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Rethinking Orality, Literacy, Performance, and Documentation Practices
This book is the first ever major effort to document and study hundreds of texts from an African (Ugandan) oral culture for children – folktales, riddles, and rhymes – and at the same time to make them available in the local languages and to focus on their cultural and national value. The author surveys the history of collecting in Uganda and situates the texts in their broader geographical, historical, socio-cultural and educational setting, including the early collecting efforts of heritage-minded Ugandans and European missionaries. Most of this preservational work is elusive and under-explored – so that the present book constitutes a major pioneering summary of Ugandan oral culture for children.
The book addresses key questions such as: What happens when we collect, transcribe, and translate an oral text? How do we transfer components of the oral text to the page? What are the challenges of translating oral forms targeting specifi¬cally a child audience, and what choices ought to be made in the process? The book provides possible ways of rethink¬ing the debate about orality and literacy as modes of representation – the generic interrelationship between the oral and the written text, and how the two can enter dialogue through transcription and translation. The latter are effective means to archive these oral forms for children and use them to promote literacy and numeracy skills in predominantly oral communities.
In the current institutions of formal education in Uganda, this coexistence of orality and literacy is evident in the class¬room environment, where the oral text is turned into words on the page to encourage literacy. Through transcription, the collector is able to capture oral texts in other forms – audio, written, visual, and digital. With the new technologies available, the task is not as arduous as in the past, and the information thus captured is made available in all its wealth for purposes of instruction or entertainment.
Proverbial Lore in Modern Ugandan Society
This is the third collection produced by members of a six-year research project, funded by the NUFU (Norwegian Programme for Development, Research, and Education), whose concern was to find, preserve, and analyse ‘orature’ – spoken forms of all kinds, both their unique qualities and their equivalence in importance to ‘literature’. A major focus was the ways in which forms of orature can be made relevant to the demands of rapidly developing nations faced with insistent problems (HIV/AIDS, administrative needs, shifts in social and familial structure, the changing roles of women).
Both innovative and archival, the essays explore older legends and modern performances to outline their positive and dynamic contribution to a protean society. Some contributors address the ways in which traditional forms may be adapted: e.g., via new media to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic and to educate children in social and individual responsibility. Traditional narratives and children’s songs can function to counter cannibalism and child sacrifice.
Less dark aspects of contemporary society also receive attention. Traditional patterns of leadership are adapted to today’s conditions, especially by offering women models in the form of earlier figures and their actions. Two essays analyse the use of proverbs in the speeches of political candidates and discussing traditional music festivals as celebrations of traditional kingship and rule. Others examine the nature and operation of specific forms of orature – riddles and their subtle alteration according to performer and audience; concepts of heroism; stories of origin; and variants of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. These sensitive analyses are framed by pieces from members of the research project in Norway and Uganda.
Postcolonial and contemporary African literatures have always been marked by an acute sensitivity to the politics of language, an attentiveness inscribed in the linguistic fabric of their own modes of expression. It is curious however, that despite the prevalence of a much-touted ‘linguistic turn’ in twentieth century theory and cultural production, language has frequently been neglected by literary studies in general. Even more curiously, postcolonial literary studies, an erstwhile emergent and now established discipline which has from the outset contained important elements of linguistic critique, has eschewed any sustained engagement with this topic. This absence is salient in the study of African literatures, despite, for instance, the prominence of orature in the African literary tradition right up to the present day, and sporadic meditations on the part of such luminaries as Achebe and Ngũgĩ. Beyond this, however, there has been little scholarly work attuned to the multifarious aspects of language and linguistic politics in the study of African literature. The present volume aims to rectify such lacunae by making a substantial interdisciplinary and transcultural contribution to the gradual reinstatement of the ‘linguistic turn’ in African literary studies. The volume focuses variously on postcolonial and transcultural African literatures, areas of literary production where the confluence of several languages, whether indigenous and (post)colonial in the first case, and local and global in the second case, appears to be a central and decisive factor in the formation and transformation of the continent and its peoples’ cultural identities.
