Universiteit Leiden

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Lezing | Studium Generale

African Languages and Literature: endangered archives and cultural practices

dinsdag 18 april 2023
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
019 en online

This lecture takes place in the framework of the Studium Generale programme Het continent Afrika in 2023.

Contrary to the idea of restricted literacy, Africa is a continent where varied forms of literature are expressed in oral forms, a variety of scripts and many languages. In the presentation we aim to provide insights on the  broad spectrum of creativity in language use and literary practices. These themes will be discussed based on ethnographic and archival research conducted in East Africa, paying particular attention to ‘endangered archives’ and ‘endangered languages’ that have carved out complementary niches in the afrophone world. While approaches in cultural as well as postcolonial studies often relegate language and its literary form to the background and emphasize its socio-political relevance, we will highlight the important effect of language on cognition and the central role of literature in preserving essential cultural knowledge. By doing so, we will show how African languages and literatures reflect more than a vessel to transport predefined ideas.

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