AFRICAN PRESENCE IN EUROPE by Postcolonial Literatures Research Group,
University Antwerp November 14th-18th 2005
PROJECT DESCRIPTION The University Centre Saint-Ignatius Antwerp and the Postcolonial Literatures Research Group of the University Antwerp (UA) jointly organise an international and interdisciplinary workshop on “African Presence in Europe” from November 14th till 18th 2005 in Antwerp, Belgium.
The aim is to bring together international scholars and postgraduate students from inside and outside Europe to reflect on the expression of African identity in the diaspora through contemporary cultural and literary production and its perception in Europe.
Several public evening sessions are developed in collaboration with African socio-cultural organisations in Belgium to reach a broader audience.
General Framework Africa is perceived as the “dark continent”, fearful and mysterious. The postcolonial era does not seem to have engendered the liberation of Africa. Conflicts in Sudan and Congo, incessant violence in Algeria, post-apartheid in South-Africa and genocide in Rwanda have an impact on the image of Africa. Afro-pessimism reigns inside as well as outside Africa.
This interdisciplinary workshop aims at presenting a more nuanced and positive image of Africa by analysing cultural and literary production on Africa and how it is being received in Europe. Is literature capable of combating prejudice and transforming public opinion?
Migration and exile, bringing forth alienation and syncretism and influenced by the complexity of (de)colonisation, are to be examined from a historical, sociological and anthropological angle in order to grasp the full impact of African cultural production on image building.
Diasporic literature in French, English and Dutch will be analysed in detail.
This workshop intends to demonstrate that contemporary society cannot be polarized in binary concepts such as West versus East, First versus Third World.
The African presence in Europe, which partly coincides with the Islamic sphere, forms the core topic of the workshop.
The intertwining of cultural, religious and linguistic identities, narrowed to the concept of ethnicity (instead of race), will be analysed by experts from different disciplines to sharpen awareness of the mechanisms that define image and identity and their impact on public opinion. The spiritual dimension of Afro-cultural identity will also receive due attention.
Monday November 14th : Africa Morning Session:
Welcome (French by K. Gyssels/English by B. Ledent)
General presentation, introduction into the subject matter (guest speaker to be prospected)
Lecture on the topic of the relationship between Congo and Belgium
by J. Rahier , Associate professor of Anthropology and African – New World Studies at Florida International University, USA
Lecture on the role of religion
by C. Unigwé, BA English Language and Literature (Nigeria) and PHD at KULeuven and University of Leiden, Author of poetry and short stories Closing Session
Comments and response by panel members and group
Tuesday November 15th : History versus Fiction Morning session:
coordinated by K. Gyssels, Professor of Francophone postcolonial literatures at the University of Antwerp and J. Jacquemin, Africa specialist (French African literature) of CEC (Coopération par l’Education et la Culture) Afternoon Session:
“Anglophone Literature from the New World and its Meaning for European Readership”
workshop and presentation of relevant papers by participants
coordinated by B. Ledent, Lecturer at the University of Liège in English language, Commonwealth and Anglophone Caribbean Literature and (speaker still to be confirmed)
“Literature as One (among many) Tools to Change Mentalities and Prejudice: Its Weaknesses and its Strengths, its Commercialization and its ‘Vanity’ (elitist character?)” Comments and Responses by panel members and group
Evening session (public)
“Moving Pictures and Moving Identities” on African movies in Belgium and their meaning and (mis)interpretations – presentation of films
by G. Huysmans, organizer of the “Festival of the African Movie” in Leuven
Thursday November 17th : Crossing borders Morning Session:
African Presence in Europe
by C. Phillips, Henry R. Luce Professor of Migration and Social Order at Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, USA and author
Afternoon Session (public):
Round Table Debate “Community Building through Socio-Cultural Initiatives”
Professional journalist (studied in Paris and Jerusalem) and world traveller
Former Vice-Secretary of the Italian-Latin American Institute in Rome, Italy
Author of « L’Ile du bout des rêves » (Paris, Bibliophane/Daniel Radford, 2003), « L’Autre face de la mer » (Paris, Stock, 1998) and « Le Crayon du bon Dieu n’as pas de gomme » (Paris, Stock, 1996)
Henry R. Luce Professor of Migration and Social Order at Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, USA
