Storytelling and Social Order in Africa Workshop

Convenors: Jocelyn Alexander and Dan Hodgkinson

This workshop considers how the study of storytelling expands our understanding of social orders in Africa. The study of political narratives has long enriched our understanding of how elites seek to maintain and contest state power - yet stories do much more than that. Storytelling is a universal practice that can invoke moral frameworks and constitute agency for those who face oppression and persecution. It has powerful political effects in the intersubjective realms where community is made, and in public fora where truth claims and demands for recognition are asserted. These contexts interact in creative and disruptive ways. The papers presented in this workshop consider storytellers across a broad spectrum, analysing the sites and circumstances in which stories gain efficacy; the discourses and conventions that storytellers draw upon; and the politics of reception and retelling.

9-9:15 Registration and coffee

9:15-11:15 Political storytelling

Lena Reim, ‘Gukurahundi Continued: Negotiating past political violence amongst political youth activists in Matabeleland’

Danielle del Vicario, ‘John Garang’s ghost: Telling transnational stories of a past and possible “New Sudan’’’

Susanne Verheul, ‘Paying Respect or Playing to the Gallery? Truth, Justice, and Performative Politics in the Commission of Inquiry into Zimbabwe’s Post-Election Violence of 1 August 2018’

Discussant: Miles Tendi

11:15-11:45 Coffee

11:45-1:15 Growing up and social navigation

Catherine Namwezi, ‘“Educated Identities” and “Market Identities”: Life stories from a Ugandan informal market’

Johanna Wetzel, ‘Telling the Bairro: Politics and social navigation among Mozambican youth’

Discussant: Simukai Chigudu

1:15-2:30 Lunch

2:30-4:30 War as story

Marc Howard, ‘Soldiers of Misfortune: Coloured Rhodesian Army Veterans’

Kristina Pikovskaia, ‘The Narratives of Soviet Civilians in the Angolan Civil War’

Myfanwy James, ‘From Rebel to Humanitarian: Redemption, pragmatism and sense-making in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’

Discussant: Dan Hodgkinson

4:30-5:00 Coffee

5:00-6:00 Keynote Speaker: Astrid Rasch (Dept of Languages and Literature, NTNU), ‘Storied orders/Ordered stories: Life writing and power’

Chair: Jocelyn Alexander

14 Mar
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