrates how Chinese laborers transform the Dutch East Indies in the early years of the 20th century, bringing newspapers, food customs, and unionization to the attention of the local population of the Indies. All around the Indian Ocean, from the east coast of Africa to the north shore of Australia, from the region bordering the Red Sea to the Bay of Bengal, the mengelmoes of cultures caused by forced transportation creates new ways of living and eating.

     

    Bio: Jonathan Bishop Highfield is Professor of Literary Arts and Studies and Graduate Program Director for Nature, Culture, Sustainability Studies at Rhode Island School of Design and is the author of Food and Foodways in African Narratives: Community, Culture, and Heritage (Routledge) and Imagined Topographies: From Colonial Resource to Postcolonial Homeland (Peter Lang). His writing on postcolonial ecocriticism and foodways has appeared in numerous book and journals. He teaches courses on postcolonial literature and food studies and enjoys cooking.

  • Nabulya, Eve

    • Photograph
    • Eve Nabulya
    • Makarere University
    • Abstract Title: “Rethinking Maathai’s contribution to African ecofeminism: The vision of eco-matriarchy”

    Abstract: 

    Contemporary ecofeminist scholarship mostly engages with how patriarchal structures relegate the woman to a position abreast with or lower than nature, and how environmental despoliation or injustice directly affects the woman.  However, this focus on victimhood has greatly eclipsed engagement with the potential of the woman to save the earth. On the African continent, the urgency of environmental injustice related issues has left little room to explore indigenous ecofeminist epistemologies emerging from the work of key figures like the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. This paper takes interest in the conceptualisation of woman-nature relations emerging from Maathai’s autobiography Unbowed (2006) and a selection of rhetorical speeches. I note that while Maathai’s writing and activism has been widely recognized for its contribution to ecofeminism, it has been mostly read as an effort to challenge ecologically deleterious patriarchal designs in her immediate context. In departure, this paper draws attention to the matriarchal underpinnings of Maathai’s representation of woman-nature relations. I argue that as represented in Maathai’s work, women’s engagements with environmental issues are rooted in a matriarchal system evident in the social setup described.  Drawing on the theoretical reflections of Ifi Amadiume, I assert that the matriarchal perspective to woman-nature engagements is more identifiable with the African gender terrain and that an eco-matriarchy might generate empowering debates. 

     

    Eve Nabulya is a Lecturer in the Department of Literature Makerere University, Uganda. She completed her PhD studies at Stellenbosch University in 2017, under which program she researched on environmental-activism in East African Literature. Nabulya has engaged in several research projects including: The African Peace Network project on storytelling as a tool of promoting peace, The Andrew Mellon funded programme on indigenous environmental Wisdom in the orature of the Baganda and The African Humanities Program (AHP) project on Communitarianism in human-nonhuman relations in East African literature.  Her other research interests are in African Literature, drama, ecocriticism and literary theory. 

  • Peck, RaShelle R.

    • RaShelle R. Peck
    • Center for Historical Analysis, Rutgers University
    • Abstract Title: Global Blackness in Underground Nairobi Hip Hop

    Abstract: This presentation explores how the politics of globalized blackness can be used to understand Nairobi underground hip hop. The music occupies and creates a marginalized status for a number of reasons. First, most rappers emerge out of lower class neighborhoods and create music that represents these urban areas. Second, the artists lack production resources and thus rely on lyrical craft, which means the music often “sounds” underground. Third, it responds to the anxieties generated by postcolonial discourse about what Kenyan music should be, as well as the imported anti-blackness that people use to make sense of hip hop. My research ties these characteristics of rap music culture into the politics of a racialized social bottom, utilizing Afropessimist approaches as well as observations from music scholars like Imani Perry and Richard Middleton. It is true that many times Nairobi rap is attached to representations of American commercialism and ideas of cultural imperialism. However, this music’s association to the globally dominant American popular music does not negate the idea that the music continues to conjure the black positionality of racialized subjugation. Thus, this presentation will investigate both how the politics that surround rap draw from the U.S, as well as how hip hop adheres to the local sensibilities around race, culture, and music.

