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November 19, 2012

Chiji Akọma

Chiji Akọma, PhD (Binghamton University—SUNY)
Associate Professor
My field is contemporary Anglophone African and African Diaspora literatures, including African oral performance studies. I’m particularly interested in Caribbean folklore and literary traditions, African oral literature, drama, fiction, postcolonial studies; and lately, I have been looking at black British literature, with its complicated yet dynamic delineation of blackness. But in my most recent research efforts, I have been drawn into the task of recovering Igbo language fiction, especially as this body of literature from south eastern Nigeria appears to have been drowned out by the resounding success of such writers as Chinua Achebe, Elechi Amadi, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who are Igbo authors, addressing the Igbo experience, but writing in the English language. In light of this imbalance, I am working on a book on Igbo popular theatre based on a television series set in the colonial era. The work attempts to find new uses for postcolonial theory even as it privileges the exploration of Igbo folk aesthetics in drama.

My first book, Folklore in New World Black Fiction, examined the fiction of two Americans, Toni Morrison and Jean Toomer, and two Guyanese, Wilson Harris and Roy Heath, for the myriad of ways they call attention to the intersections between orality and literacy, especially in relation to African oral performance aesthetics. The book organizes the major works by these writers around a grammar of meaning that I locate within an African Diaspora sensibility. I like the dynamism of oral performance, and I’m especially grateful for the fact that Africa and parts of the Caribbean still have artists who continue to maintain and expand the creative and intellectual capacities of African oral traditions, despite the seeming dominance of the written tradition. As the Vice President of the International Society for the Oral Literatures of Africa (ISOLA), I’m privileged to have the front view of the exciting research going on in the field. I am also co-editing with Nduka Otiono a collection of essays on the subject entitled, Beyond Text: Issues in African Oral Literature and Diaspora Studies. The volume is in honor of the work of Isidore Okpewho, one of the influential scholars of African oral traditions.

I have a passing interest in African cinema, but the more I observe the wildly popular Nigerian movie industry, commonly called Nollywood, the more I more I rub my gray beard in contemplation and say, Hmmm…

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