"Crime and its Fictions in Africa," March 23rd, 2012

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Yale University
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Crime and its fictions in Africa: a conversation across disciplines

The story of Africa in the world is in some ways a history of crime: from the Atlantic slave trade to the Nigerian "419" email scam, violence and illegality have often been the means by which the continent is inscribed in the Western imagination. On a more local level, crime has also served as the medium through which Africa and its peoples have negotiated engagement with globalization. Besides the obvious movement of illicit goods onto the global market, this is evident in the intricate international networks for smuggling people across the Sahara; in the prostitution rings that link parts of Africa to parts of Europe; and in the poaching syndicates driven by Asian demand for exotica such as rhino horn. The problematic role of law and/or its absence has long been the focal point of historical and social scientific work on Africa, though not without controversy over the line between voyeurism and observation.

Increasingly, fiction writers and literary scholars have also got in on the act. In South Africa, authors such as Deon Meyer and Margie Orford have topped the best-seller lists with their crime fiction, and the genre has gathered steam across the continent. What explains this development? What, if any, is the connection between the boom in writing about crime, and the problem of crime as it is experienced day to day? Finally, how can we both acknowledge crime's dominant place in African narratives (and narratives about Africa), and question the limitations of this negative paradigm?

We invite scholars from across the disciplines working on crime in Africa and related subjects to a conference at Yale University on March 23rd, 2012. Young and established scholars are welcome at what we hope will be an open and informal forum for pondering these issues. Those interested in delivering papers as part of themed conference panels should submit abstracts to crimeinafrica@gmail.com by no later than December 9th, with copies of accepted papers to be submitted no later than March 16th.