Re-Africanizing Local Culture: Language and Identity Politics in African Literature
Call for Papers
Draft Proposal by Dr. Najib Mokhtari, UIR-Center for Global Studies
Co-edited with Dr. Richard Oko Ajah, University of Uyo, Nigeria
Planning on a special issue of its Annual Journal L’Afrique(s) en Mouvement 2023, UIR’S Center for Global Studies issues a call for papers, articles, creative writing samples (poems & short stories) and book reviews that engage with both classical and contemporary key North/African literary figures, intertwining codes and styles of interdisciplinary and transliterary scholarship with other cultural expressions, which consider writerly texts and readerly analyses from a wide and pluri-disciplinary - linguistic, literary, hermeneutic, philological and historical – perspective. One of the major impulses for this special issue is to explore new ways in which we ought to approach the study of African, speculative, artistic productions, thinking through a gradual reappropriation of local languages, a crafting of home-grown cultural epistemologies and a reshaping of the historicities of the newly valorized African literary tradition. We expect potential contributors to corroborate their analytical strategies to help modern readers of both classical and contemporary African literature understand the stylistic, aesthetic, literary, and market trajectories that have shaped and helped ‘produce’ African literature and brought African authorship to international standards of quality and prestige; while laboring to scrutinize the steady evolution of Afro-African literary identity and provide an empirical assessment of its deeper foundational constituents. While one cannot not acknowledge that a lot of post-colonial tributaries of influence remain quite visible in the complex architectures of a lot of modern African literature.s, a nascent trend of a local, literary production is clearly emerging, circumscribed among a number of contemporary African writers in different languages and registers from East to West, South to North of the Continent.
As recently as last year, African writers took the literary world by storm and won over six prestigious literary awards, including Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Nobel prize (2021). It would be a breakthrough endeavor to investigate how the deep past of African realities and their complex and mysterious foundations could not only trace sites of memory, but also suggest directions to pay tribute to the worldwide success of modern African literary productions. Looking back through the gamut of the recent anthologies of African literature, one cannot help noting how old approaches of reception theories still urge contemporary generations of readers to engage their critical mind and attention because their literariness could still bubble with intense aesthetic experimentalism and struggle with epistemological adventurism. Writers including Leila Slimani, Nnedi Okorafor, Namwali Serpell, Akwaeke Emezi, Abdelkebir Khatibi, Assia Djebar, Tahar Benjelloun, Driss Chraibi, Mohamed Choukri, Katib Yacine, Mohamed Kheir Eddine, Fouad Laroui, Youssouf A. El Alamy, Yasmina Khadra, and Tomi Adeyemi are but a few examples whose pens have knitted coats of many colors to celebrate their respective local cultures, in novel writing that have defined new theories of literary agency of talking stories and ‘canonized’ texts. Current debates around the twiterature styles, orature repeats, digital storytelling, as well as other forms of post/modern allegories of creative writings attributed to African ambivalent literary identities have led to a push-back in which writers, critics and scholars have consented those innovative literary styles, cultural codes and production modes are not to be taken as a new phenomenon in African literature, but rather as a synthetic pattern of a continuously re-invented tradition. The need to recalibrate ways of reading and rethink paradigms of categorizing African literature has underpinned suggestions that African classics such as Amos Tutuola’s The Palmwine Drinkard (1952), Driss Chraibi’s The Simple Past (1954), Buchi Emecheta’s The Rape of Shavi (1983), Abdelkebir Khatibi’s Tattooed Memory (1984),Tahar Benjelloun’s The Sacred Night ( 1987), Kojo Laing’s Woman of the Aeroplanes (1988), Fatema Mernissi’s Dreams of Trespass (1994) ought to be read as part of a continuum of the continent’s ‘old’ tradition, ascending towards an upgraded level of expert writings on trial, able to appropriate the language of the other and produce a literature of their own.
