University of Wisconsin–Madison

About the conference:

A word from the conference convener, UW-Madison professor of African Cultural Studies and English Interdisciplinary Research, Tejumola Olaniyan:

There is no better moment than now to be discoursing on such a fun topic as pleasure in Africa and the African world. And I say this with no tongue in my cheek. Thanks to the dispersed and expansive mass media penetration of our times, the perception of an unyielding regime of unpleasure in global Africa—captured generally in state unresponsiveness/ unproductivity and the impact of that on the quality of black life across continents; and specifically and most evocatively in key recent happenings such the refugee drownings in the Mediterranean to the xenophobia in the southern Africa, war-related famine in the west and the east, and the protestations in the U.S. and globally on how black lives matter— the perception of an unyielding regime of unpleasure in global Africa has resisted the old typical “fifteen minutes of fame” in the limelight. To the extent that there is a huge truth content supporting that perception, the front-page staying power is a very good thing. After all, the first condition for the alleviation of unpleasure (a task that ultimately belongs to the domain of sociopolitics) is sustained and multi-sided discursive attention to it. But the existing perception is also overly one-sided, and one of the consequences is a stereotypical yoking of “Africa” to “unpleasure” in a way that makes black and Africa, as composite, the object of pity and tools for the ego affirmation of others. This stereotype may not so much deny the pleasure agency of the African world as undervalue or devalue it, something far more insidious.

Our conference is conceived as a capacious frame to enable us range near and far and leave no corner unstoned in our explorations of pleasure, its multiple manifestations, dimensions, histories, forms, meanings, and politics in locations across Africa and the African diaspora. You will be interacting with scholars across disciplines and different regional coverages. I have no doubt that by the time the conference is over, we would have inoculated a little bit our different disciplines against their discomfort, furtiveness, shame, guilt, squeamishness, etc, in putting the words “Africa,” “black” and “pleasure” together. Pleasure, after all, is key constitutive element of what makes us human, civilized, and compels recognition as such.

To our out-of-town colleagues, I look forward to welcoming you to Madison, WI, the Pearl of the Midwest. Madison in April is most gorgeous, with sprightly blooms on land and beginning season of sailing and fishing on an alluring network of lakes—nature’s splendor in overflowing, unbounded generosity. If you are arriving early, I hope you are able to walk and look around the sprawling UW-Madison campus with its over 42,000 friendly Badgers, snack or grab a beer on the Memorial Union Terrace overlooking Lake Mendota, and feast your eyes and mind at the African Collection in the magnificent Chazen Museum. Madison in the spring is the place to be!

Our conference caps the 2016-2017 yearlong programming by the Department of African Cultural Studies on the conference theme, in joint sponsorship with our world-renowned African Studies Program. See more about the two units here:

Department of African Cultural Studies

African Studies Program

And if you want a few quick facts on African studies at UW-Madison, go straight here.

Do see more here on our storied Department of Afro-American Studies.