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

22.05. Afrikakolloquium: Literature and Human Rights Law in Africa

Prof. Dr. Peter Wasamba (University of Nairobi)
Wann 22.05.2019 von 16:15 bis 17:45 (Europe/Berlin / UTC200) iCal
Wo IAAW, Invalidenstr. 118, Raum 410
Kontaktname Dr. Lutz Diegner

Literature and Human Rights Law in Africa


This paper examines the role of Literature in decolonizing human rights law in Africa. Legal systems imposed by colonial regimes in Africa have contributed to the detachment of the law from the masses it serves. Literature and law are disciplinary siblings that employ language in in unique ways.  The two disciplines also share vision for a society in which fundamental freedoms and rights of all are protected. Literature, though close to law, has never been a serious field for legal minds. Similarly, literary scholars fearing ‘disciplinary trespass’ have been hesitant to discuss how literature enriches and communicates legal doctrines.  The paper contends that creative writers are also legal minds. They do not just imagine possibilities for a just society; they create critical consciousness, an imperative for culturally informed change in oppressive laws in society. Texts such as Sophocles Antigone, Shakespeare’s Othello and Achebe’s Arrow of God, and Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Detained, reveal that Literature and Law have been partners in condemning human rights violations across generations and cultures.  In line with Ngugi wa Thiongo’s Decolonizing the Mind, Sabelo-Gatsheni’s  Decoloniality, Dani Wadada Nabudere’s Afrikology, and Molefi K. Asante’s Afrocentricity, the paper argues that Literature, due to its cultural grounding and communicative flexibility, is the epistemological bridge with capacity to Africanize human rights law.

Biographical Note

Peter Wasamba (PhD Literature and LLM) teaches Literature and Law at the University of Nairobi. He is a Professor of African Literature and a law scholar specializing in Human Rights Law. He is currently researching on the nexus between Literature, Law and Human Rights in Africa.


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