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Crossings and Comparisons in African Literary and Cultural Studies


Crossings and Comparisons in African Literary and Cultural Studies

Humboldt University, Berlin, October 8-12, 2018

In the past decades, African literary and cultural productions have predominantly explored the notions of duality, binarity, hybridity, alterity, in varied dimensions; centre-periphery, colonised-coloniser, orality–written literature etc., triggered by historical landmarks like slavery, colonialism, postcolonialism, and migration. Cultural productions and theoretical debates have, validly, not only echoed the complexities of these times with regards to ethnicity, class, gender, but have also critiqued the repercussions of these indelible historical moments and movements on language, culture, identity, local and diaspora communities, and individual/collective memory. However, much of the work that has been done, so far, still puts African literatures and cultural productions in regional and linguistic boxes. There is an evident lack in comparative research that would open up new critical horizons from the perspective of cross-language, cross-regional and cross-theoretical studies. Therefore, this workshop aims to move beyond the trend of comparing African literatures within the realms of just one language (Francophone, Lusophone, Anglophone, Arabic and the diverse Afriphone literatures) to inspire a comparative scholarship of African literatures that cuts across all languages and regions of the continent, including the traditional, yet artificial ‘boundary’ of the Sahara.  There is an urgent need to put different schools of thinking and paradigms of literary theory into dialogue in order to advance African literary and cultural studies. The major aim of the workshop is, therefore, to cross over language barriers, regional settings, disciplines and theories.

We invite scholars and PhD students from our African partner universities in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Togo as well as colleagues/PhD students based in Berlin to take up the challenge and contribute reflections on cultural production in more than one language, on hermeneutic dualities and multiplicities in African literatures, theatre, cinema and performance arts. A critical assessment of ideological, theoretical, aesthetic, thematic and linguistic models that invoke categories of difference, but also similarities, should be highlighted in ways that they could possibly be put in conversation with one another and critically evaluated across genres and disciplines.

The workhop is sponsored by HU-Berlin’s Kosmos programme and with further support by IAAW and KSBF. Speakers include guests from the universities of Nairobi, Ibadan, Stellenbosch, Lomé, Hannover, Mainz and FU Berlin.

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Dambudzo Marechera Archive at Humboldt University Berlin

Copyright: Ernst Schade
Copyright: Ernst Schade

A comprehensive archive of Dambudzo Marechera’s estate has been established at Humboldt University in Berlin. It was handed over by the
late Zimbabwean writer’s literary executor and biographer, Flora Veit-Wild, professor  of African literature at Humboldt up to 2012.

The archive comprises all the manuscripts which Marechera left behind at the time of his death in 1987, as well as a multitude of documents and
photographs relating to his life and work, such as transcripts of
interviews, letters, school records, Veit-Wild’s research notebook and many more. As the original documents were deposited at the National Archives of Zimbabwe in 1992, most of the written corpus in Berlin consists of photocopies.

The total of 23 folders and boxes are held at the departmental library
of Asian and African Studies of Humboldt University and can be searched for under “Dambudzo Marechera Archive” through the university library’s electronic catalogue. Researchers can request access to the physical material in the Rara collection. The library also houses a complete, open-access collection of all of Marechera’s published works, including translations into German, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Swedish and all the different editions of his first book,  The House of Hunger.

In addition to the physical archive, a digital Dambudzo Marechera Media Repository has been established, which includes scans of the majority of documents and photographs and in addition, full versions of all the audio and video material featuring Marechera or related to this life and work, such as the Chris Austin “House of Hunger” film of the early 1980s.

The physical archive together with the digital repository and the
collection of all published Marechera editions represents a unique
fundus for research on a writer who during his short life radically
changed the literary landscape of Africa and remains up to today a
legendary inspiration for masses of worldwide followers.

To access the media repository please CLICK HERE