     

    Bio: RaShelle R. Peck is currently a postdoctoral associate at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, where she is revising her first book project, The Political and the Ludic: Embodied Performances in Nairobi Underground Hip Hop. Her research is interdisciplinary in that it combines ethnography, music and video analysis, and performance theory. Here she argues that artists combine the political urgency of lyrics and music with playful and defiant performances to produce socially relevant music that is situated in a Kenyan context while also positing a global politic. She has taught courses in American studies, the cultural study of music, performance studies, gender and sexuality theory, and global studies. Her next project examines how black artists and musicians produce Afrofuturist performances of posthumanism.

  • Ramírez, Roger Noguerol

    • Roger Noguerol Ramírez
    • Producer and Musician
    • Abstract Title: El Cajon as a Symbol of Resistance

    Abstract: In this presentation, I will focus on the cajon, a percussion instrument that has given life and color to two musical genres, Afro-Latin music and modern flamenco. The cajon was developed by Afro-Peruvian slaves, marginalized people who used this instrument to resist enslavement and maintain their spiritual and cultural traditions. While Afro-Latino music and Flamenco are two distinct genres that evolved on different continents, this particular instrument, the cajon, has united oppressed people and been used by both musical traditions in the spirit of resistance.

     

    Bio: Roger Noguerol Ramírez is a graduate of the Catalonia College of Music in Barcelona, Spain. He specializes in jazz and modern music percussion. Ramírez teaches music and has lectured at Rutgers University. As a percussionist, he has worked with different types of music from varied cultures. His work explores the relationship between percussion instruments, power, and class.

  • Repinecz, Jonathon

    • Jonathon Repinecz
    • Department of Modern and Classical Languages, George Mason University
    • Abstract Title: From Négritude to Wakanda: Toward A Critical Genealogy

    Abstract: Marvel Studios’ film Black Panther (dir. Ryan Coogler, 2018) is getting a great deal of buzz among academics—both in the US and in Africa—for rekindling optimism around continent-diaspora relations. This attention has been both laudatory and critical. After giving an overview of critical approaches to Black Panther, this paper will sketch a genealogy of the film that draws on older critiques of “return to the roots” movements in black studies, with an emphasis on the francophone canon. Major points of reference in this genealogy might include Senghorian Negritude, Sembène, Sartre, Glissant, Condé, and Mbembe. I will attempt to historicize accusations of excessive romanticism and capitalism in the film by situating them in relation to these thinkers. I will conclude by asking what is the current state of “roots imagination” today: can transatlantic black solidarity exist other than in a romantic or capitalist mode?

     

    Bio: Jonathon Repinecz is an Assistant Professor of French at George Mason University. He also serves as Affiliated Faculty in Global Affairs. A specialist of West African literature, he is the author of Subversive Traditions: Reinventing the West African Epic, forthcoming at Michigan State University Press.  His work has appeared in a variety of journals and blogs.

  • Royston, Reginold

    • Reginold Royston
    • Information School and the Department of African Cultural Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    • Abstract Title: Podcasting and Orality in African Digital Aesthetics

    Abstract: As podcast culture has blossomed in the West (Johnson et al 2015), the uptake and consumption of this burgeoning media-form has been relatively slow in Africa's mediascape. Yet, oral culture remains central to African modernity, with proverbs, radio, and other sonic practices dominating most public life (Kaschula et al 2001; Dorvlo 2017). However, diasporic actors working in technology and human development have seized on podcasting, as way of engaging in what I describe, as an aural pedagogy, connecting to the homeland with an entrepreneurial voice. In this paper, I compare media and tactics common to several Africa-themed podcast series, asking, what are the intersections of audio new media that capitalize on the affordances of sound, and indigenous ways of communicating in which sound remains central to knowledge production? This work maps out an emerging aesthetic of aurality in Africa's digital culture, in forms such as online radio, and in cutting-edge practices such as voice-command HCI.  This work is based on interviews with African podcasters living abroad, a media content analysis, and my experience as a digital ethnographer in Ghana.

