African travel encounters workshop 2016

Department of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham Wednesday 9 March, 2016

This workshop invites scholars of travel writing by Africans, along with practitioners of travel writing, to come together to discuss the past, present and future of African-authored travel writing.

For a long time study of African travel writing in the West has focused on Western-authored travel writing about Africa. But this has ignored both the long heritage of the genre amongst African and diaspora authors. African travel writers have traversed both the African continent and the rest of the world, writing about encounters and differences they meet in their own societies and others. They have engaged with colonialism and the post-colonial world, have produced ethnographic description, reportage, poetry, humour and more. They have traversed genres and forms, from the Swahili habari written at the turn of the twentieth century to Yoruba newspaper travel narratives of the 1920s, from accounts of students and soldiers abroad, to newspapers and today’s online travel writing.

As well as scholars of travel writing, speakers at the workshop will include prize-winning Nigerian travel writer, publisher and journalist Pelu Awofeso.

Papers discussing any aspect of African- and diaspora-authored travel writing from the past to the present day are welcomed. Our definition of ‘African’ is inclusive of African diaspora writers and those of African heritage, as well as writers based on the African continent.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

• Genealogies and histories of African and diaspora travel writing
• Representations of difference and otherness within and beyond Africa
• Histories and print cultures of travel and writing – is ‘travel’ a useful category?
• The relationship between African travel writing and Western travel writing
• Gender and African travel writing
• Genre, media and form in African travel writing
• Contemporary travel writing: directions, uses and possibilities
• African-language travel writing
• The validity of ‘African travel writing’ as a category

This workshop is organised in collaboration with the ‘Knowing Each Other’ project, a European Research Council-funded project which explores everyday encounters between Muslims, Christians and traditional worshippers in southwestern Nigeria. As such, papers that focus on the representation of religion and inter-religious encounters in African travel writing are particularly welcome, and may be prioritised.

The workshop will be free to attend, and reasonable travel and accommodation within the UK will be reimbursed for speakers.

Please send abstracts of 200-300 words to Rebecca Jones at R.K.Jones@bham.ac.uk  by December 15 2015.