Print Cultures and Protest in (Southern) Africa: Bibliography, Anthropology, Ideology, and Aesthetics

Date: 11 July 2016
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: UVA Special Collections
Lecturer: Andrew van der Vlies - Reader in Global Anglophone Literature and Theory, Queen Mary University of London

This lecture will consider what we do with the material instantiation of literatures of protest from sub-Saharan Africa. What is the material evidence of various cultures of resistance? Whose responsibility is it to collect and preserve it—and with what implications for national and transnational histories of print culture? What questions should scholars or collectors attending to this fascinating archive employ—or avoid—and why?

Drawing on material from South Africa during the apartheid period (from the 1960s through the mid 1980s), we will see how tracing the work of one novelist (from the 1960s), and one group of oppositional publishers (in the 1970s and 1980s) takes us from Cape Town to Nigeria to East Germany, introducing us to small presses acting as proxies in the Cold War and to a varied cast of characters—from Pan-Africanists, to censors, to agents of multinational corporations looking to publish educational texts for expanding markets in post-independence African states.

Thinking through case studies like these allows us to consider how (some) books from Sub-Saharan Africa have been implicated in processes that put ideology and aesthetics in tension. If studies in and of the culture of the “book” are also studies of the politics of literature as an institution and have something to contribute to studies of cultural politics (and the politics of “culture”), what particular challenges does material from (Southern) Africa pose—and what rewards does it offer—today?