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Abstract

This article brings attention to a form of narrative fiction that has engaged with the Covid-19 outbreak by embracing social media. Microcuentos, a form of very brief short stories usually referred to as flash fiction in English, have widely circulated across Latin America through digital platforms in pandemic times. But more than simply thriving in a context of globally spread fear, death, and isolation, I argue that – in the 2020s – microcuentos are uniquely suited for pandemic times. By combining narrative intensity condensed in a structurally limited wordcount with social media’s capacity to circulate swiftly and widely, writers of microcuentos across the region have been exceptionally capable of responding to the crisis as it is happening. The case of the Latin American microcuento in the time of Covid-19 invites us to question the hegemony of the novel while rethinking the meanings of World Literature in a pandemic and post-pandemic world.

Open Access
In: Journal of World Literature
The essays in this collection are written to make readers (re)consider what is possible in Africa. The essays shake the tree of received wisdom and received categories, and hone in on the complexities of life under ecological and economic constraints. Yet, throughout this volume, people do not emerge as victims, but rather as inventors, engineers, scientists, planners, writers, artists, and activists, or as children, mothers, fathers, friends, or lovers – all as future-makers. It is precisely through agents such as these that Africa is futuring: rethinking, living, confronting, imagining, and relating in the light of its many emerging tomorrows.

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on both past imbalances and chances for convivial scholarship. In this article, we consider main challenges that are at the same time opportunities for better cooperation: African contributions to academic journals must increase, including on conceptual issues. The material investment in Africa’s research institutions has to increase as well. Several gaps at least have to be narrowed – the gap between policy and academia in Africa, the gaps between intellectual traditions, some of which have their origins in colonial times, and the gap between Africa’s global intelligentsia and its aspiring masses of younger African scholars. Finally, female African researchers need particular opportunities for their academic advancement.

Open Access
In: African Futures
Author:

Abstract

The discourse on Africa’s dark otherness, derived largely from outdated modernization theories, is tenacious and has a huge impact on present-day public perceptions of Africa and on prospects for African futures. Nonetheless, it is arguable that there is no single future for Africa, just in the same way as there was no single past, and there is no single present. African futures are polymorphous, polycentric, heterogeneous, and unpredictable. They manifest themselves along multiple roads, paths, scenarios, trajectories, junctions, and encounters. Aimed at overcoming the false dichotomy between Africa as an object of world history, always deficient and lagging behind, and Africa as a subject, shaping its own future, in this chapter I critically assess the various pessimist/optimist forecasts. In particular, I look into future making by the international organizations, institutions, think tanks, and NGOs that might orient Africa’s future and in academic circles.

Open Access
In: African Futures
Author:

Abstract

This contribution takes a critical look at the research literature on African pastoralism in recent decades. Many approaches, particularly to East African pastoralism, lack a theoretical framework adequate to the task of dealing with the manifold dynamics of socio-economic and livelihood change. This lacuna can be attributed to the predominance of socio-ecological thought that relies too heavily on ‘adaptationist’ frameworks. To provide a stronger conceptual basis for research into future trends of (East) African pastoralism, I propose to focus on socio-economic differentiation and to use the category ‘pastoralism’ to distinguish between continuously shifting practices and livelihood strategies, rather than between different ‘kinds’ of people or societies.

Open Access
In: African Futures
Author:

Abstract

Comics play an important role in imagining and constructing futures in the African context. Perceptions of the continent have been dominated by colonial and neoco-lonial discourses, which imply that solutions to problems can only be delivered by specialists from abroad. While there are very few narrative genres on the continent about the future, like utopias or dystopias, there is a growing interest in comics and cartoons that are influenced by super-hero stories in the tradition of Marvel or DC but adapted to African contexts. The construction of positive role models draws on legends and myths to create local super heroes who can save Africa, as in the case of the Lagos based enterprise Comic Republic. In this chapter, I argue that drawing is a gesture in which thinking, imagining and acting are entangled, so that the positive heroes can inspire a free imagination of a utopian world and also incite the readership to follow the models.

Open Access
In: African Futures
Author:

Abstract

The language of African literature has been the subject of fierce debate. Often the start of this debate is placed at the Makerere conference in the 1960s and summarized by the different opinions of two titans of African literature - Achebe and Ngũgĩ. While Achebe sees no problems in using English as an African writer, for Ngũgĩ_ this is anathema: he views English as an imperial language imposed on Africans during the colonial era.

Here I argue that this summary does not suffice, even the case of the Gikuyu language alone shows that the debates are much older and much more complex. For Ngũgĩ using his Gikuyu mother tongue has revolutionary implications as it resists imperial imposition. Yet, independent school organizers of the 1920s and 1930s refused to have Gikuyu imposed on them by the colonial educational system: they regarded learning ‘correct’ English in school as a means to strive for self-mastery. And, for the Gikuyu author par excellence Gakaara wa Wanjaũ, decolonization meant speaking and writing ‘correctly’, in whatever language.

Open Access
In: African Futures
Author:

Abstract

How have ‘African futures’ in the politico-security realm, if at all, narrated the threat of epidemics and pandemics? To what extent was the outbreak of something like the coronavirus part of relevant African future scenarios and, thus, could have come onto the radar of decision-makers? This article looks at how epidemics such as Ebola and pandemics like COVID-19 have been identified as threats to peace and security. First, I briefly recall how in the mid-2010s the African Union framed epidemics as a so-called non-traditional peace and security concern. Second, three prominent politico-security scenarios on African futures will be scrutinized: how are they discussing the relevance of epidemics and pandemics? The question discussed in this contribution is not whether the outbreak of COVID-19 was predictable, but to what extend it could have been on the radar of relevant decision-makers.

Open Access
In: African Futures

Abstract

This chapter is based on an anthropological research project initiated at the Catholic University of Leuven with a view to exploring the impact of so-called makerspaces and hackerspaces on the urban environment of which they form part. We describe the genesis of the project, and end by setting out five arenas, or heuristic devices, which we think are crucial when investigating the potential of these creative hubs in shaping their urban environment and in designing the future.

Open Access
In: African Futures
Author:

Abstract

Research into fashion and sartorial styles was not and still is not one of the core subjects of African studies. It is likely that fashion’s bad reputation as superficial as well as anti-fashion discourses have left their mark on African studies. However, with a growing number of fashion and textile scholars in African art history and anthropology, fashion practices are taken more seriously within academia and acknowledged as an essential part of contemporary culture. My contribution here is to look at the body and fashionable clothing as a repository of knowledge, identity and self-expression. Fashion design is researched as a collaborative process between designers, artists and photographers, using the example of the vibrant fashion scenes in Lagos, Nigeria. I will show that craft and the manual work processes play a vital role in shaping textile and design futures in Africa. In addition, I will demonstrate of how designers not only research textile and sartorial practices, but also unpack hidden or forgotten societal beliefs and institutions.

Open Access
In: African Futures