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Postcolonial Discourse: Patrice Nganang in Conversation in Berlin

04.09.2018
Bode-Museum

On Thursday, 6 September, the writer and academic Patrice Nganang and Jonathan Fine (curator of the collections from West Africa, Cameroon, Gabon and Namibia of the Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) will discuss museum collections through the lens of (post)colonial debates. The conversation “Global Collection Histories: Postcolonial History, Politics and Literature” forms part of the programme around the special exhibition Beyond Compare: Art from Africa in the Bode-Museum.

Via interdisciplinary approaches, these two scholars will tackle pressing questions regarding museum collections, literature and postcolonial discourses. In what ways do museum collections facilitate critical confrontations with the past and present of (post)colonialism? What significance do collections have for other forms of recounting history, and for new cultural-historical narratives and literature? And to what extent can historical material collections help us to understand existing colonial structures and to reframe urgent, contemporary political and social questions?

A large portion of the African collections of the Ethnologisches Museum came into the possession of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin between 1884 and 1914, and is intricately connected with the history of colonialism. As such, the past and present of (post)colonialism is central to a curatorial interrogation of the historical collection of the Ethnologisches Museum.

Patrice Nganang (born 1970 in Yaoundé, Cameroon) completed his PhD at the Goethe University Frankfurt, and is Professor of Literary and Cultural Theory at Stony Brook University in New York. He has published novels, poems, essays and works of literary theory. His novel Dog Days was awarded the prestigious Prix Marguerite Yourcenar, and in 2002, the Grand Prix de la Littérature Africaine, Africa’s biggest literary prize. As a result of critical remarks about Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, at the conclusion of a stay in Cameroon in December 2017, Patrice Nganang was prevented from leaving the country and arrested. Academics, writers and institutions from right across the world then advocated for his release, which occurred three weeks later. The conversation will be moderated by Anna Greve, Director of the Department of Museums in the Ministry for Culture of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. She received her Habilitation with a work titled Critical Whiteness Studies in European Art History.     

Thursday, 6 September 2018, 6–7:30 p.m.
Global Collection Histories: Postcolonial History, Politics and Literature
Bode-Museum, Museumsinsel
Free entry 

Panel members: 

Patrice Nganang has been Professor for Literary and Cultural Theory at Stony Brook University since 2007. In 1998, he completed his PhD with a thesis titled Interkulturalität und Bearbeitung: Untersuchung zu Soyinka und Brecht at the Goethe University Frankfurt, and went on to receive a DFG postdoctoral fellowship at Freie Universität Berlin. Nganang has published various short stories and novels, including Mount Pleasant and La Saison des prunes, which recount a (post)colonial history of Cameroon. In December 2017, Patrice Nganang was arrested at Douala airport, as he was about to board a flight from Cameroon to Zimbabwe. He was accused of making threats against President Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982.

Jonathan Fine is an art historian and lawyer. He is the curator of the collections from West Africa, Cameroon, Gabon and Namibia of the Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and one of the curators of the special exhibition Beyond Compare: Art from Africa in the Bode-Museum.

Anna Greve is an art historian and political scientist. In 2012, she received her Habilitation with a work titled Critical Whiteness Studies in European Art History. Greve is the Director of the Department of Museums in the Ministry for Culture of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen and lectures at the University of Bremen.