Whose Africa?: Representations of Africa in Contemporary African and Diasporic Literature

full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)

The global imaginary is marked by a long history of claims made to Africa by a range of western writers and thinkers as disparate as Hegel and Conrad. These portrayals of the 'dark continent' still circulate in our current global imaginary, reinforcing prevailing stereotypes and engendering new ones. This panel intends to investigate contemporary literary representations of Africa vis-a-vis a consideration of the ways that both African and diasporic literatures imagine Africa. Early twentieth century writers―like black modernists in the United States and the Caribbean as well as African writers affiliated with decolonization―found it necessary to engage with these western claims. But these writers' produced their own reactionary claims to an imagined Africa, as they wanted to mobilize certain political agendas (e.g. Afrocentrism or Pan-Africanism). This panel, then, wants to think about the ways in which contemporary writers on both sides of the (black) Atlantic are working within and in reaction to these various claims to (an imagined) Africa. How does Africa get mobilized to do complex symbolic and ideological work? What do contemporary authors do with such a complicated inheritance? Do they engage with romantic and utopian traditions of depicting Africa? Or are the current depictions of Africa deprived of hope because of the failure of anticolonial movements? Namely, do contemporary authors continue making claims to Africa or do they want to problematize such approaches? If so, then how do these issues get reflected in the literary techniques they employ in their works?

Please send 300–500 word abstracts and contact information (postal address, email address, and phone number) for 15–20 minute presentations to Minna Niemi (mjniemi@buffalo.edu) & John Hyland (jhyland@buffalo.edu).

Deadline: September 30, 2009

About the Conference

41st Anniversary Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 7-11, 2010
Montreal, Quebec - Hilton Bonaventure

The convention will feature approximately 350 sessions, as well as dynamic speakers and cultural events. Details and the complete Call for Papers for the 2010 Convention will be posted in June: www.nemla.org.

Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable.

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