Friday, March 24, 2017




It is with pleasure that I announce the finalists for the Barbara Harlow Prize for the best graduate paper at the Austin annual conference on Africa. We received an impressive number of submissions. The jury—Professors Mia Carter, Neville Hoad and Brian F. Doherty– will announce the winner on Saturday, April 1, 2017.


Find below the list of finalists, not arranged in any order of ranking:



Militant Mothers: Gender and Political Participation in Colonial Côte d'Ivoire

Elizabeth Jacob, Stanford University



On December 24, 1949, two thousand Ivorian women marched on the prison at Grand Bassam in protest of French colonial officials' detention of militants of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA). Considered the first mass demonstration by West African women against French colonial rule, the march on Grand Bassam was part of a larger series of Ivorian women's protests against colonial injustice. Drawing on a mode of Baule women's resistance known as adjanou, they publicly sang, danced, and marched for the liberation of their men, all while leveling scathing sexual insults against French colonial officials. While negotiations between RDA leaders and French administrators tend to dominate the historiography of West African decolonization, Ivorian women's vibrant political activism was equally essential to the RDA's anticolonial cause. Indeed, though most histories of the RDA refer to Ivorian women's activism as "Amazonian" for its seemingly unconventional degree of aggression, this paper argues for the compatibility of militancy and motherhood in women's anticolonial action. While their maternal imperatives for caregiving and discipline had typically been reserved for the African home, the jailing of their husbands, brothers, and sons prompted the reinterpretation of their motherhood in action against the colonial state. Driven by existing logics of feminine militancy and care, Ivorian women's protests aimed to reconstitute the households that had been upset by colonial repression. Far from reckless or anti-feminine, the march on Grand Bassam constituted a logical extension of women's duties as daughters, wives, and mothers.



Migration and Exile: The Exotic Essence of Life in Bessie Head's When Rain Clouds Gather

Joshua Agbo, Anglia University, UK



Under the flashing light of hope, Makhaya Maseko, the protagonist of Bessie Head's When Rain Clouds Gather, seeks exile in a world elsewhere. Exile, for him, is always about a journey and the discovery of new places through migration by the exile himself. It is about the search for home by homing away from the harsh environment of one's birth-place. It is about the search for selfhood, the shaping and reshaping of migration experience by peeling off the old self for a new self to grow. It is also about the redefinition of the exile's identity within the migratory space. To be more than one, Makhaya changes his name and identity in several circumstances. From the beginning of the narrative, he has a feeling of exile and he longs to be part of it. He represents both belonging and estrangement, desire and exile, migration and the formation of multiple identities. He sees all of these as an existential core of life; regardless of the pains and harassments involved in crossing the border to the exilic space. So, this paper will explore the threshold of migration and exile within the post-colonial context of Africa. 


A Colonizing Agricultural Company in Somalia: The Duke of Abruzzi's Società Agricola Italo-Somala in the Italian Colonial Fascist System

Alberto Cauli, University of Auckland



In the aftermath of the First World War, Somalia was Italy's most underdeveloped colony. Italian colonial policy aimed to develop Somalia through an extensive farming program, with the Shebelle River as its core. In the 1920s, Italian colonists reclaimed two huge agricultural plateaus in the Shebelle region to establish farming villages: Genale, located in the Lower Shebelle, and the Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi (also known as Villabruzzi) in the Middle Shebelle. Genale and Villabruzzi were respectively ruled by the colonial government and by the Società Agricola Italo-Somala (SAIS), an ad hoc company established in 1920 by one of the most famous Italian explorers, Luigi Amedeo of Savoia-Aosta, Duke of Abruzzi. Despite an extensive literature focused on Italian colonialism in Somalia, there has been little investigation of the SAIS's activities. As part of a wider study focusing on the relationship between fascism and geographic explorations, this paper examines the role played by the government and the regime in supporting the Duke's experimental colonial farming program in Somalia, which the fascist propaganda later symbolized as a landmark in national colonial policy. My research in Italian archives revealed which institutions financed the SAIS and thus helps to clarify the relationship between the Duke's company and fascism.  


