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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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The Activities of the Postdoc Working Group “Shakespearean Pasts, African Futurities: Entanglements of Memory, Temporalities and Knowledge(s)”


The Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence is promoting working formats for postdoctoral researchers and advanced doctoral candidates by inviting working groups to do research on a specific topic within the Cluster setting. Lasting for one term, the working groups may nominate fellows and integrate those already present in the Cluster into their project. During the academic semester 2020/21, one of the postdoc working groups scrutinized Shakespeare’s works from an African point of view.

“Literary afterlives” are constituted by complex interactions between glocal processes, media, factors, and subjectivities and they take the form of different modes of rewritings and (re)appropriations that enable past stories and texts to continue to live on in different cultural, political and temporal contexts. The working group critically and comprehensively examined these transcultural, trans-political and transtemporal (re)appropriations within the context of Shakespeare and Africa in regular group discussions, two public lectures, and a final workshop. The working group’s activities focused on issues of memory, literary transmission, translation/adaptation, temporality, (post)colonialism and intersectionality. It was convened by Ifeoluwa Aboluwade (University of Bayreuth), Serena Talento (University of Bayreuth), Pepetual Chiangong (Humboldt University Berlin) and Oliver Nyambi (University of the Free State South Africa/University of Bayreuth).

On Shakespeare, Text Transmission and Temporality

The public activities of the working group kicked off with two fascinating lectures and interactive Q & A sessions by our internal guest fellows, Prof Michael Steppat and Prof. Florian Klaeger. Prof. Prof Steppat’s lecture probed the politics and problematics inherent in the creation and transmission of literary texts through time, starting with the category of textuality itself. He underscored the salient point that it is “dynamic social relations” that “sustain authors through their future life in society”.

Tackling the subject of futurity and authorship from another angle, Prof. Klaeger’s lecture delved into an exploration of early modern English ideas of temporality in various contexts. He examined how the subject of time was negotiated and addressed by Shakespeare in his dramatic and poetic works. He further explicated Shakespeare’s ambivalent role as a canonical author and a global cultural icon.

Workshop “Shakespeare and Africa: Literary Entanglements Across Space and Time”

The final workshop of the working group took place on the 19th and 20th February 2020 and it featured diverse contributions by keynote speakers, guest fellows, and the conveners of the working group. It was a rich and intellectually stimulating two days at the University of Bayreuth as participants interrogated and explored the multifaceted nature of the literary interrelationship between Africa and Shakespeare. The workshop opened on the first day with an address by the Cluster’s Vice Dean of Digital Solutions, Prof. Cyrus Samimi. The first keynote lecture by Prof. Sandra Young examined the racialization of Africa in contemporary Shakespeare adaptations, interrogating the viability of Shakespeare in addressing issues of race and racial inequalities without further entrenching essentialist racial categories. The second keynote lecture by Prof. Jane Plastow scrutinized the implications of Shakespeare as a cultural icon on the African literary scene. She urged us to reflexively (re)examine the relevance of Shakespeare for the African educational context.

Other contributions during the 2-day workshop examined the hermeneutic relevance of Ifa epistemology within the framework of a Nigerian adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The different ideologies and strategies underpinning Swahili translations of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice as well as the deployment of the figure of the Shakespearean fool and Bhaktin’s notion of the carnivalesque in Kenyan comedies as a potent means of subverting hegemonic discourses were also explored. Further presentations by participants explored temporal assessments of the vital ways that African and African Diasporic adaptations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest speak to past, present, and postcolonial futures and the influences of Shakespeare’s political plays on practices and conceptions of power in the Zimbabwean political context.

Extended versions of papers presented during the workshop will be published in a peer-reviewed edited book volume.

The Finale: Rehearsed Reading of Wesoo Hamlet at Iwalewahaus

The 2-day workshop concluded with a public rehearsed reading of renowned Nigerian playwright Femi Osofisan’s Wesoo Hamlet by the award-winning South African Theatreduo, Billy Langa and Mahlatsi Mokgonyana, and the highly talented student volunteers Joyce Abla Sango, Phoebe Hemsley, Annetta Kopas and Patrick Onuh. The rehearsed reading and subsequent discussions were moderated by Christine Matzke.

Workshop participants

  • Sanda Young
  • Jane Plastow
  • Lekan Balogun
  • Sam Ndogo
  • Pepetual Chiangong
  • Serena Talento
  • Oliver Nyambi
  • Ifeoluwa Aboluwade
  • Gilbert Ndi Shang
  • Christine Matzke
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