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Stellenbosch University


14-16 April 2010
University of Stellenbosch

Meg Samuelson (Stellenbosch) & Kai Easton (SOAS)

Public reading by Zoë Wicomb


Dorothy Driver (Adelaide)

Abdulrazak Gurnah (Kent)

Following the success of the first colloquium, Zoë Wicomb: Texts & Histories, co-hosted by SOAS and the University of York in London in 2008 (see link:, the University of Stellenbosch, together with SOAS, is delighted to announce the second collaborative conference on Wicomb's fiction and criticism.

This 2010 conference returns Wicomb to the Cape both literally and in terms of focusing scholarly attention on the site of her native space where so much of her fiction has converged. Along with this emphasis on the local, however, the conference aims to consider more cosmopolitan connections, to engage with the Cape and its history of global intersections. In doing so, it follows Wicomb in exploring 'how setting functions much like intertextuality' for the postcolonial writer, who, by introducing 'dialogue between texts … brings into being the interconnectedness of the human world in a divided society'.[1] Building on the original London event, "The Cape and the Cosmopolitan: Reading Zoë Wicomb" promises to be an extended interdisciplinary and interregional dialogue on and around Wicomb's work.

We invite abstracts of papers that fall directly within ideas of 'The Cape and the Cosmopolitan', or engage with it at a tangent in relation to Wicomb's fictional texts, her cultural criticism, or in terms of the contexts and intertexts of her fiction from various disciplinary angles. How, for example, do those of us working in different fields 'read' Wicomb? What kinds of contributions might Wicomb's literary representations make to research in other disciplines (such as history, anthropology, political science, etc) and vice versa? How can we productively situate Wicomb's fiction alongside other 'Cape' and 'Cosmopolitan' literary texts and how do authors in other genres and regions respond to her fiction? How might we tease out ideas of intertextuality in Wicomb's work – whether in light of local Cape archival histories and fictions or more obviously cosmopolitan literary, historical or geographical traces?

Some may wish to explore comparative or connective readings between Wicomb and other writers or to draw on her cultural criticism to read other texts that resonate with the conference theme; others might look at questions of readerships, reception, publication and authorship and/or consider how Wicomb's writing is positioned in relation to national and transnational canons We would also welcome papers that (among other possible topics or approaches) address questions of cultural translation; trace the connective histories that enable Wicomb's imaginative straddling of South Africa and Scotland; explore Wicomb's inscription of the Cape at the intersection of Africa, the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean or the ways in which her fiction can be read within constructs of "African literature"; and engage the various forms of exile (including that of the liberation movement) represented in or informing her writing.

The conference aims to create a forum not only for dialogues between disciplines but also between emergent and established researchers. To this end, we wish to encourage in particular participation by graduate students and recently graduated scholars.


Conference panels will be held in a single venue rather than in parallel panels to promote a sustained and substantial conversation between participants. In addition to scholarly presentations and keynote addresses, the conference will also feature panel discussions between writers who engage with the Cape and/or the Cosmopolitan.

We hope to be able to offer some financial support to selected graduate student presenters, and those wishing to apply for such support should please submit a separate motivation (approx. 1 page in length) along with their abstract. Depending on the success of our funding applications, a minimal conference fee might be imposed. The convenors plan to publish selected conference proceedings in journal and/or book form following the conference, and participants will be invited to submit revised papers to be considered for publication.

Please submit abstracts of approximately 300 words by 5 December to: Our selection process will be finalised by 23 December, though if an earlier response is required for funding applications, please do indicate this when you send your abstract.

The conference website is currently under development and can be accessed at: or via "News & Activities" on

Conference Committee: Meg Samuelson (Stellenbosch convenor), Kai Easton (SOAS convenor), Lucy Graham, Jeanne Ellis, Grace Musila, Lynda Spencer, Tina Steiner

Graduate Assistants: Grant Andrews and Grace Kim

[1] Z. Wicomb, 'Setting, Intertextuality and the Resurrection of the Postcolonial Author'. Journal of Postcolonial Writing 41.2 (2005): 144-55.