STREAM: Celebrating the Work of Karin Barber

STREAM: Celebrating the Work of Karin Barber

This stream celebrates the work of Karin Barber as she retires from her position as Professor of African Cultural Anthropology at the Department of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham. Over the course of her career, Karin Barber has inaugurated new fields of study, such as African popular culture, and has developed new approaches to Yoruba oral genres such as oríkì, and to the anthropological study of African texts and textuality, including a generative approach that traces the emergence of forms from the ground up. She has translated and edited works of Yoruba literature including Ìtàn Ìgbésí Aiyé Èmi Sẹ̀gilọlá; documented the history of the Yoruba travelling theatre; and offered major contributions to comparative anthropological studies across Africa, particularly in the fields of orality, popular culture, African languages, and ‘tin trunk literacy’. During her joint editorship of Africa with David Pratten, Barber developed the ‘local intellectuals’ strand, which provides a platform for scholarship on the African production of knowledge, and local African thinkers and writers.

This stream invites panels that reflect upon Barber’s work, and offer directions for exciting new research in Anthropology and African Studies.

Proposals for panels are invited that offer contributions to fields in which Barber has worked, including but not limited to:

  • Orality
  • Popular culture
  • Performance and theatre
  • Yoruba studies, especially Yoruba language
  • Print culture
  • ‘Tin trunk literacy’ and local intellectuals

We also invite thematic and conceptual panels that investigate particular ideas within Barber’s work. These could include, but are not limited to:

  • Creativity and heterogeneity
  • The generative approach to the emergence of new genres and forms
  • Publics and audiences
  • Multilingualism, translation, and the pleasures of language
  • Anthropology and the text

Panels are invited that reflect on the continued significance of any of Barber’s works. These could include, but are not limited to:

  • ‘Popular Arts in Africa’ (1987)
  • I Could Speak Until Tomorrow (1991)
  • The Generation of Plays (2000)
  • Africa’s Hidden Histories (2006)
  • Print Culture and the First Yoruba Novel (2012)

Confirmed Panels

Panel 1. Public writing, print cultures, mobility and empowerment in West Africa

Chair Rebecca Jones

The papers in this panel examine how public writing has created forms of new identities. Focusing on Nigeria and Cameroon and addressing diverse contexts across the twentieth century, the panelists demonstrate how both the practice of writing for the public and the increasing scope of a print public sphere transformed how people assumed power and prestige, and conversely how they could critique groups of people and political problems. Presenters will explore two overlapping themes: writing and mobility; and writing as empowerment. Writing in the geographical and temporal contexts, we consider how public writing was animated by the travel of various kinds, whether within colonial nation-spaces or across international boundaries. The space of exile and diaspora was a particularly inspirational mental and physical place from which to produce experiential narratives and commentaries on society. Such writing had clear aesthetic preoccupations and purposes. Papers on this panel will consider these literary properties. However, our main focus will be how print cultures and expressions were envisioned and functioned as instrumentalities of empowerment. As a narrative with a writer and an audience, the written/printed word supplied a platform for self-assertion, for anti-colonial critique, for modernist claim-making, and for identity-based mobilization for change. Papers and discussions will explore the multiple functional, symbolic, and aesthetic universes in which print cultures evolved. The production of print materials were public practices, but the question of what constituted or constitutes the public remains unsettled in the West African context we are considering. We will, therefore, return to the recurring question of “the public sphere,” the issue of the many publics in which print cultures functioned and into which writers wrote. Finally, we will examine the political, social, and economic contexts for the evolution of these cultures, as well as the intersections between people and texts, politics and poetics, discourse and praxis.

