ISI to Host Achebe Symposium


University of Massachusetts, Amherst

14-15 October 2015

On 18 February 1975, the great African writer Chinua Achebe presented a Chancellor’s Lecture at the University of Massachusetts, entitled ‘An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.’ The lecture was subsequently published in the Massachusetts Review, and since that time it has become celebrated and iconic: a remarkable moment both in literary criticism, and in a broader cultural assessment of how Africa has been perceived and represented in the Western world. In making his case, Achebe challenged the entire framework in which works of art would be judged, and in which the discussion of Africa would be sustained.

To mark the fortieth anniversary of this epic moment, as well as the fortieth anniversary of the Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series at the University of Massachusetts, the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute will host a symposium devoted to the impact of Achebe’s lecture and its continuing legacy. In this, our aim is twofold: first, to commemorate the event itself, and its significance; and second, to bring the discussion into the present by reconsidering both Achebe’s importance, and the shape of things today in terms of the issues he raised.

Panelists and speakers include NoViolet Bulawayo, Jules Chametzky, Johnnetta Cole, Achille Mbembe, Maaza Mengiste, Okey Ndibe, Caryl Phillips, Michael Thelwell, Esther Terry, and Chika Unigwe, among others.

Full details of the program will be forthcoming. If you plan on attending the symposium from out of town, we urge you to make hotel accommodations as soon as possible. The UMass Visitor's Guide includes a comprehensive list of area hotels and accommodations, and can be access here


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