skip to primary navigationskip to content

The Historical Imagination in African Literature and Culture

African Studies Visiting Research Fellowships Scheme 2005-2006

The Historical Imagination in African Literature and Culture

The difficulty of representing history in its various cultural expressions is by no means a new one in African literature and literary criticism. However, what has yet to be evaluated is the degree to which such literary representations of history are either co-extensive or contradict other modes of historical representation within African cultures more generally.  How, for example, does writing in European languages on the continent affect the historical imagination? And how about the effects of the contradictory processes of urbanisation and globalisation?

Elected Fellows

Isidore Diala
Senior Lecturer in English, Imo State University, Nigeria

His present research project is Biblical Mythology in Andre Brink’s Political Fiction

Ezenwa Ohaeto
Lecturer in English, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria

Historical Imagination and Historical Representation: The Biography of Wole Soyinka

(Ezenwa was professor of English at Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Nigeria, a poet of international reputation, and the author of several works of literary criticism.  He lost his long battle with cancer in October 2005, soon after arriving in Cambridge to take up his fellowship.  He is survived by his wife, Ngozi, by several brothers and sisters, and by four children. Requiem aeternam)

Chaibou Oumarou
Lecturer in English, Abdou Moumouni University, Niger

Research project is The Cultural and Linguistic Policies of France and Great Britain and their Consequences in African Literatures

Aderemi Raji-Oyelade
Lecturer in English, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

His project is Sexclusion, Subalternity and Women’s Writing in Nigerian and South African Poetry

Omar Sougou
Senior Lecturer, Gaston Berger University, Senegal

His project is a continuation of his current work on the novels of Armah and Achebe

Literature and Historical Imagination Conference

Saturday 4 March 2006

Faculty of English, University of Cambridge and Selwyn College Cambridge

Through the generosity of the Ford Foundation, the Isaac Newton Trust, the Smuts Fund Managers and the A G  Leventis Foundation four visiting scholars have been working at the Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge, under the theme ‘The Historical Imagination in African Literature and Culture’. This conference is taking place as a culmination of their stay in Cambridge.


8.45 Registration

09.00-10.00 Keynote 1: Professor Isabel Hofmeyr (Witwatersrand University), Reading in Heaven

10.00-10.15 Break for coffee

10.15-12.15 Panel I: Configuring History in Literature

Discussant: Professor John Lonsdale

  • Dr Nana Wilson-Tagoe (SOAS ), Struggles Over History: Contrasting Narratives of Liberation in Zimbabwean Fiction
  • Sheila Boniface Davies (Cambridge), Raising the Dead: The Xhosa Cattle-Killing and the Mhlakaza-Goliat Delusion
  • Dr Isidore Diala (Cambridge and Imo State University), Biblical Mythology in Andre Brink’s Political Fiction
  • Dr Kai Kresse (ZMO, Berlin & St Andrew’s University), Islamic Pamphlets in Swahili: Reflecting Social History

12.15-13.15 Break for lunch

13.20-14.20 Keynote 2: Professor Paul Tiyambe Zeleza (Pennsylvania State University), Colonial Fictions: Memory and History in Yvonne Vera’s Imagination

14.30-16.15 Panel II: Literature and the Vernacular

Discussant: Dr Derek Peterson

  • Professor Graham Furniss (SOAS), Pre-Modernity and the Hausa Novella
  • Dr Ann Biersteker (Yale), Translating African Literatures or Not
  • Dr Chaibou Oumarou (Cambridge and Abdou Moumouni University), The Cultural and Linguistic Policies of France and Great Britain and their Consequences for African Literature

16.15-16.30 Break for tea

16.30-18.15 Panel III: Gender and Literature

Discussant: Mr Tim Cribb

  • Dr Chris Warnes (Cambridge), ‘A Hangover from the Past’: Melancholic Masculinities in Recent South African Literature
  • Dr Remi Raji-Oyelade (Cambridge and Ibadan), “Sexclusionary” Inclusions: Uncovering the Feminine Text in Nigerian and South African Poetry
  • Dr Omar Sougou (Cambridge and Gaston Berger University), Ambivalent Inscriptions: Women, Youth and Diasporic Identity in Emecheta’s Later Fiction