Narrating Africa in Europe
The swelling flows of migration from Africa towards Europe have aroused interest not only in the socio-political consequences of the migrants’ insistent appeals to ‘fortress Europe’ but also in the artistic integration of African migrants into the cultural world of Europe. While in recent years the creative output of Africans living in Europe has received attention from the media and in academia, little critical consideration has been given to African migrants’ modes of narration and the manner in which these modes give expression to, or are an expression of, their creators’ transcultural realities. Transcultural Modernities: Narrating Africa in Europe responds to this need for reflection by examining the manner in which migrants compose and negotiate their Euro-African affiliations in their narratives. The book brings together scholars in the fields of literary and art criticism, cultural studies, and anthropology for an extensive interdisciplinary exchange on the specific modes of narration displayed in Euro-African literatures, the visual arts, and cinema, as well as offering ethnographic case studies. The result is a wide range of reflections on how African artists, writers, and ordinary people living in Europe experience and explore their transcultural and/or postcolonial environments, and how their experiences and explorations in turn contribute to the construction of modern Euro-African life-worlds.
Essays and Testimonies Around Excision and Circumcision
Editor: Chantal Zabus
Often labelled ‘rituals’ or ‘customs’, male circumcision and female excision are also irreversible amputations of human genitalia, with disastrous and at times life-long consequences for both males and females. However, scholars and activists alike have been diffident about making a case for symmetry between these two practices. Fearful Symmetries investigates the sociological, medical, legal, and religious justifications for male circumcision and female excision while it points to various symmetries and asymmetries in their discursive representation in cultural anthropology, law, medicine, and literature.
Experts have been convened in the above fields – SAMI ALDEEB ABU-SAHLIEH, DOMINIQUE ARNAUD, LAURENCE COX, ROBERT DARBY, ANNE–MARIE DAUPHIN–TINTURIER, TOBE LEVIN, MICHAEL SINGLETON, J. STEVEN SVOBODA – along with first-person testimonies from J.K. BRAYTON, SAFAA FATHY, KOFFI KWAHULÉ, and ALEX WANJALA. The volume covers various genres such as sacred writings, literary and philosophical texts, websites, songs, experiential vignettes, cartoons, and film as well as a vast geographical spectrum – from Algeria, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Kenya, and Somalia to the then Congo and contemporary Northern Zambia; from Syria to Australia and the United States.
In addressing many variants of excision and circumcision as well as other practices such as the elongation of the labia, and various forms of circumcision in Jewish, Islamic, and African contexts, Fearful Symmetries provides an unprecedented, panoptical view of both practices.
When did the intimate dialogue between Africa, Europe, and the Americas begin? Looking back, it seems as if these three continents have always been each other’s significant others. Europe created its own modern identity by using Africa as a mirror, but Africans traveled to Europe and America long before the European age of discovery, and African cultures can be said to lie at the root of European culture. This intertwining has become ever more visible: Nowadays Africa emerges as a highly visible presence in the Americas, and African American styles capture Europe’s youth, many of whom are of (North-) African descent. This entanglement, however, remains both productive and destructive. The continental economies are intertwined in ways disastrous for Africa, and African knowledge is all too often exported and translated for US and European scholarly aims, which increases the intercontinental knowledge gap. This volume proposes a fresh look at the vigorous and painful, but inescapable, relationships between these significant others. It does so as a gesture of gratitude and respect to one of the pioneering figures in this field. Dutch Africanist and literary scholar Mineke Schipper, who is taking her leave from her chair in Intercultural Literary Studies at the University of Leiden. Where have the past four decades of African studies brought us? What is the present-day state of this intercontinental dialogue? Sixteen of Mineke’s colleagues and friends in Europe, Africa and the Americas look back and assess the relations and debates between Africa-Europe-America: Ann Adams, Ernst van Alphen, Mieke Bal, Liesbeth Bekers, Wilfried van Damme, Ariel Dorfman, Peter Geschiere, Kathleen Gyssels, Isabel Hoving, Frans-Willem Korsten, Babacar M’Baye, Harry Olufunwa, Ankie Peypers, Steven Shankman, Miriam Tlali, and Chantal Zabus write about the place of Africa in today’s African Diaspora, about what sisterhood between African and European women really means, about the drawbacks of an overly strong focus on culture in debates about Africa, about Europe’s reluctance to see Africa as other than its mirror or its playing field, about the images of Africans in seventeenth-century Dutch writing, about genital excision, the flaunting of the African female body and the new self-writing, about new ways to look at classic African novels, and about the invigorating, disturbing, political art of intercultural reading.