James Baldwin’s Ambivalent Encounters with Africa
Andrew W. Mellon Lecture in the Humanities
Speaker: Laila Amine, Associate Professor of English, University of Wisconsin-Madison
For many scholars of the African diaspora, the genre of travel writing represents a worldview largely informed by Western conquest and colonization. In this talk, Laila Amine critically assesses American writer James Baldwin’s encounters with West Africans and North Africans—described in essays he wrote between 1950 and 1972—to challenge a longstanding presumption: that Black writers in the US and Europe transcended the limits of travel-writing in order to stand in opposition to colonialist concepts of modernity. Not so with Baldwin, Amine argues, contending that his African essays demonstrate how his own travel and self-imposed exile implicate dislocated subjects in complex networks of power. In so doing, they are as likely to reassert Europe’s colonial and racial logics as to challenge them.
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