Seminar – The Future Continent: Perspectives on Contemporary African Literature

Organisation: Dr Hanneke Stuit (UvA) and Dr Astrid van Weyenberg (Leiden)
Venue: University of Amsterdam, see below.
Dates: 3, 10 & 17 March, 21 April, 12 May & 2 June/ All sessions will take place on Fridays, from 13 to 16h*, except 10 March, 14.00-17.00)
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMA students; OSL members will have first access
EC: 5
*Dates and times might be subject to small changes.

THE SEMINAR IS FULLY BOOKED, please send us an e-mail with your name, university and research school. We will put you on our waiting list.


As Achille Mbembe has pointed out, “it’s becoming more and more evident that the very future of our planet is being played out in Africa, whether one is dealing with questions of ecological crises, climate change, refugees, renewal of energies and so forth and so on, Africa is back on the agenda.” A future – and present – often perceived from political, sociological, ethnographical or anthropological perspectives from, on and about Africa. But what about the artistic domains? What about, specifically, the African literary domain? If it is indeed the case, as Jean and John Comaroff also suggest, that “it is the so-called ‘Global South’ that affords privileged insight into the workings of the world at large” (3), now more than ever is the time to investigate how these literatures deal with issues of globalisation, migration, identity and the contours of contemporary capitalism.

This OSL seminar aims to provide such a research environment and to unite research done on African and African diasporic literature at universities across the country. Topics that will be discussed include literature, translation, theatre, and new media. The seminar is not meant to represent Africa as a continent as such, but aims to study African literary and cultural production, to provide a lively and interdisciplinary perspective on African literature, and to examine the questions about the contemporary globalised present that this literature forces us to ask.

Format: Three-hour seminars.

Exams: Portfolio that combines a reflection on 4 of the sessions, engaging with the readings and discussion for that week (750-1000 words each).


  • Mabanckou – Broken Glass
  • Ndiaye – Three Strong Women
  • Glissant – Carribean Discourse

The other readings will be made available digitally.

PRELIMINARY PROGRAMME (might be subject to change)

1. Introduction: “The Future Continent”

Dr Hanneke Stuit (UvA) en Dr Astrid van Weyenberg (Leiden), 3 March 2017 (PCH 1.15)

  • Comaroff, Jean and John Comaroff. “Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa.” Anthropological Forum 22.2 (2012).
  • Ato Quayson. “Symbolization Compulsions: Freud, African Literature and South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Process.” Calibrations. Reading for the Social.
  • Dambudzo Marechera – “ The House of Hunger” in The House of Hunger. Heinemann, 1978.

2. Postcolony, Afropolitanism and Humour in ‘New African Romans’: Alain Mabanckou’s Broken Glass

Dr Emanuelle Radar (Radboud), 10 March 2017 (University Theatre 1.01A)
NOTE: Session from 14.00 – 17.00

  • Alain Mabanckou. Broken Glass. Transl Helen Stevenson. Profile Books ltd., 2011.
  • Michael Syrotinski. (2014) “Globalization, mondialisation and the immonde in contemporary Francophone African literature.” Paragraph, 37 (2). pp. 254-272.
  • Achille Mbembe, Steven Rendall “African Modes of Self-Writing” in Public Culture, Volume 14, Number 1, pp. 239-273 . Published by Duke University Press, 2002.
  • Achille Mbembe, Sarah Balakrishnan. “Pan-African Legacies, Afropolitan Futures: A conversation with Achille Mbembe” in Transition, Issue 120, pp. 28-37. Published by Indiana University Press, 2016.
  • Jason Herbeck. “User-Friendliness and Virtual Reality, A Hypertextual Reading of Alain Mabanckou’s Verre Cassé” in Revue Critique de Fixxion Francaise Contemporaine, 3 2011. pp. 50-59

3. Johannesburg in Transition: Three Literary Representations of the City.

Prof. dr Carrol Clarkson (UvA), 17 March 2017 (PCH 1.15)

  • Marlene van Niekerk: Triomf (first published in Afrikaans in 1994)
  • Phaswane Mpe: Welcome to Our Hillbrow (2001)
  • Ivan Vladislavic: The Restless Supermarket (2001)
  • Ivan Vladislavic: Portrait with Keys  (2006)
  • Carrol Clarkson, Visible and Invisible in Drawing the Line; toward an aesthetics of transnational justice. (2014)
  • Mail & Guardian, The Silence Between Spaces (March 3, 2017)
  • Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (1984)

Selected chapters from a range of secondary texts will also be made available. These include essays by artists, writers, philosophers and cultural theorists: William Kentridge, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel de Certeau, Achille Mbembe, and others. The seminar will be loosely based on one of the chapters in prof Clarkson’s own book, Drawing the Line: Toward an Aesthetics of Transitional Justice (2014).

4. Berber/Amazigh Literature Beyond the Oral/Written Divide

Prof. dr Daniela Merolla (Leiden / INALCO – Sorbonne Paris-Cité), 21 April 2017 (PCH 1.15)

  • Daniela Merolla. “Introduction: Orality and technauriture of African Literatures.” Tydskrif vir Letterkunde 51(1): 2014. 80-90.
  • Daniela Merolla. “Intersections: Amazigh (Berber) Literary Space.” Vitality and Dinamism. Interstitial Dialogues of Language, Politics and Religion in Morocco’s Literary Tradition. Eds. Bratt, K.R., Y. Elbousty and D.J. Steward. Leiden: Leiden UP, 2014. 47-72.
  • Primary source TBA.

5. Re-Writing and Re-thinking the Word from the margins : Edouard Glissant

(Réécrire et repenser le monde à partir des marges: Edouard Glissant); Prof. Romuald Fonkoua (Paris-Sorbonne), 12 May 2017  (PCH 5.60)

  • Edouard Glissant. Carribean Discourse: Selected Essays. Transl. Michael Dash, 1998. (Le discours antillais).
  • OPTIONAL:  Edouard Glissant. Poetics of Relation. Transl. Betsy Wing.

6. Literature, Transnational Poetics and the Planetary

Dr Birgit M. Kaiser (UU); 2 June 2017 (PCH 5.59)