University of California, Davis
I am a professor in the African American and African Studies program at the University of California, Davis. My background is in literature, and my PhD is in French. I first taught at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria before moving briefly to Côte d’Ivoire. After a postdoctoral fellowship with the University of Bordeaux in France, I also taught at the University of Botswana, and subsequently relocated to the University of California, where I have been since 1997. As a scholar trained in Nigeria, and whose early career was on the continent, I knew little about the ASA until I began teaching at Davis. I recount my own trajectory here to make a point. While the ASA appears to be reasonably well known to graduate students working on Africa in the social sciences and allied disciplines, graduate students in the humanities, particularly those in literature, and perhaps film studies, may be less familiar with the ASA, unless they happen to be at universities with a well-endowed African studies program. This speaks both to the frequently decried disjuncture between scholars on the continent and scholars in the global north, as well as to the difficulty of fostering interdisciplinary humanities scholarship from the continent and beyond.
Given my background, my early publications were necessarily literary and discipline-bound including my first book, JJ Rabearivelo, Literature and Lingua Franca in Colonial Madagascar (1996). It was in attending ASA conferences that I first ventured tentatively beyond the walls of literature, and began to think of exploring literature in the light of other and especially popular forms of cultural production. As an application of debates about literature to the realm of popular culture, my second book, Vernacular Palaver: Imaginations of the Local and Non-Native Languages in West Africa (2004), revealed how much I had benefitted from joining the ASA. I have since published several articles on West African popular culture, and in particular Nigerian commercial film, but also Malian rap music. I continue to find the ASA a useful forum for pursing my current work on the intersection between new media, performance, and everyday life in West Africa, and for thinking broadly about connecting my discipline with other disciplines in producing scholarship about Africa.
Thus far, I have been most active in the associations related to my discipline, notably the African Literature Association where I have served on the executive, and more recently in the African literature division of the Modern Language Association of America. I would be most honored to serve on the board of an association that has contributed so much to my own intellectual development. I am committed to many of the same goals as current and past members of the board, though I bring to the task the experience of someone with extensive teaching experience in different African countries. If I am elected and opportunity permits, I would like to see the ASA exploring paths for promoting greater dialogue and interaction between humanities scholars doing interdisciplinary work in and outside Africa.