Images of Colonialism in the Text of Two African Female Poets

Gabriel Bamgbose, Rutgers University



Poetry is a significant vehicle in the framing of imaginative and discursive responses to the violence of African colonial experience. However, critical works addressing the colonial question in modern African poetry often limit their critique to the anticolonial poetic production of men excluding women's. Therefore in this paper, I address the incompleteness in the critical project on anticolonial poetics in African poetry through gender lens to question its androcentric logic. Using Romanus Egudu's canonical essay, "Images of Colonialism," as a point of departure, I ask: Why is there the erasure of women's poetic imagination in the critical representation of poetry on anticolonial struggle? What are the implications of such a denial of the female poetic knowledge? If we take another critical look at female poetic production in Africa in relation to anticolonial poetics, what view of the canon of modern African poetry as a counter-imagination to colonial imaginaries would we have? To engage these questions, I offer a rereading of the images of colonialism in order to address the gender gap in literary discourses on imaginative responses to colonialism in modern African poetry. This is significant because it challenges the patriarchal mode of consciousness in the formation of poetic discourse in Africa. Through a textual analytic, I close read ten poems of two Sao Tomean female poets, Alda do Espirito Santo and Maria Manuela Margarido, in order to lay bare the sinews of imagination running through the body of their poetry on African colonial experience within the specific context of Sao Tome and Principe. With this reading, I aim to unpack the textual/imagistic intricacies and assertive force of female poetry in the service of the African anticolonial imaginary.


Precolonial Imaginaries and Colonial Legacies in Mobutu's "Authentic" Zaïre

Daviel Lazure Vieira, University of Toronto



In the era of decolonization, the right to self-determination necessarily entailed the reconceptualization of African societies within the boundaries (in both literal and figurative senses) of the nation-state. In the case of the Congo, Mobutu Sese Seko shaped the contours of his newly independent state of "Zaïre" by appealing to the doctrine of authenticité, whose aim was to reconcile ideas of the past informed by precolonial times with the exigencies of modernity. For Mobutu, authenticité was an all-encompassing "African philosophy," even though it appeared to most as the mere instrument of a particularly brutal regime. It is little surprising that current scholarship is often consistent with this approach, with social scientists treating authenticité either as a fetish, by examining the history of the Mobutist state through cultural expressions that reflected this strange "philosophical" anomaly, or as a hollow concept, a piece of propaganda—which it also partly was. This paper takes authenticité at face value in order to confront its claims, namely that it represented a departure from the ferocity of the colonial experience and provided a comprehensive value system (cultural, political, legal, and economic) to harmonize the past with the present. On both accounts authenticité failed, I argue, not least because its language was anything but "authentic"—nor truly "new" for that matter—but also because its archetypes reproduced the colonial violence it insisted on refuting. Such an encounter with authenticité, according to its own terms, may allow us to mediate these different perspectives found in Congolese/Zaïrian historiography with regards to Mobutu's legacy, and reveal patterns of subjugation that never ceased to exist.



From Gun to Guitar: The Performance of Tuareg Nationalism

Bonnie Bates, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada



This paper explores how contemporary Tuareg musical and video performance is a form of translation, to elaborate and communicate Tuareg nationalism on a global stage. The Tuareg have utilized their traditional oral history and culture as a form of resistance, translating the traditional into modern performance, to promote a modern political identity. The evolving methods of performance as translation have transformed Tuareg forms and stages of resistance, from the gun to the guitar and from the local to the global. Utilizing the Tuareg language of Tamasheq and drawing inspiration from their traditional oral archive, Tuareg performance is preserving and safeguarding their intangible cultural heritage as an ethical and political act in a war of liberation



Toyin Falola
Department of History
The University of Texas at Austin
104 Inner Campus Drive
Austin, TX 78712-0220
512 475 7224
512 475 7222 (fax)

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