CFP: 4th Eastern African Literary and Cultural Studies Conference – DEADLINE EXTENDED

16 – 18 August 2019, Woldia University, Ethiopia
Theme: East Africa’s Elsewheres

Historically, Africa has a rich tradition of inter-regional trade and cultural exchange. East Africa is no exception. However, while the Southern and Western Africa have considerable scholarly attention, little research in the humanities has been carried out in the East African context. In particular very little attention has been paid to literary and cultural studies.

This conference proposes to address those discursive and geopolitical failings by seeking to engage with East Africa’s nodes of connectivity, entanglement, engagement, contestation and transactions through papers, roundtables and panel discussion.

Eastern Africa has interacted with other African regions for many years. It has seen intellectual, cultural, trade and political exchanges, despite and perhaps because of differing ideological agendas. East Africa’s role in this process is widely known, but only in part. We can see the role of East Africa in the forging of the Pan-African project, and can see connections with Europe, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle and Far East and elsewhere in Africa in the faces of local people. These global connections seem to be under-researched.

While the attention of the rest of the world has been focussed on the unstable Great Lakes region, the mobility of scholars and cultural artists across the region in the 1960s and 1970s has left a lasting impact on the history and culture of the region.

Even earlier, voyages of exploration to and from the Far East generated hybrid cultures of people and creative art, symbolised by images of shipwreck and slavery.

This cultural intermixing generated a pot-pourri of associations between cultures and civilisations that were derived from, but differed in major ways from those of the people. That can be seen to day in the popular view of Zanzibar as a haven of leisure and fine living, a vision completely at odds with it’s history of slavery and oppression.

The commonality of ideas and cultures that transcends current political borders raises questions in many cases about the logicality of those borders. Another area of great interest is the effect of the Cold War on the politics of East Africa and the choices made by nation states at that time and after the end of the Cold War.

The Cold War had a profound effect on cultural exchange and the activities and postures of artists and thinkers in East Africa. Some consider that process an unfinished aspect of colonialism and its legacy to the region.

The conference seeks to invite contributions, at this stage papers, to a sustained meditation on how East Africa’s diaspora and local heritages have created and modified East African literary and artistic development thus far, and how we can envision the future literary and artistic landscape.

  • Among the questions participants are invited to engage with are:
    What are the contact points between East Africa and the global community, and how and by whom have they grown and been modified over time?
  • How has the effects of international contact shaped the region’s intellectual, literary and cultural profile at various critical points in history?
  • In what ways have specific East African intellectual and cultural histories informed other regions’ thoughts and ideas?
  • What informed the region’s various political icons’ thought processes, among these Haile Selassie, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere; and on the other hand, those such as Siad Barre, Haile Mariam Mengestu, Daniel arap Moi, Idi Amin, and Milton Obote?
  • How do we reconcile the region’s culture of racial tolerance with the region’s other reputation for conflicts bred by intolerance?
  • “What investments have other regions and stakeholders placed on East Africa discursively and imaginatively?”
  • In what ways does the region lend itself to or resist certain patterns of cultural appropriation and commodification?
  • How has the region dealt with the question of borders, their meanings, and their implications on human and cultural flows, literary creativity, circulation, and consumption?
  • How has the region, or parts of it, confronted questions of gender, ethnic, and racial minorities in the everyday lives of the people? And how have these featured in the cultural and literary artefacts of the region? What are the trends, patterns, and implications of Kiswahili and other lingua franca in the region’s creative industries and as, arguably, one of the leading exports from the region to the rest of the world?
  • What forms of exchanges unfold between countries, institutions, stakeholders and individual figures at particular historical moments, and what is the quality of these exchanges?

We invite papers, panels, and roundtables that engage with the above questions or relevant aspects of topics such as;

  • Black transnationalism and its malcontents
  • Indian Ocean World encounters
  • Pan-Africanism and the Black diasporic project
  • Ethiopia and the global spiritual imaginary
  • Circuits of literary production and consumption
  • East African socialisms and their legacies
  • Intra-regional mobilities and migrant encounters.
  • Kiswahili, its pasts and futures.
  • Amharic writing

Abstracts of not more than 500 words, for individual papers or proposed panels and roundtables may be submitted to by March 31, 2019. Proposed panels and roundtables should include proposed panel members as well as their paper titles and abstracts.

All abstracts must include presenters’ institutional affiliation and a reliable email address.