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45th Annual W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture with Moses E. Ochonu


November 8, 2023, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Location: University Center Ballroom

A Black man with glasses and a checkered shirt looks at the camera

Eight Phases of African American (Re)Invention of Africa
Moses E. Ochonu, Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair, History; and Professor of African History, Vanderbilt University
Part of the Fall 2023 Humanities Forum and Social Sciences Forum

Using Congolese philosopher V. Y. Mudimbe’s concept of the invention of Africa as a point of departure, Moses E. Ochonu explores the ways in which African Americans, from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, invented, and reinvented ideas, semiotics, and tropes of Africa to respond to evolving circumstances, challenges, and aspirations in America and beyond. These changing imaginaries of Africa produced corresponding practical African American engagements with Africa. They also catalyzed the emergence of capacious intellectual constructs about what Africa means or should mean for African Americans in different periods. While critically surveying this rich intellectual history of diasporic “invention of Africa,” this talk proposes a provisional overarching template for African American engagements with, and imaginings of, Africa in the twenty first century.

Moses E. Ochonu is Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in History and Professor of African History at Vanderbilt University. He holds a PhD in African History from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a Graduate Certificate in Conflict Management from Lipscomb University, Nashville. He is the author of four books: Emirs in London: Subaltern Travel and Nigeria’s Modernity (Indiana University Press, 2022); Africa in Fragments: Essays on Nigeria, Africa, and Global Africanity (New York: Diasporic Africa Press, 2014); Colonialism by Proxy: Hausa Imperial Agents and Middle Belt Consciousness in Nigeria (Indiana University Press, 2014), which was named finalist for the Herskovits Prize; and Colonial Meltdown: Northern Nigeria in the Great Depression (Ohio University Press, 2009); and editor of Entrepreneurship in African History (Indiana University Press, 2018). His op-eds and essays have been published in TIME magazine; Maple Tree Literary Supplement; Chronicle of Higher Education; Logos; Global Post; The Tennessean; Pambazuka.com; African Arguments; Africascountry.com; The Conversation; The Mail & Guardian; and other publications. He is a two-time recipient of the fellowship of the American Council for Learned Societies (ACLS) and his research has also been funded by the NEH, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, the British Library, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.

Admission is free.

The W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture is organized by the Department of Africana Studies.

Co-sponsored by the Dresher Center for the Humanities and the Center for Social Science Scholarship.

Photo provided by speaker.



November 8, 2023
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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