Author of several plays, radio and TV scripts, but best known as author of novels, 7 of which received major awards : “A Distant Shore” (2003) – 2004 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and finalist of PEN/Faulkner Award, “The Nature of Blood” (1997), “Crossing the River” (1993) – James Tait Memorial Prize and Booker Prize shortlist
Guest of honor at the Antwerp book fair 2004 “Het Andere Boek”
Jean Muteba Rahier
Associate professor of Anthropology and African – New World Studies at Florida International University, USA
Ph D Sociology « Université de Paris X Nanterre » (started his studies in Brussels, Belgium)
Fields of expertise : ethnography of African diaspora, European colonialism (especially inter-racial relations in Belgian Congo), identity performance
Co-editor of Hintzen, Percy and Rahier: “Problematizing Blackness : Self Ethnographies by Black Immigrants to the United States ”, Routledge, New York and London, 2003 and author of “Representations of Blackness and the Performance of Identities”, Westport, Greenwood Press, 1999
BA English Language and Literature (Nigeria) and PHD at KU Leuven and University of Leiden
Author of poetry and short stories
winner of the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition, honorable mention at the Commonwealth short story writing competition and nominated for the Caine prize (the “African Booker prize”)
participated in “De Nachten” , poetry festival in Antwerpen this year. Forthcoming novel: “De feniks” (March 2005, Meulenhof-Manteau)
Professor of History at the University of York, UK
Fields of expertise: modern British social history and the history of black slavery (especially the Caribbean). He is especially interested in the impact of Atlantic slavery on the development of modern Britain (post-1660).
He is the author or editor of “Making the Black Atlantic” (London, 2000) and “Britain's Slave Empire” (Stroud, 2000) and he is co-editor of the journal Slavery and Abolition.
Professor of Francophone postcolonial literatures at the University of Antwerp (UA). Her research focuses on Afro-Caribbean and African-American literatures (cf. Sages Sorcières? University Press of America, 2001, a comparative essay on Toni Morrison, Maryse Condé and Paule Marshall), and is situated at the crossroads of Francophone studies, post-colonial theories and comparative literature. In her course on Colonial and post-colonial authors: Theory and Practice in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures (UA/KUL, from 2005), she deals with notions as intertextuality, the mixing of genres, post-coloniality and post-modernity. She also teaches post-graduate seminars on postcolonial literatures for the University of Antwerp's Institute of Didactics and Further Education (IDEA, 1998-2003) and a training course on Gender and Development for the university's Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB). She is vice-president of the Society for Caribbean Research.
Associated professor at the University of Liège where she teaches courses in English language, Varieties of English in the Commonwealth and Anglophone Caribbean Literature. Her current research interests focus on contemporary Caribbean fiction and socio-linguistics. She is the author of several articles on Caribbean novelists (Caryl Phillips, Fred D'Aguiar, Michelle Cliff, Robert Antoni, a.o.) and of Caryl Phillips, a monograph published by Manchester University Press.
Postcolonial Literatures Research Group, UA
Both are active in the Postcolonial Literatures Research Group (PoCo) of the University of Antwerp, that was founded in 1998 and specializes in the study of postcolonial literatures in European languages. "Postcolonial" refers to literatures from the ex-colonies, in their various oppositional and counter-hegemonic poetics of hybridization and dislocation. The faculty members of UA and other (associated) researchers seek to map out convergences and divergences between different postcolonial narratives and traditions, transcending geographic and linguistic borders. (for more information, cf.HREF="http://www.ua.ac.be/postcolonial" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor http://www.ua.ac.be/postcolonial)
University Centre Saint Ignatius Antwerp
UCSIA wants to continue the Jesuit tradition of involvement in university education, research and community service in the Flemish and Antwerp region. The main objective of UCSIA is to provide an international and interdisciplinary platform for academic research, higher education and community service with the purpose of contributing to the creation of a better and more just society inspired by Christian values and Ignatian spirituality. The Centre is open to all who wish to contribute to a better understanding between cultures, religions and philosophical points of view. UCSIA intends to complement and support the scholarly mission of the University of Antwerp with a strong focus on problems and issues requiring an interdisciplinary approach (cf. www.ucsia.org)
Contact: Barbara Segaert, Scientific Coordinator, UCSIA, Prinsstraat 14, 2000 Antwerpen,