Imagining African Cultural Studies through Literary Ethnography
Panelists: Adeola Agoke, David Isiche, Kathryn Mara, and Kevin Wamalwa
This week’s Graduate Student Collloquium features four students participating in a panel discussion titled, “Imagining African Cultural Studies through Literary Ethnography” in preparation for a panel of the same name at the upcoming meeting of the African Studies Association. Uniting three of this year’s conference themes—imagining Africa, scholarship, and representation—this panel emerges from a graduate-level methods seminar Dr. Katrina Daly Thompson taught last year. The panelists will present and analyze “new ethnographies”- what H. L. Goodall (2000) calls an “emerging, alternative style of qualitative writing” that “combines the personal and the professional, … work that may be rendered as a story …, or an account that derives rhetorical force from blurring or blending of literary genres.” Taking a discourse-centered approach to culture and to writing as a form of qualitative analysis, the panel explores theories and examples of autoethnographies, autobiographies, ethnographic fiction, poetry, drama, and literary ethnographies. Important themes include language, voice, dialogic research, transcription, and translation. The main argument of the panel is that literary ethnography is a fruitful and necessary approach to critically engaged scholarship that aims to represent the full humanity of both researcher and researched. Bringing together Dr. Thompson’s students who are critically engaged in new forms of ethnographic writing will better meet her (and the panelists’) goal of introducing blurred genres to the African Studies Association annual meeting and to the interdisciplinary field of African cultural studies.