Comparative African Literatures

The ICLA Research Committee on Comparative African Literatures was conceptualized by William Spurlin and Marcio Seligmann and established in 2019 to remedy the ICLA’s lack of a committee on the literatures of Africa, which represent the oldest and most diverse bodies of literature in the world
Contrary to popular perception, African literatures are both vibrant and substantial with extensive histories. Whatever limits can be imagined—in terms of geography, genre, language, audience, era—these literatures exceed them. Indeed, given that the African continent has a population of nearly one billion, a total of fifty-four countries, and a plurality of literary and cultural forms, both on the continent and in the African diaspora across millennia, the possibilities for comparative analysis are both challenging and vast. This research committee is focused on making a lasting contribution to the field of comparative studies while critically interrogating the discipline’s continued Eurocentric biases.

The committee welcomes scholars of the literatures of any African country (including North, East, South, and West Africa) or the African diaspora, of African literatures in colonial languages as well as any of its thousands of indigenous languages, of African literatures’ oral or written forms, and of African literatures in any century. The group aims to shape ongoing debates about African literature and enable scholars to present their research findings and refine them collaboratively. In particular, the Research Committee works to support scholars of African literature on the African continent and their vital scholarship. In view of the enormous ethnic, cultural, and linguistic variety of this continent, the Research Committee aims to encourage scholarship on as many countries and languages as possible. Some of its themes are decolonization, the relation of literature to other media, gender and LGBTQ studies, the ongoing impact of the wars of decolonization and post-independence conflicts, pan-Africanism, African diaspora, and the politicization of translation in African contexts, and so on.

Committee membership is open to anyone with a scholarly interest in African literature, and in particular to comparative approaches to African literatures, histories, and cultures.


Brahim El Guabli, Williams College
Meg Arenberg, The Africa Institute, Sharjah UAE


William Spurlin, Brunel University London
Marcio Seligmann, Unicamp and CNPq

Description of the Committee in Arabic:


Description of the Committee in Kiswahili: