October 12, 3:30 pm

Online Via Zoom

Theme: Eastern African Literatures in the 21st Century: Achievements, Challenges, Perspectives


Online Via Zoom

The Department of Literature,  University of Nairobi will hold the 3rd annual international conference on a wide scope of research and innovation undertaken recently at the University with the aim of bringing together global researchers to exchange ideas on various topics of interest.

Due to the current corona virus pandemic, we will this year hold our conference virtually, and participants will for the first time interact virtually. The university of Nairobi is therefore making all the necessary arrangements to make this conference deliver a unique experience to the participants.

Since the late 1990s, eastern Africa has encountered many socio-political and cultural changes that have radically reconfigured the nature, form, and trajectories of literatures of the region. For instance, the widespread uptake of social media technologies and cultures has engendered new ways of textual circulation and readerships; emerging youth cultures of the millennial generation have yielded a vibrant creative industry that relies on urban forms of verbal and a growing Afropolitan sensibility. Popular urban youth forms of expression, a growing film industry, stand-up comedies, and literary festivals have grown exponentially. At the same time, collaborative relations between literary figures within the region with their counterparts in other parts of Africa have inaugurated inter-regional dialogues that, while previously present, were only occasional.

These dialogues have, since 2013, been structured around four critical developments. One is the now regular conferences of growing number and variety on Eastern African literatures and related issues, which in turn leveraged on the existing networks of travelling intellectuals from eastern Africa to other parts of the world for technical and infrastructural support in launching a tradition of conversations on the nature of literatures and cultures of the region and its echoes elsewhere in the world.

The second development relates to the emergence of numerous formal and informal sites of literary and cultural knowledge production, consumption, and criticism. These include, among others, the normalization of pavement book shops, the spread of digital books, along with other vehicles of expression for aspiring creative persons such as the well-known Kwani? and Storymoja projects.

Third, there seems to be a resurgence of theatrical performances in the broadest sense, including traditional theatre, social dramas performed in leisure and political spaces, as well as the highly popular stand-up comedy that is usually beamed on mainstream television channels.

A fourth, yet perhaps the most important development, has been the recent growth and spread of Kiswahili language in the wider eastern Africa. The adoption of Kiswahili as a working language of the African Union has also had implications on the uptake of the language, and by extension its literatures, in the rest of the continent and beyond.

All these developments, singularly and cumulatively, have tended to impact on literary orthodoxies associated with genre, style, and themes that were characteristic of the eastern Africa of earlier times.

Against this background, and in the context of a stabilizing federation of the East African Community that is aspiring to not only include the countries in the Great Lakes region, but potentially of the Horn of Africa as well, the Department of Literature, University of Nairobi, invites abstracts for the 3rd Annual Conference whose theme is: Eastern African Literatures in the 21st Century: Achievements, Challenges, Perspectives.

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