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Conference convener, Prof. Stephanie Newell and outgoing ALA President, Professor Juliana Makuchi Nfah-Abbenyi

The African Literature Association (ALA) held its annual conference last month at Yale University. Photos from the event are finally here, and we are delighted to share them with you.

For those of you who might not be familiar with the ALA, it is the official organization for scholars of African literature. It is a global community of thinkers, teachers, researchers, and writers interested in the idea and study of African literature in all its diverse forms. Most of you at Brittle Paper are familiar with African literature as it exists in social media and in the literary market. Well, there is a lot more to the African literary establishment. There is a whole world of scholars and teachers who commit their lives to the hard work of studying African writing, documenting its long history and codifying its various forms and evolutions. From June 14-17, this world-wide community of scholars gathered at Yale University and had the best time talking about their research and sharing ideas.

The governing council of the ALA, headed by Cameroonian literary scholar Professor Juliana Makuchi Nfah-Abbenyi, worked with British literary scholar and Yale Professor Stephanie Newell to put on a well-attended and delightful conference. This year’s conference addressed the theme: Africa and the World: Literature, Politics, and Global Geographies. The talks, lectures, and papers presented at the conference sought to address what Africa meant within the context of new, contemporary understanding of “the world” as a conceptual framework.

After the opening ceremony hosted at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library, the conference kicked off with panels, roundtable discussion sessions, book readings, film screenings, poetry performances, and much more. Simon Gikandi, a Kenyan professor at Princeton, gave one of the keynote lectures on the uncertain place that Africa has had in the world literature canon. [Watch the video of Professor Gikandi’s lecture HERE.]  Senegalese writer and literature professor Boubacar Diop gave another keynote address titled “What was Cheikh Anta Diop’s Advice to African Writers?” He did an amazing job of making Diop’s philosophical writings relevant to African literature today.

Panels after panels presented papers on everything from Nollywood, Chimamanda Adichie’s feminism, Islam, contemporary African fiction, the classics, science fiction, to globalization. African literature within the social media space also had a good bit of love. A roundtable session featuring Brittle Paper, Africa in Words, and Aaron Bady’s work took place. It focused on the role of blogging and social media influence on African literary culture and discourses.

Even though the conference is built around African literature within the academic institution, a space was carved out for writers to talk about their work and engage with the people who study and teach their writing. Deji Olukotun (Nigerians in Space), Imbolo Mbue (Behold the Dreamer), Aminatta Forna (Memory of Love), Okey Ndibe (Never Look an American in the Eye), and Jennifer Makumbi (Kintu) came to the conference as invited guests.

After all the enriching conversations and heated debates, attendees were able to set aside their thinking hats and have some fun at the award ceremony and after party.

Kudos to the ALA governing body, Professor Newell, and her team for pulling all the stops to make the 2017 edition of the conference one to remember.

Take a look at some of the best pics from the event. For more coverage of the events, check out the official twitter page for the conference @ALAYale2017, use the #alayale2017 hashtag on Instagram, and visit the conference Flickr Page.

[All the images except a few sourced from Twitter are here by the permission of The MacMillan Center at Yale. Photographer: Mara Levitt]











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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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