Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Meditating Migration. Meta/Textualities in Transcultural African Narratives Berlin 7.-9.7.2013

Colloquium: Humboldt-Universität Berlin, Université Cheikh Anta Diop Dakar and University of Stellenbosch

Design/Layout: Marianna Wegner, contact:


Convenors: Ibrahima Diagne, Susanne Gehrmann, Tina Steiner

Key-note speakers: Abdulrazak Gurnah, Fatou Diome

Artistic contribution: Mansour Ciss


Transcultural African literatures and films have predominantly been studied within their social contexts of displacement, migration, and Diaspora. Whilst these are still relevant categories, this colloquium seeks to privilege the singularity of migrant texts over context and overarching cultural paradigms. Rather than interpreting literary narratives and films of African migrants for their ideological effects, we encourage a focus on their creativity, their intrinsic and textually complex structures. Therefore, the approach of this colloquium shifts to analyses of literary tropes and aesthetic choices to represent mobility, hybridity and identity formations. Transcultural experiences provide not only unique insight into social and cultural tensions but also generate specific textualities and offer opportunities for creative aesthetic expression. Textually or medially constructed discourses in the context of migration involve different strategies of switching, sampling, fluctuating and collating. Migrant writers and filmmakers adopt transcultural and translinguistic strategies in order to accommodate several cultural systems and communities in which their aesthetic products are received. What are the aesthetic moves through which narratives express the experience of migration? How can we define migrant aesthetics? How do these aesthetics manifest themselves in different narrative genres such as prose and poetry, film and theatre?

Following Genette’s pattern of manifold textualities of a text (namely intertextuality, paratextuality, metatextuality, hypertextuality, and architextuality – a model that can also be challenged or expanded), we are particularly interested in the dimension of the text as a network of different layers which constitute it as a complex sign of interconnected meanings. Narrative strategies in texts of migration inside Africa or between Africa and other continents often include an autoreflexive, metatextual level which signifies that i.e. novels or films contain a meditation on their own meaning. How does the metatextual dimension of the text affect its other textualities?  What effects does it involve and how does its structure the reception? In what way does meditation as a writing mode which ruptures spatial and temporal action add new dimensions to migrant stories, within or beyond political claims? By recalling the theoretical implications and questions raised by models of textualities – which might significantly reinvigorate the critical reflection about the originality of migrant narrative production – we would like to invite participants in this colloquium to pay particular attention to different formal practices of African transcultural writing and filming. By focusing on migrant meditations we want to highlight compositional structures in narratives that inform the ways transculturality is creatively conceived and expressed in African migrant literatures and arts.


This Call for Paper is closed.


The report on the conference


The abstracts of Panel Speakers/ Les résumés des communications en atelier


How to arrive/ Trouver votre chemin


The programme of the colloquium


The Conference will take place at:

Invalidenstraße 118, 10115 Berlin, Room 315


Contacts (Tina Steiner) (Ibrahima Diagne)