Carolyn Hamilton gives the fifth John Fage lecture
On the 4 December, 2017, APC Chair, Carolyn Hamilton, delivered the fifth John Fage lecture. Established in 2013 by the Department of African Studies and Anthropology (incorporating the Centre for West African Studies) at Birmingham University, UK, the lecture honours Professor John Fage (1921-2002), founder of CWAS and a major contributor to the institutionalisation of African Studies in the UK and internationally.
Hamilton’s lecture, ‘Displacements of Discourse and the Making of the Concept of African Oral Tradition’, tracked key developments across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which were responsible for the establishment of the idea that a body of narratives recognizable as “oral traditions” exists, that is, narratives which are understood to be transmitted orally from generation to generation, about which there is substantial agreement in a given society, that have been or can be collected from narrators and analysed as sources by historians. Oral traditions, she argued, are not a found feature of local African society, but a made category, forged in processes of interaction over time between various parties that sought out oral historical material and collected it in a particular form, and the parties from whom they elicited material. The second part of the talk explored the ways in which the category effaces vernacular concepts, local historiographies and political discourses.
The lecture was filmed and will be available on the department’s website.