What Do you need !?

Decolonial letters

A trivial fact about colonial infrastructure in Africa: most colonial railroads led to the sea. This unilateral and unidirectional organization of rail system unveils one of the central aims of colonial rule, that is, to drain inland resources and ship them to the metropole. Thus, it appears that the railroad was not designed to cross existing precolonial points of contact between communities; it was never meant to connect African urbs and their population; rather, many urban centers developed around or even emerged from the railroad. One could even argue that the aim of colonialism or at least its motive was to severe preexisting geographic, historic, and social connections between African communities. As a result, crops were homogenized, maps were redrawn, and languages were imposed. Mobility and communications, perceived as threat to the oppressive apparatus of colonialism were controlled and curtailed by curfews, laissez-passers, segregation taxes, indigénat, etc. Disconnected from one another, sedentarized by force, local intellectuals often reverted overtly or stealthily to letters for personal communication, documentation and record-keeping, emotional and psychological support, intellectual exchange, etc. Letters also served as a means of planning collective actions to subvert rigid colonial borders and rules. This panel looks at the role and different uses of letters in the colonial or post-colonial context. Taken in the broadest sense possible – correspondence, letters of petition, diaries, prison letters, literature, etc. – how can letters (re)shape our understanding of the African or Caribbean (post)colonial context, and of personal and collective strategies to make sense of it and/or subvert it? What perspectives do letters open about centuries-long contacts and exchanges between Africa and the rest of the world, especially other former colonies across the Atlantic? To what extent do letters contradict or confirm existing sociological, historical, and literary (post)colonial discourses?

Please email 200/300-word abstract to manfa.sanogo@kzoo.edu or mkenfack9@gmail.com by March 10th, 2024.