Last week, four department graduate students (from left to right as pictured: David isiche, Kathryn Mara, Adeola Agoke, and Kevin Wamalwa) traveled to Washington DC to attend the annual meeting of the African Studies Association for the first time, where they took part in a panel thye helped organize, “Imagining African Cultural Studies through Literary Ethnography” Uniting three of this year’s conference themes—imagining Africa, scholarship, and representation—this panel emerged from a graduate-level methods seminar Dr. Katrina Daly Thompson taught last year. The panelists presented and analyzed “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 explored theories and examples of autoethnographies, autobiographies, ethnographic fiction, poetry, drama, and literary ethnographies. Important themes included language, voice, dialogic research, transcription, and translation. The main argument of the panel was 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 meets Thompson’s (and the panelists’) goal of introducing blurred genres to the African Studies Association annual meeting and to the interdisciplinary field of African cultural studies.
Kathryn Mara reported that the panel was a great success!