STREAM: Text, paratext and context in African autobiographical narratives.

STREAM: Text, paratext and context in African autobiographical narratives.

Always straddling and dismantling the boundaries between truthfulness and imagination, between memory, concealment and referentiality, between psychology, history, geography and literature, autobiographical narrative invites the audience to (re-)consider the relations between text and context, or text and co-texts. In its counterdiscursive capacity, postcolonial autobiographical narrative has been especially emphatic in this respect: its critical constellation in the end rests on reference to political practices and hierarchies beyond the text, weaving palimpsestic layers of (counter-)meanings. In this light it is not surprising that many African autobiographers have stressed the importance of realism for their work, and they and their publishers often employ various strategies – in the text, but also in paratextual elements – to enhance the effect of realism as the starting point of meaning-making.

Meanwhile, discussions on African autobiographical narrative have over the last decades expanded to include oral genres, life histories, auto-ethnographies, online blogs and Facebook pages, apart from the more classic form of a published book. This begs the question how relations between text and context are established in these more recent forms of autobiography.

In this thematic stream we will focus on text, paratext and context in autobiographical narratives from Africa. We welcome paper proposals that deal with African autobiographical narrative in whatever form – published, online, oral –, and in principle from any discipline or from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Confirmed Panels

Panel 1: Auto-Biographies, Self-Representation and Testimonies of War and Oppression

  • Genocide’s Apprentice: Ndagijimana’s Bujumbura Mon Amour, Irlam, Shaun (University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, United States)
  • Co-construction of an (auto)biography in the context of oppression, Chad, de Bruijn, Mirjam (Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands)
  • Narrating (Political) Orphanhood and Re(Dis)covery: Two Memoirs by ‘Daughters of the Struggle’, Slabbert, Mathilda (University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa)
  • ‘Whose past? Self-realisation and Authorship in Mau Mau Autobiographical Writing’, Brinkman, Inge (African Languages & Cultures, Ghent University (Belgium), Ghent, Belgium)
  • Bearing Witness to Life After Genocide in Rwandan Women’s Autobiographical Narratives, Gilbert, Catherine (University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom)

Panel 2:History, Power and Staging the Self

  • Online Texts and Autobiographical Moments of Belonging: A Reading of Taiye Selasi’s Writing, Nailor, Pernille (University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom)
  • Rewriting the Women Enmity Lore: New Voices in Autobiographical Narratives, Yakubu, Anthonia Makwemoisa (National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja, Nigeria)
  • Silence and Elision in Laurent Gbagbo’s ‘Pour la vérité et la justice’, Gamberton, Maggie (University of York, York, United Kingdom)
  • Re-visiting Sol Plaatje’s Mafeking Diary, Willan, Brian (ISEA, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa)
  • ‘I was born in a small hamlet in African bush’: Memory and Identity in Boubou Hama’s Autobiography, De Oliveira e Silva, Ana Luiza (University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil)

Panel 3: Detention and Autobiographical Texts from Africa

  • Post-Colonial Incarceration and Autobiographies in Cameroon, Nkwi, Walter (University of Cameroon, Buea, Cameroon)
  • Uncanny Times: the Case of Eugene de Kock, Roux, Daniel (Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa)
  • Jomo Kenyatta, a Man for All Seasons: Radical Rebel, Arbiter, Detainee and Conservative Statesman? Githuku, Nicholas Kariuki (York College, CUNY, Queens, United States)
  • (Re) constructing National and Cultural Memory in the Autobiographical Narratives of Nelson Mandela and Olusegun Obasanjo, Aguoru, Adedoyin Adenike (University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria)

Panel 4: Life Writing in Kenya: Literary History and New Developments

  • Promoting the “Organic”: Kwani Trust and Contemporary Life Narratives in Kenya, Journo, Aurélie Marion (University Paris 13, Villetaneuse, France)
  • Narrative Sexualities and Theologies in Kenyan Queer Autobiographical Storytelling, van Klinken, Adriaan (University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom)
  • Perspective on Life Writing in Kenya: Visions and Omissions, Siundu, Godwin (University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya)
  • The Politics of Knowing and Becoming in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Memoirs, Odhiambo, Tom (Department of Literature, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya)

Panel 5: Family, the Household, and the Self: Visuals, Ritual and Material Culture

  • “The same but not quite”: Respectability, Creative Agencies and Self-Expression in Black Middle-Class Soweto Homes, Netshia, Shonisani (University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)
  • Remembering and Belonging in a West African Family, Lentz, Carola (Department of Anthropology and African Studies, Mainz University, Mainz, Germany)
  • Memory, Multiplicity and Participatory Curation at the District Six Museum, Cape Town, Soudien, Amie Lindiwe Hanan (University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)

If you have any queries or suggestions please contact Tom Odhiambo (; Godwin Siundu ( or; Inge Brinkman ( For panel and paper submissions please follow the instructions on the website 

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