  • ’As the Natives of this Country Always Do’: Flogging, Mobility, and a Diasporic Public Sphere in Northern Nigeria, 1912-1933, Pierce, Steven, (University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom)
  • Pilgrimage in Nigeria during the Oil Boom: Petrocapital, Spiritual Insecurity, and the Figure of the “Corrupt Pilgrim.”, Katz, Sara, (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States)
  • Importing Fleet Street? Editorship, journalistic practice, and a West African ‘pressman’, James, Leslie, (Queen Mary University of London, London, United Kingdom)
  • Women “Print Griots,” Text, and the Imagining of Cameroon’s Past, Mougoue, Jacqueline-Bethel, (Baylor University, Waco, United States)

Panel 2: Print cultures in West Africa: publics, authority, praise and concealment

This panel explores the rich print cultures of twentieth century West Africa, focusing on Nigeria, French Togoland and Ghana. Drawing on Barber’s work on personhood, publics, genre, authorship and print, the papers in this panel will explore the creation of authority, genres and publics in newspapers published in Yoruba, Ewe and English across the twentieth century. The papers will examine the ways newspapers have survived and contested meaning in the face of hostility, the ways they have blurred and created new genres, their straddling of writing and orality, their use of naming strategies, their praise and condemnation of readers and authorities, their negotiation of gender, and the ways they conceal and reveal authorial and readerly identities.

  • Alaroye: Political Contestation, GENRES AND INNOVATIONS; AUDIENCE AND ADDRESS In a Yoruba Language Newspaper, Fasan, Rotimi, (Osun State University, Osogbo, Nigeria)
  • Naming, shaming and redemption in an Ewe-language newspaper (Ablode Safui – the Key to Freedom), Skinner, Kate, (University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom) and Yayoh, Wilson, (University of Cape Coast, Central Region, Ghana)
  • Women ’s Columns in Nigerian Newspapers: Fashioning and Disguising the Self, c. 1940s to 1950s, Kunstmann, Rouven, (University of Oxford (currently), Oxford, United Kingdom)

PANEL 3: ‘Immoral’ Women in popular African imaginaries 1.0.

Chair: Ceri Whatley

The first of two panels on ‘Immoral’ Women in popular African imaginaries. The figure of the ‘immoral’ woman exists historically in African discourse as a site of stigma, shame and disapproval. The ‘immoral’ woman is ‘ “vagabond,” “prostitute,” “wayward,” “unruly,” “indecent”… terms used to label and stigmatize women whose behaviour in some way threatens other people’s expectations of the “way things ought to be” ’ (Hodgson and McCurdy 2001:1). Dorothy Hodgson and Sheryl McCurdy use the term ‘wicked’ and argue that critical studies need to unpack and complicate this figure ‘by analysing the processes through which some of the women become stigmatized as “wicked,” the nature of their alleged transgressions, and the effects of their actions…’ (2001:2). This panel invites papers that interrogate representations of ‘immoral’ women in popular culture and fiction. The panel encourages thinking around ideas of elusiveness, refusal to be marked, transgression and multiple subjective locations. Ideas around shame and stigma are unpacked in order to get to more nuanced readings of what makes particular femininities ‘immoral’. The everyday space becomes a possible location of thinking about notions of ‘immorality’ when imagining feminine subjectivities.

  • Beyond the cautionary tale? Transactional sex relationships and good time girls in Kenyan media, Ligaga, Dina, (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa)
  • On Immoral Widows and Respectability , Okech, Awino, (SOAS, London, United Kingdom)
  • Women and Cattle, Mupotsa, Danai  (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Panel 4. ‘Immoral’ Women in popular African imaginaries 2.0. 

