STREAM: Africa Reads

STREAM: Africa Reads

Photo Credit: Rebecca Jones

Stream convenors: Carli Coetzee and Rebecca Jones

This proposal is for series of linked and complementary panels at ASAUK18, Birmingham. We invite panel proposals, and in particular welcome panels that combine speakers from different institutions. We encourage an inter-generational spread of speakers on panels. Panels can take the conventional format of 3 to 4 papers of 15-20 minutes each, or can take a different format in which speakers each present for a shorter time, and which function as laboratories for establishing networks and for growing bigger projects.

In his introductory essay “The Writer as Social Thinker” (in the special issue “Writers and Social Thought in Africa”, of Journal of Contemporary African Studies), Wale Adebanwi argues that African literature and African writers have been overlooked as intellectual sources. African writers, he argues, have through their work developed useful strategies for the analysis of social thought, and have generated rich archives of social theory on the continent. Adebanwi’s important intervention is to draw attention to the role of African writers as social thinkers, and his argument insists on the continental locatedness of these intellectual traditions.

In this stream of ASAUK18, we take his insight further and invite panels that examine the role of readers as social thinkers. While many lament the decline of a culture of reading, in Africa as elsewhere, in recent years we have instead seen the development of an extraordinary range of reading practices on the continent. Thinking of readers as social thinkers privileges the “local” reader in ways that are productive for rethinking knowledge networks. The readers to whom we pay attention in this set of panels might include also readers of a wide range of texts and engaged in a range of reading practices.

We invite panel proposals on readers of African language literatures, and on local discourses about the social meanings of reading, as well as on generational shifts in reading patterns. Panels on genre and the role of readers in generating new models for reading (or reinventing existing models) are welcome. We hope also to receive panel proposals on the spaces of reading, as well as the contexts in which reading activities take places. Examples include whether readers read individually or in groups, at religious gatherings or on public transport, and so on.

Panel proposals might also include one that reflects on the relationships between student protests in Africa and understandings of reading – what is read, what students wish to read, and the relationship between reading and social transformation. We invite panels that reflect on the meanings of book launches in Africa, as sites for the production of meanings that exceed and complicate understandings of the transnational readership’s centrality. We are also keen to have a panel on the politics of the many literary festivals (some examples include Writivism, Abantu Book Festival and Aké Arts and Book Festival), new as well as older literary magazines, various reading networks (including networks that rely on social media) and intellectual discussions about the role of literature in society. Such panels might also explore new ways of understanding the relationship between orality and reading practices, as well as new approaches to the study of audiences in African contexts.

Another possible panel might wish to turn to questions of the real or imagined readers addressed in, or convened by, texts. Finally, the stream might include a panel or panels on the state of African literary criticism, and the rise of new forms of literary criticism, like blogs and reader responses circulated on social media.


If you have any queries or suggestions please contact Carli Coetzee (  and Rebecca Jones (  For panel and paper submissions please follow the instructions on the website 

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