THURSDAY, APRIL 13: Conference opens

2:30-3:30: Registration
3:30-5:00: Opening and Keynote

Karin Barber, Professor of African Cultural Anthropology, University of Birmingham, UK.

“Popular Poesis: Language and the Pleasures of Everyday Creation”
Pleasure in language – that most amazing of human inventions – arises from the creativity of everyday life, of the street, the motor-park, the bar and the backyard. The historical and ethnographic record of Africa is littered with examples of linguistic play so striking that even outsiders could not fail to notice them. One of the sources of linguistic pleasure lies in the act of recognition. An unusual epithet or witty turn of phrase has not really worked unless a listener seizes uptake of it and responds in kind. From such small exchanges elaborate games can be grown: hidden meanings, imaginative etymologies, narrative exegeses, all of which dramatise the mutuality of the creative effort. Linguistic play is never closed: one formulation leads to another, tracking rhizomatically across genres and media, attaching to objects, and constantly drawing attention to reserves of shared local knowledge. I reflect on my own experience of four scenes of Yoruba linguistic creativity: the oral culture of a small town, a travelling popular theatre, a university campus, and the crumbling pages of five Yoruba newspapers in the Nigerian National Archive. I wonder what mode, what genre of writing, can do justice to the joy of everyday linguistic creativity.

5:00-6:00: Reception


Panel A—8:30-10:15 a.m.  Vocabularies of Pleasure: Histories

Chair: Ron Radano, African Cultural Studies, UW-Madison

  • Akinwumi Ogundiran, University of Carolina, Charlotte, “The Yoruba Dialectics and Materiality of Pleasure, ca. 1000-1800 AD”
  • Nancy Rose Hunt, University of Florida, “Hedonism in Congo: Rural and Urban Historical Strands Regarding Pleasure, Harm, Healing, Dance, and Irony”
  • Carmen McCain, Westmont College, “The Pleasures of Paradise and the Perils of Pleasure: Eschatological Anxieties”

Panel B—10:25 a.m.-12:10 p.m. Ideologies of Pleasure: Race and Racialization

Chair: Damon Sajnani, African Cultural Studies, UW-Madison

  • Christy Clark-Pujara, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Resisting Enslavement through Leisure”
  • Grant Farred, Cornell University, “‘To liberate freedom itself:’ The Pleasure of Thinking.”
  • Tejumola Olaniyan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Race and Pleasure”

Panel C—1:30-3:15 p.m. Corporeal Pleasures: Contents and Discontents

Chair: Jerome Camal, Athropology, UW-Madison

  • Katrina Thompson, University of Wisconsin, Madison, “The Butt of the Joke: Finding Pleasure in Popobawa Humor”
  • Naminata Diabate, Cornell University, “Lots of Sex but Little Pleasure: Neoliberalism and Sexuality in Africa”
  • Brenna Munro, University of Miami, “Queer Pleasures in Contemporary African Representations”

Panel D—3:25-5:45 p.m.: Assia Djebar, in Focus: History and Desire

Chair: Nevine El Nossery, French and Italian & African Cultural Studies, UW-Madison

  • Julia Praud, United States Military Academy, West Point, “Prise de pouvoir: Speaking Pleasure in Les Nuits de Strasbourg
  • Anna Rocca, Salem State University, “Assia Djebar: The Pleasure of Discerning”
  • Calle-Gruber Mireille, The New Sorbonne University, Paris, “Desire of Poetry, Desire of Love: Nulle part dans la maison de mon père (2007)”
  • Nevine El Nossery, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Poésie-danger or the Pleasure of Contestation in Assia Djebar’s Far from Medina

Presentation—7:00 P.M.: Known and Strange Things

Teju Cole, writer, art historian, photographer, and the photography critic of the New York Times Magazine
Central Library – Community Rooms 301-302
Event Details


Panel E—9:00-11:20 a.m.: Reading (for) Pleasure

Chair: Laura Murphy, English, Loyola University New Orleans

  • Gaurav Desai, University of Michigan, “Pleasure in African Literature: Close and Distant Readings”
  • Ainehi Edoro, Marquette University, “The Work of Pleasure”
  • Adélékè Adéẹ̀kọ́, The Ohio State University, “Conviviality and the Work of Mourning”
  • Samuel England, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Fascists Out! Welcome, Fascists! Exile as Entertainment in Arabic Revival Arts”

Panel F—1:00-3:20 p.m.: Vocabularies of Pleasure: Urbanscapes

Chair: Luis Madureira, Spanish and Portuguese & African Cultural Studies, UW-Madison

  • Kenda Mutongi, Williams College, “A Driver, a Conductor, and a Disabled Passenger: Moral Pleasures in Nairobi’s Matatu”
  • Matthew H. Brown, University of Wisconsin, Madison, “Likeability, Genre, and the Ideological Pleasures of Nollywood”
  • Emily Callaci, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Lovers and Fighters: Friendship in the Making of Urban Space in Dar es Salaam”
  • Moradewun Adejunmobi, University of California, Davis, “Pleasures of the Nollywood Familiar”

Keynote: 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Teju Cole, writer, art historian, photographer, and the photography critic of the New York Times Magazine

“My Black Ears: How Listening Made Me African”
A personal account of the link between acoustic experience and identity formation. I’ll be talking about how music and language, over the past two and a half decades, and across forty countries, have helped me forge a sense of “Africa” that is both intensely personal and highly translatable.

Closing: 5:00-5:30 p.m.