Seminar: "The (Im)possibility of African Knowledge" by Prof. Simon Gikandi

Event Information
Event Date: 
Wednesday, 23 March 2016 - 2:15pm

MISR will be hosting Prof. Simon Gikandi, a Robert Schirmer Professor of English at Princeton University for a seminar on, "The (Im)possibility of African Knowledge" on Wednesday 23 March, 2016 at 2:15pm in MISR Seminar Room 1.

The seminar paper is available from MISR Library.

The event is open to the Public. Audience attendance is limited to 60 persons. Pre-register with MISR Library.

ABSTRACT: Sometimes in the 1980s, in the aftermath of neo-Liberal policies pushed by multilateral financial organizations, which devastated African universities, the locus for the production of African knowledge shifted from the continent to European and North American institutions. My paper is a reflection on the implications of this shift and the effects it had—and still has—on the nature of African knowledge. I will focus primarily on the struggle by African intellectuals to sustain a space for the production of African knowledge in the American academy and what I consider to be the (im)possibility of such an enterprise. I will show how the American academy came to function as a space of inhabitation and extroversion, one that has both enabled and disabled the idea of Africa in modernity. Using V.Y. Mudimbe’s work from this period as a starting point, I will provide a commentary on the status of African knowledge as part of an ambiguous adventure: What does it mean for African intellectuals, removed from what Abiola Irele has called their “habitual environment,”  to produce knowledge about Africa? What has been gained or lost from the expatriation of African knowledge? What kind of knowledge emerges in situations in which the object of analysis—in this case Africa—is far removed from its primary audience?

SHORT BIO: Simon Gikandi is Robert Schirmer Professor of English at Princeton University and editor of PMLA, the official journal of the Modern Languages Association (MLA). He was born in Kenya and graduated with a B.A [First Class Honors] in Literature from the University of Nairobi. He was a British Council Scholar at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland from which he graduated with a M.Litt. in English Studies. He has a Ph.D in English from Northwestern University. His major Fields of Research and Teaching are the Anglophone Literatures and Cultures of Africa, India, the Caribbean, and Postcolonial Britain, the “Black” Atlantic and the African Diaspora. He is also interested in the encounter between European and African languages in the modern period, literature and human rights, and writing and cultural politics. He is the author of many books and articles including Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature, Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism, and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, which was a Choice Outstanding Academic Publication for 2004, and co-author of The Columbia Guide to East African Literature in English Since 1945. He is the co-editor of The Cambridge History of African and Caribbean Literature and the editor of the Routledge Encyclopedia of African Literature. His book, Slavery and the Culture of Taste (Princeton University Press, 2011) has won many major awards, including the Melbern Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, Texas A&M University; the Melville Herskovits Award for the most important scholarly work in African studies; and the James Russell Lowell Prize for an outstanding scholarly work by a member of the Modern Languages Association. He is currently working on This Thing Called English: The Colonized and their Books, the Novel from Below, and The Atlantic Crypt: the African in the Archive of Slavery.

Event Venue
MISR Seminar Room 1

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