Luise White, Professor Emerita, Department of History, University of Florida.
"Blood and Ink: Writing African History with Memoirs"
Starting with Foucault's argument that the idea of a single author, writing about his or her time, might not do justice to the social situation of authorship or one's time, I look at memoirs and how they might be read to tell a broader story than an autobiographical one. After all, memoirs by Africans or someone who grew up in Africa are generally read not as personal stories but as instructive stories about Africa. The question then is how to square what we learn from a memoir - let alone how to use it as an historical source - with some of the most obvious problems of political memoirs, that they are ghost-written, or heavily edited, or that the translation was compromised. I argue that these are not problems to be solved but instead provide us with a window into the broader context of not just political writing but of political history. I will discuss what I call the memoir wars of the last fifteen years - Equiano, Rigoberta Menchu, and A Million Little Pieces - and then discuss the specifics of Rhodesian war memos.
Professor Luise White is the author of almost 40 articles. She has done research in Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and archival research in England, Italy, and Belgium. In the course of her research she has moved from women’s history to medical history to political and military history, and from East Africa to Central Africa. Her current project is two-fold, one book on the history of Zimbabwe’s war of liberation and another on Rhodesia’s renegade independence. She is the author of The Comforts of Home: Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi (Chicago, 1990) which won the Herskovits Prize for the Best Book in African Studies in 1991, Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa (California, 2000), and The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo: Texts and Politics in Zimbabwe (Indiana, 2003). She is the co-editor, with David William Cohen and Stephan Miescher, of African Words, African Voices: Critical Practices in Oral History (Indiana, 2001), and, with Douglas Howland, of The State of Sovereignty: Territories, Laws, Populations(Indiana University Press, 2008). Her latest book is entitled Unpopular Sovereignty: Rhodesian Independence and African Decolonization (Chicago, 2015).
African Studies, CRESS, Cultural Studies, and the Department of History.