Africa Day 2017

Past Tides
June 2, 2017 By Karena Phan

On Saturday, April 15, UCI School of Law’s Center for African Business, Law & Entrepreneurship hosted an all-day event celebrating Africa Day at the Cove. It featured a dance performance and panel discussions on Expression, Censorship and Creativity in Africa as well as Colonial and Postcolonial Encounters. The festivities celebrated the resilience, creativity, and innovation of Africa.

The morning panel discussion focused on expression, censorship, and creativity. The panelists each described their research and work in Africa. David Kaye, the Director at the International Justice Clinic and Clinical Professor at the UCI School of Law, examined his research on censorship and expression. His work primarily focuses on teaching public international law, especially international human rights law. He explained the global assault on freedom of expression and how Africa is moving towards the digital space for freedom of speech. With that, Victoria Bernal, Professor at the Department of Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences, continued the discussion by summarizing her paper “Laughing Through Tears: Humor and Dictatorship in Eritrea.” She explained how humor unmasks reality, specifically how political satire functions in a dictatorial government. Adding to this, Olufunmilayo Arewa, Director at the Center for African Business, Law & Entrepreneurship and Professor at the UCI School of Law, discussed her paper “Nollywood, Social Media, and Freedom of Expression,” which talks about how social media and viral posts contribute to the political environment in Africa. Authorities attempt to censor the people by inciting social media laws. Tina Beyene, UC Presidential Fellow at the Department of History, explained her paper, “Imperial Erotics and Nationalist Entrapment: Rwandan Feminist Narratives of Mass Rape.” Her research and teaching interests in postcolonial studies, transnational and women of color feminisms, gender-based violence in conflict zones in Africa, critical development studies, and women in the horn and central Africa contributed to the conversation by adding a new perspective on censorship in Africa regarding women. Bryan Reynolds, a professor in the Drama department at the UCI School of the Arts, and Mark LeVine, a professor of Middle Eastern History and History at the UCI School of Humanities, discussed oil, art, and resistance in Nigeria and Kenya. They described the effectiveness of political protest and activism as well as their work with PAWA 254, a political activist group in Kenya. PAWA 254 uses art and culture to have a social impact on Africa. With that, the conversation moved to Lukas Ligeti, Assistant Professor in the Department of Music at UCI School of the Arts, who explained how music in Africa has evolved to incorporate technology and new age sounds.

Lunch and a traditional dance performance came after the morning panel. Additionally, the audience viewed a screening of “Exchanging Language – from the Orange to the Gold Coast,” which follows 17 UCI students who went to explore the roots of jazz dance in sub-Saharan Africa. The day continued with an afternoon panel centered on Colonial and Postcolonial Encounters. The talk began with Patricia Seed, a history professor at the UCI School of Humanities, who described the rising sea levels along the coast of Africa and their impact on the economy and daily life. Other speakers included Frank B. Wilderson III, Director and Professor of African American Studies and Drama at the UCI School of Humanities, who discussed his book, “Incognegro: Five Years of Exile and Apartheid.” He shared his experience as a journalist and as one of the two members in the African National Congress. Tekle Woldemikael, a professor in the Dept. of Sociology at Chapman University, explained his work and research on the cultural divide in Eritrea which will be in his next and third book, “The Invention of Eritrean National Identity.”

Crystal Murphy, Ph.D, Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at Chapman University, described her work and research on humanitarian interventions in South Sudan. Other speakers included Cecelia Lynch, a political science professor at UCI School of Social Sciences, who focused the talk on her topic titled, “Problematizing ‘Resilience’ among Religious Humanitarians in Cameroon,” which focuses on the ethics of Islamic and Christian NGOs in humanitarian work in Africa, the Middle East, and the centers of NGO power. Erin Mosely, Ph.D, Assistant Professor in the Dept. of History at Chapman University, focused on her research with democratizing Rwandan history after the war and genocide.