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This special issue of Research in African Literatures seeks papers that situate Africa at the center of aesthetic inquiry that takes place in the wider black Atlantic. It has been two decades since the publication of Paul Gilroy’s path-breaking book, The Black Atlantic, which identified a hybrid counterculture to modernity in the real and metaphorical journeys of African-descended peoples across the Atlantic. A range of scholars have seized on these transnational circuits to reveal the exciting possibilities released by such patterns of mobility and exchange and yet Africa is curiously absent, often times appearing as the “dark continent” in conceptual constructions of the black Atlantic when it is not relegated to some timeless past as a mythic origin for a diasporic culture.
This special issue seeks to shift the center of black diaspora studies by considering Africa as constitutive of black modernity. How does placing Africa at the center of the black Atlantic, rather than its forgotten past force a rethinking of existing formulations of race and empire, nation and diaspora, gender and sexuality? What role does Africa play in diaspora, as a discursive sign, a geo-political region, an invented idea? Moving beyond Afrocentric, nostalgic, or racially essentialist positions, the discourse of Afro-pessimism, or that of a celebratory globalization, how do debates about Africa power conceptions of black modernity and postmodernity? Possible topics may include, but are not limited to: black nationalism and liberation discourses; Pan-Africanism and transnational anti-colonialism; Afro-pessimism and Afro-futurism; Post-apartheid South African explorations of memory and history; literary form and genre; sovereignty, citizenship, immigration and social belonging in a neoliberal world order; terrorism; piracy; gender and sexuality; global African writers like Chris Abani, Dinaw Mengestu, Teju Cole, Helen Oyeyemi; postcolonial cities and the global metropolis.
Papers are expected to conform to the standard RAL guidelines published in every issue of the journal and all submissions will be subject to peer review. The editor encourages potential contributors to establish early contact via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.