Working Groups

Academic Year 2016-2017

Gender and Performance Working Group

Recent legislation criminalizing queer and gender nonconforming people in various parts of Africa has reinvigorated discussion about the place of the queer African in African studies as well as various modes of producing knowledge about the queer African community. Several scholars have directed their attention to the nuances of neoliberal and religious conservative parties in Europe and the U.S. who contribute to the homophobic agenda in various African states. In addition, they have demonstrated how certain European/American NGOs who fund LGBTQIA movements in African countries usually set an agenda that requires those movements to cohere with the NGOs’ terms and conditions. As a way to publicly discuss these complexities, we will run a lecture series and a discussion group that provides a rigorous platform for contemporary scholars from various disciplines who work on queer African studies to critically assess the state of queer African studies, its various methodologies and modes of knowledge production

For more information, please contact Delali Kumavie, English or Mlondi Zondi, Performance Studies.

Nollywood Working Group

Funded by a PAS Working Group Award for AY 2015-16, the Nollywood Working Group (NWG) has fostered a multidisciplinary conversation about Nigerian filmmaking in all its diversity—looking at where it came from, where it is going, and its influence around the world. The Nollywood working group will continue to bring in speakers, as well as host discussion groups to keep this lively conversation going.

For more information, please contact Rebecca Shereikis, Buffett Institute & Program of African Studies.


Academic Year 2015-2016

Nollywood Working Group

This working group builds on interest among PAS faculty, staff, and students in exploring emergent artistic and digital trends in Africa and promoting arts in African languages. Through a series of lectures and discussion sessions, this group will explore film production in Nigeria. The industry rests on an amalgam of lively indigenous cultural traditions, market literature, traveling theatre, and national and state television. Initially an outgrowth of the Yoruba traveling theater, Nollywood films are now produced in English, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Pidgin and other local languages. The Nollywood industry is self-funded, market-driven, and responsive to its audience. It has spawned a celebrity culture as well as a number of international websites. Not only popular throughout Nigeria, Nollywood films have found enthusiastic audiences throughout Africa and the diaspora. Genres include horror, comedy, urban legend, mythic parable, romance, witchcraft, Christian morality tale, historical epic. While some promote Christian or Islamic ideas, in general they deal with moral dilemmas facing modern Africans, telling familiar stories with familiar characters in recognizable situations. They touch popular sensitivities to local aspirations, values, worldviews, and cosmologies. Their content is unapologetically African.


For more information, please contact Rebecca Shereikis, Buffett Institute & Program of African Studies.

Academic Year 2014-2015

Access to Health and Human Rights in Mali Working Group

The Northwestern Access to Health Project, an interdisciplinary working group of law, medical and Kellogg faculty and students, has partnered with the town of Douentza, in northeastern Mali, to conduct a health and human rights needs assessment and to identify sustainable, capacity-building projects and interventions consistent with that assessment.  Following the assessment and fieldwork in early 2014, members of the working group will return to Douentza in September 2014 to launch projects related to female genital mutilation/cutting, health education through music, and the Millenium Development Goals. The director of the local radio stations and a local women’s leader, both members of the community advisory board for the project, will serve as project managers. Members of the Northwestern working group will again return to Douentza to monitor and evaluate the projects in March 2015.

For more information, please contact Professor Juliet Sorensen, Northwestern Law School.

Academic Year 2013-2014

Oral History in Africa Working Group

This working group will conduct interviews with artists from South Africa and Zimbabwe whose work deals with both countries' shifts to independence and the developments in their relationship throughout and after that process.  We hope to contribute to the many conversations happening about the role of art in resisting colonialism in this region and the less examined role of art in mediating the complex relationship between Zimbabwe and South Africa.  We will return to Northwestern to stage a week long installation compiled of the interviews and selections/recreations of each artist's work, expanding the Oral History and Performance as Social Action archive at the Program of African Studies.

For more information, please contact Andrew Brown, Department of Performance Studies.

Democracy in Africa Working Group

An interdisciplinary working group of faculty and students will be created to discuss and conduct research on democracy in Africa. A community of scholars will be developed at Northwestern in parallel with an online community emerging via the Africa Demos Forum (ADF).  Members of the group will meet on a regular basis to reflect on advances and setbacks to democracy in Africa, comparing experiences in the continent with those in other world regions. The working group can evolve, in stages, to become a Colloquium on Democracy in Africa which can serve the following purposes: provide guidance to students, graduate and undergraduate, before and after field research in Africa; connect faculty and students to an international network of democracy scholars and analysts; promote student research projects using the Herskovits Library and other resources; establish links with research and policy institutes for faculty and students; and create opportunities, via the ADF, for faculty and students to publish essays and commentaries for a global readership.