African Writers' Imaginative Responses to Issues of Rights

Emmanuel Yewah will examine human rights from an African literary perspective

Thursday, February 08, 2007
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
6275 Bunche Hall
6th Floor
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

The question of rights in Africa have been and will continue to be a subject of debate not only among politicians, diplomats, legal scholars, journalists, activists, etc. but increasingly among academics of various disciplines including literature. However, in the area of African literature, a humanistic field, where one would expect issues of rights to dominate all forms of discourse, very few studies, if any, have been done that examine African writers' approaches to the issue in spite of what is clearly a recurrent theme and an almost obsessive concern for rights in their writings. Moreover, the lack of interest in the subject is all the more perplexing given that several African writers, in their struggles for various rights, have suffered rather disproportionately what Charles Larson calls “ indignities, threats, humiliations and genuine terror.” The lecture will draw upon the life and writings of some of these writers not so much to highlight their status as victims that they have been, but rather to discuss their contributions to rights discourse and the role they have been called upon or have taken upon themselves “to sing for the masses that have been denied the right to.” What role has their “acts of imagination” played “in moving forward thought and action about rights in African cultures and societies?' In other words, what strategies have these writers developed that allow them to go from their conception of rights to action?  Indeed, how do these writers respond imaginatively/creatively to abuses occurring through their traditions as well as caused by colonial and post-colonial regimes?

Emmanuel Yewah holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  He is the Howard L McGregor Endowed Professor of Humanities in the Department of Foreign Languages, Albion College, Michigan where he teach French and interdisciplinary studies. He is currently serving three year terms on the Board of the West African Research Association as well as on the Executive Council of the African Literature Association. Yewah has conducted archival research on colonial legal systems and the role of interpreters in colonial courts in Cameroon and has done literary historiography in Kenya funded by The Great Lakes Colleges Association.  His research and teaching interests range from (anti) dictatorial discourses, African detective fiction, filmic adaptations of African literary texts, and postcolonial theories, to African visual cultures (Film and Photography) and Human Rights issues from a literary perspective. Additionally, he has pioneered a field of studies in Law and Literature in which he explores the questions of evidence, disciplinary autonomy, and legal storytelling, as well as the many “misunderstood relations” that exist between African literatures and the indigenous and received traditions in the law.  He has published extensively in these areas and in a variety of avenues including Research in African Literatures, The French Review, Africa World Press, Theatre Research International, Africa Today, and The University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review.

Cost : Free and open to the public

African Studies Center

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center