2018-19 Research News

Our faculty are research specialists in African languages and the literatures and cultures expressed in those languages. Our students train in literary studies, critical applied linguistics, and cultural studies. Below are examples of what we’ve been working on during the most recently completed academic year. Past years can be found here.

Faculty Research News

(jump down to student research news)

Vlad DimaVlad Dima‘s second book, tentatively titled “The Beautiful Skin: Fantasy, Football, and Body in African Film” is forthcoming with the Michigan State University Press. By relying on the metaphor of skin, the project investigates how football and cinema express individual and collective fantasies in Africa, and highlights where the two—football and cinema—converge and diverge with regard to neocolonial fantasies. Part 1, The Beautiful Fantasy, looks at fantasy as a type of skin; Part 2, The Beautiful Game, considers the possibility of football jerseys as another sort of skin; finally, Part 3, The Beautiful Skin, splits the body in three—as visual, aural, and haptic—in order to posit that film itself has a skin.

In the past year, Vlad Dima has also published two book chapters, three peer-reviewed essays, and one online piece, as follows: “The (Aural) Life of Neo-colonial Space” in A Companion to African cinema (eds. Kenneth Harrow and Carmela Garritano); “Il panottico acusmatica di Mambéty” (Mambety’s Acousmatic Panopticon), in Mambety o il viaggio della iena. La rivoluzione cinematografica di un visionario regista Senegalese. (eds. Simona Cella and Cinzia Quadrati); “Waiting for (African) Cinema: Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s Quest,” in African Studies Review; “From Visual Place to Aural Space: The Films of Mahamat-Saleh Haroun,” in the Journal of the African Literature Association; “Truth or Dare: Iñárritu’s Birdman and Jean-Luc Godard,” in Film International; “Holding On: Mission: Impossible and the Myth of the Perfect Man,” in the Bright Lights Journal. Finally, Vlad Dima also has a forthcoming peer-reviewed essay in the Canadian Journal of Film Studies, titled “Port of Shadows: Absence and Love.”

Nevine ElNosseryNevine El Nossery received a Vilas Associates Award,  which “recognizes new and on-going research of the highest quality and significance” for 2019-2021. The award will enable her to continue work on her next book project, tentatively entitled Archiving Defiance: Women, Art, and Revolution. Her main contention in this study is that the Arab Uprisings constituted a powerful catalyst for women artists to enter the political realm and to develop new approaches to mobilizing knowledge and creativity, which they increasingly use as social tools to inform and shape institutions, politics, and culture. El Nossery has two forthcoming publications: a book chapter “Poésie-danger or the Pleasure of Contestation in Assia Djebar’s Far from Madina,” in Voices of Freedom from Asia and the Middle East, SUNY Press (2020) and an article La folie et la mort de Ken Bugul ou l’écriture du débordement” in L’Érudit franco-espagnol (2019). El Nossery is currently co-editing a special issue for JALA (Journal of the African Literature Association): “Egypt in Focus: Creativity in Adversarial Contexts” and co-organizing an international conference on “Refugees in/from the Middle East: Policy Implications, Education, and Art representations” (March 6-7, 2020).

Luis MadureiraLuis Madureira reports, “Aside from proceeding with work on a project on Mozambican theatre, I have completed a representative sample of translations (from Portuguese into English) of early 16th-century Letters of the Kings of Kongo to the Portuguese Crown. This projected collection of the translated correspondence, spanning three centuries, between the Bakongo Kings and Portugal’s Monarchs is currently under consideration by an academic press. In addition, I gave two invited lectures on Luso-African historical fiction at Queen’s University-Belfast and University of Oxford (St. Peter’s College) in October 2018 and March 2019, respectively. I have completed and submitted an article on Brazilian Antropofagia (“The ‘Cannibal Cogito’ and Brazilian Antropofagia: Radical Heterogeneity, Or, ‘Family Resemblance’?”), to be published in a forthcoming Companion for Colonial Latin American and Caribbean Studies (1492-1898) (Taylor and Francis). In the ambit of “service to the profession,” I have also finished and submitted a commissioned piece tentatively titled, “How to Be an Effective Peer Reviewer,” for The MLA Guide to Scholarly Communication. Finally, my article, “Chronicles from the Vulture Kingdom: The Post-Colonial State in Question in Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa’s Historical Fiction,” will be coming out in the next issue (50.1) of Research in African Literatures.

