Section: News

Forum to explore African Literature

By Eric Geller

Kenyon will shine a spotlight on Africa’s diverse societies and traditions this weekend when 11 student presenters and a guest lecturer host the College’s first African Literatures and Cultures Symposium.

The symposium will begin Friday with a talk by author Mukoma wa Ngugi entitled “The Rise of the African Novel: From Chinua Achebe to NoViolet Bulawayo.” Student presentations will take place on Saturday and Sunday. All events will be held in Finn House’s Cheever Room.

The program, which combines presentations from the English, Asian Studies, Religious Studies, Anthropology and French Departments, is the brainchild of Assistant Professor of English Pashmina Murthy.

Murthy wanted to organize a symposium that brought together research from multiple disciplines because “African fiction is not something that’s studied only in the English Department, [but] much more broadly across campus.”

Murthy, along with Associate Professor of International Studies and History Stephen Volz and Professor of English Ted Mason, sent out a student-info email asking students to submit proposals for their presentations in mid-January.

The open-ended invitation was meant to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the scholarship on campus.
Katie Blake ’14, an international studies major who is presenting “Religious Beliefs among the People Bamiléké (Western Cameroon)” on Saturday became interested in Africa after a scant education about the area in high school.

“Africa is a huge continent, so there are so many different cultures on the continent that you can learn about,” Blake said. “It’s exciting that it’s growing at Kenyon and more people are taking classes.”
Logan Bialik ’15’s presentation is based on research she conducted while studying in Morocco last semester. The African culture symposium was “a great way to be fostering this sort of interest,” she said.

“This is one way to get to know about these other kinds of literatures,” Murthy said of the symposium, “but it’s also part of creating a conversation whereby [students are] getting to support the work of their peers … and to see the kind of work that is being done on campus.”


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