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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 41, Issue 1, 2018

Issue cover
Cover Caption: The Gatekeeper

Part I — Essays

Bodies that Matter: Calixthe Beyala’s Female Bodies and Strategies of Hegemonic Subversion

Without challenging hegemony, liberal Francophone African feminists unearth aspects of patriarchal African cultural practices that objectify women. In contrast, radical Francophone African feminists call for drastic change to these practices through reappropriating the female body as a way to liberate African women from patriarchal oppression. They challenge the patriarchal order by opposing gender roles and stereotypes and by taking a decisive stand for total female liberation. They call for a radical reordering of patriarchal societies through the annulment of binary oppositions that classify women as “other.” In this article, I follow Judith Butler’s lead in Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex1 and explore Calixthe Beyala’s commitment to African women’s liberation from oppression. Beyala’s approach presents auto-eroticism, homicide, infanticide, refusal of marriage, bodily and psychical dis-eroticization, and physical transformation of female bodies as strategies to secure women’s freedom.

“Healing a Hurting Heart”: FEMRITE’s Use of Narrative and Community as Catalysts for Traumatic Healing

In 1996, a group of notable Ugandan women writers created FEMRITE, the Ugandan Women Writers Association. Over the last twenty years, it has become an essential element of Ugandan literary society, the largest and most successful women’s writing group in East Africa, and one of the most influential literary communities on the African continent. Because of cultural and political violence in the region, a large proportion of FEMRITE’s writings reflect various forms of trauma. This calls for engagement with trauma theories. I argue that through strategies of narrative recuperation and the establishment of communities, FEMRITE has created avenues for women writers, their subjects, and their readers to engender healing from trauma. After discussing FEMRITE’s social programs, such as interviewing war refugees or AIDS victims, I analyze two texts by FEMRITE author Beatrice Lamwaka to demonstrate the manifestations of trauma in her stories and the ways they are narrated, as well as the way Lamwaka uses narrative and community to work through her own personal trauma. Through an analysis of its organizations and publications, I show that FEMRITE offers a uniquely optimistic and socially persuasive approach to trauma and healing.

Of Bosal and Kongo: Exploring the Evolution of the Vernacular in Contemporary Haiti

In this article, I trace the multiple layers of meaning behind the words “bosal” and “kongo” in contemporary Haiti. I read the sociopolitical origins of the two terms, both of which issue from the slave era, and trouble the attributes that scholars traditionally ascribe to them. I also explore how two Haitian folklore characters, Uncle Bouki and Ti Malis, reflect and comment on historical and contemporary class divisions. Then, using interviews as a basis for my discussion, I explore the two terms’ varied meanings within popular culture before analyzing them as terms not only of denigration but also of empowerment. To do this, I compare popular uses of the terms with the appropriation of the term “nigger” in African American popular culture.

Maguzawa and Nigerian Citizenship: Reflecting on Identity Politics and the National Question

Previous scholars have suggested varied opinions about the history of the Maguzawa people. While some have argued that the term Maguzawa (plural) is a Hausa word, others have asserted that Bamaaguje derives from the Arabic word Majus, which means a Magian adherent of Magaaism. Magaaism was a religion similar to Zoroastrianism. Among the Hausa people, some have argued that the Maguzawa form one of the ethnic groups of the Hausa Kingdom and are descendants of Maguji, one of the eleven traditional Chiefs of Kasa Hausa (Hausaland). Presently, some people use the term to refer to those who, even after the Jihad of Uthman dan Fodio in 1804 in the northern part of the country, have refused to accept the new religion and thus either have continued traditional worship or have accepted Christianity. Both Temple (1922) and Smith (1987) have characterized these people as traditional Hausa families (indigenous people) who were untouched by Islam and who escaped the authority of Sarkin Dare. Scholars have also argued that, as a way of avoiding the new religion, the Maguzawa fled to the country’s interior while the new religion was established in major cities and created a new aristocratic class...

The Land-Grabbing Debacle: An Analysis of South Africa and Senegal

In Africa, land tenure and ownership are crucial to food production, family structure, individual and collective identity, and social and economic development. However, the black majorities in South Africa and in Senegal have long been deprived of land through the land-grabbing practices of colonial-era settlers and foreign interests, which have resulted in homelessness, insecure land tenure, and the undermining of personal and collective identities. Government land-redistribution efforts either remain stagnant or occur too slowly to help currently landless individuals. This has led to a new land-grabbing phenomenon where Africans reclaim land by illegally occupying, and building shacks on, state-owned land. Such land-grabbing has caused government conflicts with residents and has resulted in apartheid-style evacuations, which have left people homeless and functionally landless. In this context, the question of majority land-access has reemerged. South Africa’s and Senegal’s constitutions stipulate access to secure land tenure and, if adequately applied, could help reduce urbanization and boost economic activity and agricultural production. This article demonstrates how land is crucial to a country’s economic development and to its efforts to reduce poverty among its citizens...

Radical Pan-Africanism and Africa’s Integration: A Retrospective Exploration and Prospective Prognosis

The recent clamor by some African leaders for an integrated Africa, anchored on the notion of a quasi-federal government as championed by Kwame Nkrumah and other radical Pan-Africanists in the early 1960s, has revived an issue that many thought had been buried at the 1963 Addis Ababa conference. It has also placed the radical variant of Pan-Africanism on the discursive radar. Against this background, this article adopts descriptive, historical, and analytical methods to retrospectively examine and to provide a prospective prognosis on the place of radical Pan-Africanism in the African integration project. In it, we show that many agential and structural factors have frustrated and continue to frustrate attempts to achieve the supranational African community promoted by radical Pan- Africanists. We argue that these factors cannot be divorced from the nature of post-colonial African states, which offer opportunities to ruling elites that a supranational environment cannot.

Part II — Creative Arts

Excerpt and Artwork | A Romance with Vultures

Excerpt from “A Romance with Vultures”Artwork included: On the Road to Golgotha (1998); The “Convultural” Conference (1994); The Trial of UNN (1997); Letter to my Countrymen (1993); No One But Me (1998); The Drowning of the General Oracle (1994); Professor, the Miserable Egghead (1997)

Overview and Artwork | Crisis and Violence in Niger Delta as a Creative Resource in Painting

Artwork included: The Execution of the Ogoni Four (2014); The Ogoni Nine (2014); The Agony of the Niger Delta Women (2014)

Poetry Collection | Excerpts from The Complicated Lives of Islands

Poems included: “Little Boy Dying,” “Missing Pearls,” “The House of Métis,” “The End of the World is Pleasure,” “Waste,” and “Legacies of Trauma”