Meditating Migration: Meta/Textualities in Transcultural African Narratives

Humboldt University / Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften, Berlin, Germany
07 Jul 2013 - 09 Jul 2013

Transcultural African literatures and films have predominantly been studied within their social contexts of displacement, migration, and Diaspora. Whilst these are still relevant categories, this colloquium seeks to privilege the singularity of migrant texts over context and overarching cultural paradigms. Rather than interpreting literary narratives and films of African migrants for their ideological effects, we encourage a focus on their creativity, their intrinsic and textually complex structures.

Therefore, the approach of this colloquium shifts to analyses of literary tropes and aesthetic choices to represent mobility, hybridity and identity formations. Transcultural experiences provide not only unique insight into social and cultural tensions but also generate specific textualities and offer opportunities for creative aesthetic expression. Textually or medially constructed discourses in the context of migration involve different strategies of switching, sampling, fluctuating and collating. Migrant writers and filmmakers adopt transcultural and translinguistic strategies in order to accommodate several cultural systems and communities in which their aesthetic products are received. What are the aesthetic moves through which narratives express the experience of migration? How can we define migrant aesthetics? How do these aesthetics manifest themselves in different narrative genres such as prose and poetry, film and theatre?

Narrative strategies in texts of migration inside Africa or between Africa and other continents often include an autoreflexive, metatextual level which signifies that i.e. novels or films contain a meditation on their own meaning. How does the metatextual dimension of the text affect its other textualities? What effects does it involve and how does its structure the reception? In what way does meditation as a writing mode which ruptures spatial and temporal action add new dimensions to migrant stories, within or beyond political claims?

By focusing on migrant meditations the colloquium highlights compositional structures in narratives that inform the ways transculturality is creatively conceived and expressed in African migrant literatures and arts.



Ibrahima Diagne (Université Cheikh Anta Diop Dakar)

Susanne Gehrmann (Humboldt-Universität Berlin)

Tina Steiner (University of Stellenbosch)


Key-note speakers: 

Fatou Diome is a Senegalese writer who currently lives and works is Strasbourg. She has published five novels, a volume of short stories ans a collection of poetry. Diome’s work casts a critical as well as poetic gaze on life in both Senegal and France and in the interstice of both. She explores issues of emigration, power relations (gender, race, age), childhood and writing.

Abdulrazak Gurnah is a novelist who was born in Zansibar and has lived in Tanzania, Nigeria and the UK. He is professor of English and postcolonial literatures at the University of Kent. In his eight novels, questions of space and identity, displacements and border-crossing, memory and language play an outstanding role. He has published numerous essays on postcolonial writing and theory.

Mansour Ciss Kanakassy is a Senegalese artist who lives and workes in Berlin. His art deals mainly with the relationship between Europe and Africa but also with colonial continuities. In 2001, he established the long time project Laboratoire Déberlinisation. He is aregular participant of the Dak’Art and founder of the International artists’ centre Villa Gottfried in N’Gaparou.



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