Letter from Luís Madureira: Incoming African Studies Program Faculty Director

Dear colleagues, 

Looking to next Fall, I am honored and thrilled to welcome you to the 2021/2022 academic year as the new Director of the African Studies Program. My name is Luís Madureira. I am a professor in the Department of African Cultural Studies, and I have been a member of the African Studies program since I joined UW-Madison almost three decades ago. 

ASP was founded exactly 60 years ago by Phillip Curtin and Jan Vansina—two historians whose prolific scholarly production has contributed indelibly to our understanding of Africa’s past and present. Most recently, Nancy Kendall and Neil Kodesh have served as Directors, and am profoundly grateful for their farsightedness and exceptional leadership of the Program. With admirable poise and sagacity, both Neil and Nancy successfully shepherded and solidified UW-Madison’s African Studies Program through major challenges, including reductions in federal support for area studies, a devastating pandemic and the rise of a global movement against systemic racism, anti-Blackness and state-sanctioned violence. Five years ago, Neil extended his directorship to train a newly hired Associate Director, and guided the African Studies Program through a challenging transition. This spring, he generously stepped forward as interim directorLast yearNancy went beyond verbally endorsing calls to dismantle the White supremacist foundations of U.S. national identity and undertook concrete steps toward committing ASP to transform our own program and develop new partnerships that we trust will enable us to contribute to positive transformation of the Madison community and the field of African Studies.  

Thanks to their efforts, and the work of our exceptional Associate Director, Aleia McCord, the UW-Madison African Studies Program has been selected to receive funding under the Title VI National Resource Centers (NRC) Program and the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships Program from the U.S. Department of Education. These funds are awarded competitively to area studies programs around the country once every four years. Title VI support will be leveraged to expand the reach of our influence by sharing our African studies resources with the wider community, nation, and world; and to create innovative, cross-disciplinary area studies training that prepares our students. 

The African Studies Program has a long tradition of securing this important source of support for area studies and language instruction. Our center first became a federally supported African language and area studies center in 1964 under the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) program, the precursor to today’s International and Foreign Language Programs within the Department of Education. African Studies has received support every year since that time. This year marks the 16th time that UW-Madison African Studies has been awarded Title VI funds, and in 2019-20, African studies received the largest Title VI grant on campus. 

The Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships program provides academic year and summer fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students to support African language learning and the development of area studies expertise. The African Studies Program awards 15-20 such fellowships each year, helping students study over 15 least commonly taught African languages including Luganda, Makua, Xhosa, Kinyarwanda, Wolof, and Yoruba, among others. As a National Resource Center (NRC), the African Studies Program has a federal mandate to support African language and area studies education on campus and in the wider community. FLAS Funds will be used to support African language instruction at UW-Madison, for high-quality public programming including our Africa at Noon seminar series, and to continue our successful outreach efforts. Each year our outreach programs reach over 8,000 people, bringing a little bit of Africa to K-12 classrooms and public spaces across the state of Wisconsin. I am especialllooking forward to strengthening the collaboration between African Studies and CALS, the School of Education, the School of Human Ecology, and the School of Medicine and Public Health to reach even more colleagues across campus and more teachers and students throughout the state. 

 Luís Madureira is professor of African Cultural Studies. His research interests include colonial and postcolonial studies, Modernism and Modernity in AfricaLatin America and the Caribbean, and theatre and performance in Africa. He has published two booksCannibal ModernitiesPostcoloniality and the Avant-garde in Brazilian and Caribbean Literature (2005) and Imaginary Geographies in Portuguese and Lusophone African Literature: Narratives of Discovery and Empire (2007), and several articles and book chapters on these and related topics. He is currently working on a monograph that explores the complex ways in which Mozambican drama (ranging from the Marxist-Leninist republic to neoliberal, multiparty democracy) negotiates and re-articulates ethnic, class and gender identities both against and alongside dominant nationalist ideologies. He has recently completed translating the collected correspondence between Afonso I Mvemba a Nzinga (1460-1542), ruler of the Kingdom of Kongo from 1509 to 1542, and two Portuguese monarchs, which is set to appear in print in the near futureMadureira is also interested in examining Luso-African historical fiction and studying the entanglements inherent to the adoption of a classical European genre buttressed by the very notions of cultural difference, gendered subjectivity and teleological time that postcolonial reinterpretations of the past ostensibly seek to interrogate.