University of Cambridge > > Centre of African Studies Lent Seminar Series > Reframing African Studies through Languages and Translation: Overcoming Barricades to Knowledge and Knowledge Management

Reframing African Studies through Languages and Translation: Overcoming Barricades to Knowledge and Knowledge Management

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This paper was formed as part of the ongoing dialogues exploring emergent African Studies in Africa. It draws from experiences in Europe and the USA , where the question of knowledge translation remains contested, particularly around this notion of intentionality or purpose. The presentation will explore the key translation studies notion of intentionality and practice, whether, conscious or unconscious which frames an important entry point on African Studies, and its locations and the wider implications for African Studies more widely.

The presentation will explore some key issues and approaches further, and the place of language and translation in particular the notion of barricades and what I have theorised as a “translation gap” in my forthcoming book, based on research undertaken on languages, translation and traducture and/in international practice. I use the term barricades rather than barriers, partly to demonstrate the power of meaning, and also to elicit deeper explorations of the philosophical and material gap within the contemporary debates on the location of African Studies. Specifically, I draw from the recent open letter by Alain Mabanckou, in response to President Macron’s expressed desire to expand the teaching of French in the world in his speech in Ougadougou last November, and its implications for modernity, globalisation and knowledge management. This is against the backdrop of movements calling into question the politics and location of knowledge and knowing in global contexts and its particular reference to Africa and African Studies.

Dr. Wangui wa Goro has served as an academic, critic, public intellectual, translator, editor, writer, social and cultural catalyst, advocate, activist and campaigner for human and cultural rights for over three decades. She has sat on several related international advisory boards and committees. Some elective positions on academic bodies include more recently as Co-Convenor of the Women’s Caucus of the African Studies Association.  She has previously held a similar role on the Executive Committee of the Women's Studies Network UK (WSNUK).  Through her literary work, she has served on the Executive of the African Literature Association including as Deputy President, A member of the Jury of 100 Best Books of the 20th Century and the Caine Prize; and was the founder president of the Translation Caucus of the African Literature Association. She has also sat on Pen Translation Advisory Committee and similarly in the Past, on a similar Advisory Body for the Arts Council of Britain and of UK.  She currently serves on the Executive of the International Association of Translation Studies (IATIS).

Her main field of research and practice is in Translation Studies which she promotes globally. She is currently a translation promoter and the convenor of the high
profile Sidensi intercultural dialogues ( In addition, she is a pioneering translation scholar and practitioner in Gikuyu, French, Italian, Kiswahili and English. She is invited to speak internationally in this regard owing to her ground-breaking work in translating activities and practice into, out of, and across African languages and literatures. This includes works of award winning authors including Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Veronique Tadjo amongst others.

She has taught at universities in the UK for several years, and held a number of fellowships in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Germany, and is currently an Independent Scholar. She received research funding from the Dutch Government through IKME /EADI between 2006-2012 on translation and traducture in Information Knowledge Management (IKM) in international development practice (publications forthcoming).

Wangui has been active in global feminist movements, activism and scholarship over several decades. A significant output from this work is the publication Global Feminist Politics, Identities in a Changing World. co-edited with Kelly Coate and Suki Ali (Routledge, 2001) which resulted from an international conference they organised on behalf of the Women’s Studies Network UK on “Women, Politics and Power”. More recently, she was involved the development of the Gender Strategy at the African Development Bank where she works as an Editor.

Wangui also writes fiction and poetry.

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Lent Seminar Series series.

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