Gender and Embodied Knowledge in Africa: Two Approaches in Conversation

Wed April 28th 2021, 12:00 - 1:00pm

For centuries, African women have drawn on the ritual power of their genitals to perform spectacular political protests across the continent. Their force of their moral critique has inspired novelists, artists, and academics alike. Please join us for a conversation between scholars Naminata Diabate and Laura S. Grillo, whose respective recent books Naked Agency (2020) and An Intimate Rebuke (2018) approach the topic of insurgent nakedness through the lenses of religion, politics, literature, and film. In a twist on the standard panel format, Diabate and Grillo will interview each other, exploring their shared interests in African women’s embodied knowledge across the disciplines of comparative literature, religion, and African Studies. 

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Speaker Bios

Naminata Diabate

Naminata Diabate is an associate professor of Comparative Literature at Cornell University. A scholar of African and African diaspora studies and sexuality and gender studies with linguistic expertise in Malinké, French, English, and Spanish, her work seeks to redefine how we understand specific forms of embodied agency in the neoliberal present in global Africa. Diabate engages multiple sites: novels of 20th and 21st centuries, online and social media, pictorial arts, film, journalism, and oral traditions from Africa, black America, Afro-Hispanic America, and the French Antilles. She is the author of Naked Agency: Genital Cursing and Biopolitics in Africa (Duke University Press, 2020). Her exploration of naked protest, erotic pleasure, and the impact of Internet media on queerness, breast ironing, and sex strikes has appeared in peer-reviewed journals and collections of essays, including Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, Research in African Literatures, African Literature Today (ALT), Interventions, Routledge Handbook of African Literature, and Fieldwork in the Humanities. Currently, she is working on two monographs, “Digital Insurgencies and Bodies” and “The Pleasure Turn in Neoliberal Africa.”

Laura S. Grillo

Laura S. Grillo is an Affiliated Faculty at Georgetown University. Her book, An Intimate Rebuke: Female Genital Power in Ritual and Politics in West Africa (Duke UP, 2018) was a finalist for the Raboteau Prize in Africana Studies. She is co-author of a seminal textbook, Religions in Contemporary Africa (Routledge 2019), as well as author of numerous articles and anthology chapters. Laura was a Fellow at Harvard Divinity School and the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Chicago. She was the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Academy of Religions and the West Africa Research Association. For six years Laura led the African Religions Group in the American Academy of Religion and served on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion. She is a co-editor of the Africa section of Religion Compass Journal, and serves on the Editorial Boards of Religious Studies Review and the Bloomsbury book series in Religion, Gender, and Sexuality.