This panel will map the evolving social role of Literatures in African languages, especially in relation to concepts of nationhood.
Abroad, "African literature" is still commonly associated with European-language works. Little is known in the West about Literatures in African languages; and only very few translations are available. The knowledge gap appears to be even more prominent when one looks at the last 20 years: few studies exist in English about the most recent developments of African-language literary output. Literatures in African languages (LiALs) are generally thought to have eminently "local" concerns, especially when compared with the "global" breath of their European-language counterparts. The critical supposition is that LiALs retain a "provincial" mentality, and are thus unable or unwilling to face pan-continental or worldwide issues. More importantly, this alleged "local" character is thought to make LiALs "likely to be mobilized in processes of divisive ethnic consolidation" (Barber and Furniss 2006:11). This panel objects to these assumptions, following Barber and Furniss' observation that "the nation can be convened in a non-national language, and can co-exist with the imagining of other communities, some exceeding the nation in scale and encompassing all of Africa, all black people or even all of humanity—and others taking the form of a local or regional network that pays scant regard to the national borders" (ibid). This panel will map the evolving social role of Literatures in African languages in the last 20 years, especially in relation to concepts of nationhood. Is the social position of LiALs any different compared to their European-language counterparts? Papers are encouraged exploring how LiALs creatively answered to the socio-political challenges of contemporary African history.