Monday, October 23, 2017

2017 Faribault International Festival

On October 7, I participated in the International Faribault Festival. I have attended this anual event a number ot times as an educator, writers, and cultural consultant. This was another significant event that brought together people of different cultures to share their various traditions.

In the photo on the left are two students who led the proceedings in the auditorium, calling upon and introducing music and dance performers.

There were vendors displaying various cultural items, and there were also displays by various organizations. As usual, I displayed my books and other publications as seen in the photo at the bottom of this page. I had conversations with various people.

I also enjoyed talking with members of the Faribault Diversity Coalition, an organization I had worked for as a board member for some years. They are the ones who organize and run the festival. I salute them for their commitment to promoting mutual understanding in the world.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Africa Network 2017 Conference

From September 29 to October 1, the Africa Network held its conference here at St. Olaf College. About 50 scholars came together to discuss various topics concerning African studies in the undergraduate curriculum. We talked about study away programs, globalization, Afropessimism, and Afropolitanism. We heard presentations on teaching Africa through simulation, collaboration and fieldwork.

We talked about the necessity of studying and teaching Africa on its own terms, not through foreign perspectives. We talked about teaching and studying that inculcate empathy. We talked about misconceptions and stereotypes about Africa, such as the idea of tribe.

We explored the situation of Americans taking students on study abroad or internships in Africa. The point was raised that in such situations, local professors should teach the American students and the American professors who accompany the students should be taking notes, not teaching. I think, however, that professors should be able to both teach and learn.

There were topics that I had not encountered at previous Africa Network conferences, such as entrepreneurship, African sport history, and teaching Africa in Scandinavian studies courses. The issue of cultural differences came up again and again. This issue interests me in a special way as a cultural consultant.

I had proposed that Papa's Shadow, a documentary on Hemingway in East Africa, be introduced at the conference. This documentary is largely based on a study abroad course I taught in Tanzania titled "Hemingway in East Africa." We invited Jimmy Gildea, who had taken that course and produced the documentary. He showed a trailer of Papa's Shadow and trailers of two other Africa-related documentaries: one on Sudanese refugees at Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya, and the other on me presenting African storytelling.

Papa's Shadow features an extended conversation between Patrick Hemingway, the only remaining child of Ernest Hemingway, and me, discussing Hemingway's travels in East Africa, his writings about that experience, and his philosophy of life, writing and other matters, such as hunting, which he thought of as an artistic pursuit, alongside bull fighting.

One of the main aims of the Africa Network is to facilitate the sharing of academic, pedagogical and other resources. At this conference, an open access digital pedagogy journal was launched by editors Matt Carotenuto and Fiona Vernal.

From all accounts, this was a very successful conference in many ways, including the quality of presentations and the good number of attendees. The Africa Network continues to attract new scholars year after year.

I appreciate the experience I have gained of working on the conference planning committee, and I thank fellow committee members--Matt Carotenuto, Anene Ejikeme, Fiona Vernal and Todd Watkins. I thank St. Olaf College for readily taking on the role of conference host and ensuring that the conference went smoothly.