The African Literature Association (ALA) – headquartered at Hobart and William Smith – will welcome several guest scholars for the symposium, “New Perspectives on African Literature,” which will feature both fiction and poetry along with scholarly works on African literature and contemporary literature of the African diaspora. Free and open to the public, the event will take place on Friday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library.
The symposium, now in its sixth year, will showcase presentations by Tsitsi Jaji, an associate research professor with the Department of English at Duke University; Mohamed Kamara, an associate professor of French at Washington and Lee University; Tejumola Olaniyan, the Louise Durham Mead Professor of English and African Languages and Literature at University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Abioseh Porter, a professor and head of the Department of English and Philosophy at Drexel University.
“The annual symposium offers a chance for anyone interested to learn about some of the trends and concerns in literary and cultural studies,” says Assistant Professor and Chair of Africana Studies James McCorkle ’76, who co-directs the ALA. “In the past, discussions of work from the colonial period, contemporary re-visionings of slave narratives, film analysis of Nollywood, political cartooning, and specific author studies have taken place. The symposium gives students and the community at large an opportunity to learn more about the richness and complexity of African literature.”
The ALA is an international association of scholars and writers focused on literature, culture and the arts from Africa and as part of the African diaspora. The ALA was founded in 1974, partly as a response to South Africa’s apartheid system’s repression, including that of writers and scholars.
At the symposium, Jaji will share a poetic work, “A Reading from Carnaval and New Poems;” Kamara will present, “Fiction Reading: ‘Pregnancy in the Time of Ebola;'” Olaniyan will discuss, “How to Write a Literary History of the State;” and Porter will present: “‘Expats,’ ‘Immigrants,’ ‘Illegals,’ ‘Nationals,’ and Alterity in Recent West African Fiction: Narrating West Africa, Europe, and the U.S. in our Contemporary World.” McCorkle will serve as the event’s moderator.
The symposium also complements the offerings of the Africana Studies Program at HWS, McCorkle says. Those offerings include the ongoing African Studies Lecture series as well as the participation of several HWS students at the upcoming Model African Union conference at Colgate University.
“All of these events show the vitality of the Africana Studies Program, the ways the Colleges are conversant in the international flow of knowledge and culture, and how students become engaged, do research and collaborate,” McCorkle says.
The “New Perspectives on African Literature” symposium is supported by the Office of the Provost and the Africana Studies Program. The symposium is part of a weekend retreat of the ALA executive council; they will meet all day on Saturday for the association’s business meeting. The symposium on Friday features members of the ALA executive council.
The Colleges have been the headquarters of the ALA for the past eight years, with Professor Emeritus of French and Francophone Studies George Joseph and former Visiting Independent Scholar in Africana Studies Thelma Pinto initially leading the program.