Agency of/in African Studies: Of Naked Agency and Open Reading

When and Where

Friday, October 06, 2023 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Jackman Humanities Building, 100A 170 St. George Street


Naminata Diabate


The African Studies Centre invites you to attend a public lecture featuring Professor Naminata Diabate (Cornell University) on Friday, October 6th.

Notions of subjectivity and agency, both collective and individual, have haunted African studies in the Euro-American academy since its inception in the 1960s. This is so because of multiple historical (self-inflicted) injuries, including the Tran Saharan slave trade, the transatlantic slave trade, and colonization. This lecture redirects the terms of the debate by exploring defiant disrobing, women’s aggressive self-exposure in moments of social-political duress. Robust attention to this universal form of conflict management, not so much as an easily read feminist or feminine performance of contestation, but as a border-crossing story given life and sensitive to multiple interpretations in social media, academia, and beyond; yields the concept of naked agency and its connected reading praxis, open reading. Naked agency and open reading showcase the unstable nature of subjectivity qua agency, which results most particularly from the emerging and subjugating effects of our hyper-digitized age.

About the Speaker

Naminata Diabate is associate professor of comparative literature at Cornell University. A scholar of gender, sexuality, and race, her work seeks to redefine how we understand specific forms of embodied agency in global Africa. Her research on naked protests, erotic pleasure, and the impact of Internet media on queerness, breast ironing, and sex strikes, arts, and digital media has appeared in a monograph, peer-reviewed journals, and collections of essays. Her book, Naked Agency: Genital Cursing and Biopolitics in Africa (2020), received the African Studies Association 2021 Best Book Award and the African Literature Association 2022 First Book Prize. In 2021-2023, she held the Ali Mazrui Senior Research Fellowship at the Africa Institute in the United Arab Emirates during which she completed her book, “Pleasure and Displeasure in Global Africa.” Currently, she is working on two projects, a monograph, “Digital Insurgencies and Bodies,” and a collection of essays, titled "The Mansa Musa Syndrome.”


African Studies Centre, Department of History, Department of English, WGSI


Jackman Humanities Building, 100A 170 St. George Street