Literary activism in twenty-first century Africa: networks, commons and publics
Madhu Krishnan (University of Bristol)
Kate Wallis (University of Exeter)
Language and Literature
David Hume, Lecture Theatre A
Friday 14 June, 8:45-10:15, 10:45-12:15

Short abstract:

This panel seeks papers which engage with literary activism, defined as the creation of new spaces for literary expression and exchange, in contemporary Africa. How do these spaces offer new modes for thinking about social production in Africa today? What topographies can literary activism offer?

Long abstract:

This panel begins from the premise that, in the absence of state-sponsorship or large-scale formalised structures, the creation of new spaces for literary expression and exchange functions as a type of activism through its de-centring of the topographies of knowledge production and its constitution of new types of social formations. We invite papers which explore the multi-faceted landscapes of literary activism operating in Africa today. From new writing prizes to literary festivals and spoken word nights; translation initiatives to mobile libraries and book distribution outlets; podcasting and social media to small magazines and print books, the African continent today is host to myriad modes of literary activism and engagement. These in turn offer new ways to conceptualise the boundaries of the social, through the creation of literary networks, collectives, commons and new literary publics. Here we look at the potential of forms of literary activism to bring together literary producers, writers and readers across languages and geographical contexts to ask: What histories and trajectories of literary activism can we map across the continent? What connections, networks and articulations emerge when we consider the long and multi-lingual trajectory of literary activism in its most robust form? How do self-defined literary activists conceive of their role in contemporary Africa? What forms of claims-making emerge around citizenship, society and public life through their work? What forms of literary activism in evidence in Africa post-2000 offer sustainable and portable models for long-term impact?