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“Every discipline […] is a lineage of begetting”: the generation(s) of Francophone Caribbean studies in the UK and Ireland'

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Forsdick, Charles 


Published in 1972, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o’s call for the “abolition of the English department” – a response to an internal paper produced in 1968 relating to the future of the Department of English at the University of Nairobi – is a key intervention in the decolonization of the ways in which we study literature and culture and build the disciplinary frames in which this activity occurs. In this text co-authored with his then colleagues Taban Lo Liyong and Henry Owuor-Anyumba, Ngũgĩ reacts to a proposal for light post-independence diversification of the curriculum, including variously the integration into his unit of language and linguistics, a recasting of the relationship to Modern Languages (notably French), a nascent recognition of the role of African languages (such as Swahili) and a seemingly reluctant acknowledgement that there might be a need to consider the introduction of a parallel Department of African literature and culture. The reaction in this document by Ngũgĩ and his peers constitutes the purposeful intervention of a new postcolonial generation of scholars willing to disrupt the perpetuation of colonial patterns of education and knowledge production. Their principal frustration is that the academic and epistemological assumptions underpinning the plans for renewal of his department remain fundamentally Eurocentric if not more specifically Anglocentric: “the English tradition and the emergence of the modern west are the central root of our consciousness and cultural heritage” (Ngũgĩ 1995 [1972], 439).



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Contemporary French and Francophone Studies

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