Reginold Royston  is currently working on a book manuscript about Ghana’s tech startups, diaspora social media and development projects in the homeland. In April, his co-authored chapter on Twitter in Africa, appeared in the book #Identity: Hashtagging Race, Gender, Sexuality and Nation. Written with Krystal Strong (UPenn), the book chapter examines key moments for African Twitter during the maturing of the platform. It demonstrates ways that Twitter has been “Reterritorialized” on the continent, and lays the groundwork for future research examining Africa’s diverse social mediascape. In the last year, Prof. Royston has also presented work on digitality and orality at Rutgers, Michigan, and Howard University. He writes about podcasting among Africans in diaspora.


Katrina Daly ThompsonKatrina Daly Thompson wrapped up her Popobawa research with a roundtable on the book at the African Studies Association annual meeting, where she also presented new work on “Queering Swahili-as-a-Foreign-Language Instruction.”

Thompson used the first year of her two-year Vilas Associates Award to continue work on her third book project, Progressive Muslims through Discourse. She presented preliminary findings at a workshop on Muslim Women’s Religious Leadership and Authority in Europe and North America at the University of Edinburgh in September, at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in San Jose in November, and in an invited talk at the University of Kentucky in April. In June she will return to the field in Toronto to spend time with one of the progressive Muslim groups with which she is conducting ethnographic research.

Thompson’s article, “When I Was a Swahili Woman: The Possibilities and Perils of ‘Going Native’ in a Culture of Secrecy” appeared in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.

Student Research News

The entry to the High Commission of the Republic of Rwanda in Canada’s 25th Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi at the Canadian War Museum. Photo by Kathryn Mara.

In summer 2018, doctoral candidate Kathryn Mara passed her preliminary exams and defended her dissertation proposal. Since then, she has been doing research for and writing her dissertation on commemorative and discursive practices surrounding the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. Her fieldwork among the Rwandan community of Toronto has been facilitated, in part, by a Graduate School International Research Travel Award and a Mellon Foundation Area and International Studies Fellowship for Incoming Graduate Students.

Kathryn also presented her paper, “#BurundiCrisis: Social Media, Story-Telling, and Political Performanitvity,” at the 61stAnnual meeting of the African Studies Association in Atlanta, as a revised version of a paper she wrote in Dr. Schatzberg’s course on African Political Thought. While at ASA, she served as lead participant for the organization’s podcast, ASAPOD, where she was given the opportunity to interview many ASA members and think of new and innovative ways to present research.

She wrote two book reviews, one on Gĩchingiri Ndĩgĩrĩgĩ’s Unmasking the African Dictator: Essays on Postcolonial African Literature and the other on Susan Thomson’s Rwanda: From Genocide to Precarious Peace, which are forthcoming from Research in African Literatures and Africa Today! respectively.

Finally, she served as a research assistant for Dr. Katrina Daly Thompson’s project on the language practices of progressive Muslims. And she was part of the Kohler Fellows, an interdisciplinary group of advanced graduate students housed at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery, with whom she considered ways of making research more accessible to multiple publics, which culminated in a presentation, with her colleagues, at the Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference, called “Artifice and Expertise: What Place for Public Engagement in the Academy?”

Kimathi Muthee’s MA qualifying paper (passed Spring 2019) analyzed the use of language in Ken Walibora’s Kidagaa Kimemwozea, a Swahili novel that has been used in the teaching of Swahili Literature in Kenya since its publication in 2012. The research critically examined the novel’s depiction of gender relations through a close analysis of both the novel’s characters’ and narrator’s employment of discourse. It revealed both enforcement of normative patriarchal views and propensities and their disruption. The research posed some provocations and hopefully provides answers: Is the novel a mere, innocent portrayal of society? Can literature that is seemingly equivocal in approach to gender power asymmetry contribute to gender parity? If not, how should the academy deal with its teaching at basic education institutions?