     

    Bio: Reginold Royston, Ph.D. is a media anthropologist and digital humanities researcher, jointly-appointed in the Information School (formerly SLIS) and the Department of African Cultural Studies. Prof. Royston teaches courses on the political economy of information, race/class/gender/identity in tech, Africa, and Black diaspora studies. He coordinates the Black Arts + Data Futures group at the UW-Madison Center for Humanities. He does ethnographic research in Ghana, the U.S., and the Netherlands, examining Ghana’s digital diaspora.

  • Sacks, Susanna

    • Susanna Sacks
    • English Department, Northwestern University
    • Abstract Title: The Aesthetics of Agency: International Art Festivals and the Limits of the Cosmopolitan Imagination

    Abstract: Over the past decade, performance poetry – whose relative brevity makes it especially suited to the scroll of information online – has flourished online. These new channels of poetic distribution have heightened youth engagement with poetry, and especially performance forms like slam and hip hop. However, the rise of digitally-mediated, ostensibly “global” works online has paradoxical effects on African literature, where cosmopolitan audiences seek an imagined “authentic” performance. To investigate the tension between digital universalism and local specificity, this talk examines audience-artist interactions at two international art festivals based in Malawi, each of which stages anxieties about authenticity, agency, and aesthetics in the digital age. At Lake of Stars, audiences from around the world gather on the shores of Lake Malawi to see the best Malawi has to offer – implicitly conscripted to perform their Malawianness for international audiences. In contrast, the Tumaini Festival in Malawi’s Dzaleka Refugee Camp offers the refugee-artists who perform the opportunity to tell their diverse stories to an audience of Malawians.  At each festival, I argue that the imagined cosmopolitanism of the contemporary poet comes into tension with the international audience’s expectations of an “authentic” performance, a tension through which youth poets perform and enact Afro-centric cosmopolitanism.

     

    Bio: Susanna Sacks is a doctoral candidate in English and African studies at Northwestern University, where she is a Graduate Writing Fellow and coordinator of the Graduate Digital Humanities Pedagogy Workshop. Her dissertation project investigates the relationship between digital media publication, poetic form, and aesthetic networks in southeastern Africa. Building on eighteen months of archival and ethnographic research, the project draws on anglophone, Chichewa, and isiXhosa literary traditions to map the interactions between embodied and digital literary performances, institutions, and aesthetic forms. Her research is forthcoming with Research in African Literatures and in the volume Digital Technology and Languages in African Communities and Classrooms: Innovations and Opportunities.

  • Smith, Alexandria

    • Alexandria Smith
    • Women's and Gender Studies, Rutgers University
    • Abstract Title: Roaring Inside the Marble: Queer Diaspora in Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater

    Abstract: Akwaeke Emezi’s debut, deeply autobiographical novel Freshwater (2018, Grove Press) is a text concerned with disrupting how space is perceived. Emezi is of Tamil and Igbo heritage, both groups with a significant diaspora. In Freshwater protagonist Ada’s mind is visualized as a marble room: “cool veined white walls and floors.” Throughout the novel, this room is the site of Ada’s struggle with the wily and insistent spirits that comprise part of her self, as an ogbanje. In this paper, I read the white marble room of Ada’s mind as an iteration of S/Place, the figure Nourbese Philip theorizes as the linking of black women’s interiority and external surroundings in the New World. More specifically, I explore the metaphor of the white marble room as an entry point for examining the ways that Freshwater disrupts colonial aesthetics, architecture, and geographies. I trace how Ada’s movements across geographic space and refusals of normative modes of identifying enact what Gayatri Gopinath, Nadia Ellis, and others name as queer diaspora. 

     

    Bio: Alexandria Smith is a PhD candidate in Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. She was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and received a B.A. in Comparative Women’s Studies and International Studies from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Alexandria’s dissertation, “Blackness (from) Elsewhere,” examines how Black queer women’s semi- and autobiographical writing translates lived experience into creative and theoretical material.