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Students in conversation with Professor Harry Garuba

17 Apr 2018 - 08:30

Song of Lawino as African Political Philosophy: students studying 'African Political Thought' engage in conversation with CAS' renowned literary scholar Professor Harry Garuba on interdisciplinary as part of the African Studies major which was first rolled out in 2017.

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On March 27, 2018 the APT student team led a prepared discussion with Professor Harry Garuba, as an expert literary scholar in African Studies, on reading and writing strategies when approaching epic poetry as a possible genre of everyday African political philosophy. The conversation was funded by the Teaching with Technology Grant, endowed to Tammy Wilks to design online decolonial content for the African Studies major.

When designing the course, the convenors Associate Professor Horman Chitonge, Dr. Shannon Morreira, and Zuziwe Msomi considered how may students read Song of Lawino as African political philosophy in a decolonial configuration? African political thought is found not only in the grand theories of academia, but also in the everyday philosophies of Africans. Song of Lawino as an epic poem by Ugandan writer and poet, Okot p’Biket in 1966 describes a Ugandan woman’s tribulations of her Acholi traditions, and rebuke of her husband who appears to have discarded his tradition for “Western” ways. 

Our main discussion focus was to understand how Lawino negotiates tradition and modernity in the face of coloniality and what these negotiations says about African ontologies, or ways of being. Interestingly, students reflected on the temporal availabilities of reading Song of Lawino in a 2018 decolonial setting, and identifying with Lawino in moments and contexts of both marginalisation and empowerment. More crucially, black representing males understood Lawino's rebukes of patriarchy as reminders of the patriarchal entrapments still performed by African men when striving for, what Nkrumah terms, 'philosophical consciencism'. These self-reflexivities and positionalities remains the pedagogical framework of the African Studies major, and we are pleased to endeavour in these teaching and learning practices with our students. 

CAS is thankful to Minga Kongo, the tutors Kershan Pancham and Dr. Clemence Rusenga, and above all, extended degree students Zimbini Zintwana, Esethu Khambule, Cleo Mbulawa and Ciaran Heywood.