Chair: Ceri Whatley

The second of two panels on ‘Immoral’ Women in popular African imaginaries. The figure of the ‘immoral’ woman exists historically in African discourse as a site of stigma, shame and disapproval. The ‘immoral’ woman is ‘ “vagabond,” “prostitute,” “wayward,” “unruly,” “indecent”… terms used to label and stigmatize women whose behaviour in some way threatens other people’s expectations of the “way things ought to be” ’ (Hodgson and McCurdy 2001:1). Dorothy Hodgson and Sheryl McCurdy use the term ‘wicked’ and argue that critical studies need to unpack and complicate this figure ‘by analysing the processes through which some of the women become stigmatized as “wicked,” the nature of their alleged transgressions, and the effects of their actions…’ (2001:2). This panel invites papers that interrogate representations of ‘immoral’ women in popular culture and fiction. The panel encourages thinking around ideas of elusiveness, refusal to be marked, transgression and multiple subjective locations. Ideas around shame and stigma are unpacked in order to get to more nuanced readings of what makes particular femininities ‘immoral’. The everyday space becomes a possible location of thinking about notions of ‘immorality’ when imagining feminine subjectivities.

  • Questions of (Im)morality: A Reading of Women’s Gender Roles and Sexualities in Contemporary Nigerian Novels, Nailor, Pernille, (University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom)
  • The Poetry of Stella Nyanzi’s Facebook Work, Kahyana, Danson, Sylvester, (Makerere University (Literature Department), Kampala, Uganda)
  • Lagos lost and found in I.B. Thomas’s ‘Life Story of Me, Segilola’, Coates, Oliver, (Cambridge University, Cambridge, United Kingdom)
  • From S ẹ̀gilọlá to Jenifa : Adventures of the Text of the Immoral Woman, Salawu, Igbekele, (Insttitute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria)

Panel 5. Creativity, heterogeneity and orality in urban Africa

Chair: Pernille Nailor

Taking cue from Barber’s inspirational work on cultural innovations in urban Africa, this panel explores recent examples of creativity, heterogeneity and orality in Africa’s fast-changing and (often) precarious societies. In particular, the panellists discuss research conducted in the DRC, Mali, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and online space. The papers draw on Barber’s influential ideas on texts, publics and persons, and examine the ways in which cultural producers and young entrepreneurs straddle the boundaries between multiple genres, styles, influences, languages, spaces and intentions. Together, these exciting papers reflect on Barber’s significant contribution to the field of African popular culture.

  • Congolese nationalism 2.0., Pype, Katrien, (KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium | University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom)
  • The world in Rwanda and Rwanda in the world: the musical trajectory of Mani Martin., Whatley, Ceri, (University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom)
  • Brazilian Malandragem Dialectics for Mali: Intercultural Strategies to Music-Making, Kouyaté, Zé, Aruanã, (Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom)
  • Town and Country in Postsocialist Swahili Poetics, Askew, Kelly, Michelle, (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, United States)

Panel 6: Performance and publics in contemporary African popular culture

This panel addresses the intertwined roles of performance and publics in popular culture in contemporary Africa. Ranging across Hausa performance poetry, Nigerian video film, Kenyan social media and protests in South Africa, papers on this panel draw on Barber’s insights on the performative dimensions of texts, the addressivity of texts, and the relationships between popular cultural products, producers and their audiences.

  • Form and Style in Hausa Performance Poetry, Lawal, Rabi’atu, (Federal University Dutse, Dutse, Nigeria)
  • Moral Publics: Human Trafficking, Video Films and the Responsibility of the Postcolonial Subject, Jedlowski, Alessandro, (University of Liege, Liege, Belgium)
  • Text and performance in popular cultures of cyber-sphere; News and #Fakenews in the Kenyan socio-political imaginary, Mose, Caroline, (Technical University of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya)
  • The aesthetic dimension of popular protest: Reading Karin Barber in the context of South African student uprisings, 2015-16, Becker, Heike, (University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa)

 

If you have any queries or suggestions please contact Insa Nolte ( m.i.nolte@bham.ac.uk ), Rebecca Jones (r.k.jones@bham.ac.uk) and Ceri Whatley (cnw604@bham.ac.uk) .  For panel and paper submissions please follow the instructions on the website  http://www.asauk.net/call-for-papers-and-panels-asauk-2018-now-open/ 

Photo Credit: Video shoot in Rwanda, 2015. Courtesy of Mani Martin.

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