Fall 2010 Africa at Noon Events

Wednesday 8 September 2010
How to Uncover Africa’s Remote Past as Shown by Three Spectacular New Discoveries
Jan Vansina
Professor Emeritus
Departments of History and Anthropology
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Vansina will explore the ways in which scholars uncover Africa’s remote past using three recent discoveries of major significance as an example: the cases are (a) dating the start of the expansion of western Bantu speakers for certain to ca 400 BCE (b) Trade between West Africa and the Roman Empire during the second/third century CE and (c) the discovery of a whole buried settlement (a Pompei) circa 1000 AD in Burkina Faso. The conclusion will highlight the essential role of chronology for grasping the significance of each case.

Wednesday 15 September 2010
The Challenges of Creating Inclusive, Democratic City-regions in Post-Apartheid South Africa
David Everatt
Professor and Executive Director
Gauteng City-Region Observatory

With the biggest economy in Africa and a population of 13 million people, the Gauteng City-Region—including the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane (formerly Pretoria) and Ekurhuleni (Germiston), as well as 14 local municipalities covering segments of five provinces—is the economic and political powerhouse of South and southern Africa. Yet it has to be crafted out of the racially-based inequalities of apartheid, and work with the people who lived through the violence of apartheid and that which attended the transition to democracy. This input sketches the parameters of the challenge, from governance to poverty and inequality to well-being and quality of life in this new spatial area in South Africa.

Wednesday 22 September 2010
Doing Things with Words in Prison Poetry
Kennedy Waliaula
Assistant Professor
Department of African Languages and Literature
University of Wisconsin-Madison

In 1969 during the Jomo Kenyatta regime in Kenya, militant poet Abdilatif Abdalla was convicted of sedition and jailed for three years. He wrote his anthology of Swahili poems, Sauti ya Dhiki (Voice of Agony), while incarcerated. Following philosopher J.L. Austin’s idea of “doing things with words,” Waliaula reveals how poetic words in the hands of a wordsmith can do any number of things. More specifically Waliaula examines the incarcerated poet’s attempt to make sense of his incarceration, to remake his shattered world, and to deconstruct and disrupt Kenyatta’s tyranny.

Wednesday 29 September 2010
Transfrontier wildlife conservation and a century of uneasy coexistence between people and large carnivores in Uganda and D. R. Congo
Adrian Treves
Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Director of the Carnivore Coexistence Lab

Historical archives present evidence for a century of exploitation and persecution of lions, leopards, and other large carnivores in Uganda. The complex of protected areas spanning its western frontier with D.R. Congo has saved some wildlife during the last fifty years of armed conflict between peoples. But the current conservation status of this region of mega-biodiversity remains uncertain and precarious. Large carnivores exemplify the challenges faced for biodiversity conservation.

Wednesday 6 October 2010
African and African-American Continuities: Spatiotemporal Imagery in Language Use
Clifford Hill
Arthur I. Gates Professor of Language and Education Emeritus
Teachers College, Columbia University

The presentation focuses on spatiotemporal imagery used by speakers of indigenous languages in the Western Sahel that differs from the dominant imagery used by speakers of Western languages. Using a naturalistic experimental method, our research team was able to document a dominant use of this imagery across a number of languages in Niger, Nigeria, and Chad. When the research shifted to the Western hemisphere, we were able to document a dominant use of this imagery among African Americans who are not well integrated into mainstream society. The presentation explores various factors that have played a crucial role in the ethnocultural transmission of spatiotemporal imagery in the absence of a stable language.

Wednesday 13 October 2010
Dolly and Deadwood Go to Malawi: Piracy, Happenstance, and Other Forms of Media Circulation
Jonathan Gray
Associate Professor, Media and Cultural Studies
Department of Communication Arts
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Malawi is full of American media content — 50 Cent, Desperate Housewives, Tom Cruise, etc. — but the American multinational media corporations behind such media have very little official business presence there. This talk will discuss what foreign media is in Malawi, and will examine the various ways in which it gets there, further asking how this might complicate existing models of global media flow. What does it mean, in other words, when Brad Pitt is in Zomba, not by way of the MPAA, but by way of intermediaries in Beijing and Johannesburg?

Wednesday 20 October 2010
Inconvenient Truths: The Hidden Histories of African Lisbon during the Era of the Slave Trade
James Sweet
Associate Professor
Department of History
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Since the 1990s, Portugal has begun to recognize itself as a multi-cultural, multi-racial country, the pace quickened by immigration from former African colonial holdings, North Africa, and more recently, West Africa. Yet, in the historical consciousness of the country, there is a collective amnesia about its diverse, often exploitative, past. Imperial history has largely been reduced to Portugal’s glorious era of “discoveries,” on the one hand, and “things that happened in the colonies,” on the other, as if the metropole remained hermetically sealed from the human influences of the colonies. Sweet will provide a brief overview of potential avenues and possibilities for studying African life in Portugal in the eighteenth century.

Presented in partnership with the African Diaspora and the Atlantic World Research Circle and co-sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for European Studies.

Wednesday 27 October 2010
Women, Narrative Traditions and African Religious Thought
Anthonia Kalu
Department of African American and African Studies
Ohio State University

Anthonia Kalu examines African literature for the illumination it provides on traditional African religious thought about the location and role of the African woman in society.

Wednesday 3 November 2010
Women’s issues, Male voices: “Gender Bending” in Congolese Popular Music
John Nimis
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Humanities and Department of French and Italian
University of Wisconsin-Madison

This talk will focus on one aspect of the vast repertoire of Congolese popular music: the large number of songs which are sung by men, but represent a female perspective. Through close “readings” of several specific songs, we will look at the ways gender roles and relationships are imagined in the “world” constructed within Congolese popular music.

Wednesday 10 November 2010
Snakes and Shifta: Violence and Modernity in Mid-Twentieth Century Kenya
Sean Bloch
Graduate student and 2010 Jordan Prize Winner
Department of History
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Western perceptions of violence in the developing world frequently focus on opportunist “pirates,” who exploit iniquity in the vain pursuit of power. A pirate in the “modern” world is an absurdity and an impediment to progress, one that comfortably effaces terms like “Shifta” which are rooted in regional history. Bloch’s research seeks to place Shifta in their proper historical context, destabilizing the timeless bandit imagery associated with the peoples of the NEP. He will explore idioms of peasant politics and history as they relate to violence.

Wednesday, November 17:
No AFRICA AT NOON (ASA Conference)

Wednesday, November 24:
No AFRICA AT NOON (Thanksgiving Holiday)

Wednesday 1 December 2010
Uganda’s Education Reforms: Issues and Challenges of Universal Primary Education
Leah Sikoyo
School of Education,
Makerere University, Uganda
Fulbright African Visiting Scholar
Department of Curriculum & Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Ugandan government implemented the Universal Primary Education (UPE) program in 1997, fulfilling a 1996 presidential campaign pledge by President Yoweri Museveni. Of all the education reforms being implemented in Uganda, none has transformed the education landscape and attracted attention like UPE. This presentation will highlight the salient issues and challenges of implementing UPE in Uganda.