Since the turn of the twenty first century, constructive debates from both within and without African diaspora have ensued favorably about the appropriateness of the term ‘autonomization’ of African Literature, calling all stakeholders to seize the moment to Africanize the continent’s literatures advocating a nomadic homecoming to local cultures and promoting a systemic return to native languages, given that it is a term which invokes a particular cultural aesthetics; while it foregrounds the conditions of a genuine literary tradition, deeply rooted in African cumulative artistic imagination. For decades, the then professor of English literature in Kenya, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, has called for an urgent need to liberate African writers from the ‘language alienation’ to which most Africans have been subjected to by the colonial powers. To accurately read and fully appreciate Chinua Achebe’s literary allegories, it is imperative to subscribe to the Igbo pragmatism, which defines its inherent, imaginative kinship. One might wonder why Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s short stories and novels written in Gikuyu dialect could not reach fame and appeal locally, while Negritude poetry, written in French, has managed to imprint a wider impact beyond cultures and borders. Or again, how can one understand Wole Soyinka’s complex and intriguing Yoruba Ogun-ism without a deep immersion into its affinities with D. O. Fagunwa’s narratives in Yoruba language? Calling for the same insight, how can one appreciate the twists and turns of Abdelkebir Khatibi’s language code switching in ‘Love in Two Languages’ outside the malevolent hybrid imprints of Morocco’s colonial history as a tattooed memory, a beyond position where the narrator will have to adopt a double critique/struggle to decolonize himself from both within and without? Can African literature strike back and help launch a real decolonization, prescribing a re-education process of the colonized subjects: Do we have the means and skills to “Secure the Base, Decolonize the Mind,” to borrow Ngugi’s terms, and restore a local supremacy of an African literary renaissance?
These are but a few broad guidelines to help locate areas of thematic investigations, engage in dialogic discursivities, and speculate on cultural praxis and/or textual analyses.
We seek 300-word abstracts for approximately 5,000-word chapters for our forthcoming Afrique(s) en Mouvement Journal Special Issue 2023. We invite contributors to preview the conditions and ascribe tools that have helped define and promote the re-invention of tradition within the literary production.s across Africa.
Abstract proposals may engage all literary genres, language uses and cultural paradigms, disseminating African realities and reflecting on the different tropes of meanings, truths, metonymies and allegories across the African linguistic, ethnic and cultural geographies. African writers, academics and independent scholars are invited to submit abstract proposals for their research, related to – though not necessarily limited – to the field of literary productions and performance studies.
Accredited contributions will receive fees-free publication, author credit for their work, as well as free copies of the final publication, pending acceptance of the Special Issue proposal by the publisher.
Suggested Areas of Chapter Focus:
*The Myth of Origins: Theorizing African Literature.s
*Local Tongues, Global Tropes: Writing as a Form of Resistance
*From Orature to Twiterature: The (Re) Writing of the Speakerly Text
*Writing Podcast Prompts: Literature Awarded Author Interviews
Submission Eligibility and Conditions:
Scholars, Africans or not, both those on the continent and those in the diaspora.
Creative Writers from Africa (poems & short stories only).
Articles should not exceed 5000 words.
How to Submit : Contributions should
deftly examine a contemporary work of any African writer
offer original rereading of a classic.
report an interview with a writer of African speculative/science fiction
book reviews on any of the works from African literary prize winners.
N.B. There are no Submission fees
The deadline for submissions:
Chapter title and abstract: November 30, 2022.
Full chapters: February 28, 2023.
Authors are requested to submit their manuscript chapters with their personal details (Title, Full Name, Address, Contact Number, Institutional Affiliation Email ID, etc.) to
• Manuscripts must be original and plagiarism free, and should not be published as a whole or part.
• Details of manuscript should be provided in following order:
- Author/s’ Name/s, affiliation, Contact Number and Email ID
- Abstract (between 200-300 words)
- A list of 10 Keywords
- Main text
- Title, headings, sub-headings and keywords should be concise and apt
• The length of manuscript should range between 3000-5000 words.
• Authors are requested to provide a short biography
• Manuscripts should be typed in single MS Word file, Times New Roman font, 12 font size, in 1.5-line spaced paragraphs, following MLA/APA style.
• All the tables, maps and figures must be embedded in the manuscript. No separate files are acceptable.