Halverson-Bascom Professor of French and Professor of African Cultural Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Période de résidence: 
IMéRA, du 8 au 20 mai 2020; Saint-Louis du Sénégal, du 20 mai au 10 juin ; IMéRA, du 11 au 16 juin 2020 - Titulaire de la Chaire Fulbright Specialist USA/Afrique/France
Projet de recherche: 
Migration of African-American Writers to Paris and Encounter with African and Caribbean Writers (1920-1960)
Résumé du projet: 

The project pursues three objectives: the first is scientific, the second is institutional and the third has to do with our interdisciplinary doctoral courses supply.

The first mission as Fulbright Specialist in 2018 conducted by Prof Songolo did allow to make a substantial progress on the three tracks (see his report on his first mission to the Commission). The second mission is designed to deepen cooperation in particular from the research and institutional perspectives.

A first activity, like the last time around, will be instructional. But while the seminar and lectures were of a general nature, geared toward the collective migration of African-American writers and their encounter with African and Caribbean elites, this time  Prof Songolo will pair an African-American writer and an African writer/filmmaker whose works feature the downtrodden Black diaspora in the city of Marseille. McKay’s celebrated novel Banjo (1929) depicts the miserable life of the dock workers from the U.S., French Caribbean, and Africa who attempt to eke out a living in the port city. Similarly, Ousmane Sembène’s Le Docker noir (1956) depicts African laborers from different countries, but mostly Senegal, who live in Marseille doing menial jobs. The resemblance of the biographies of the two writers is quite remarkable, and so are the lives of the characters in the two novels. The novels will make it possible, also, to explore the history of jazz in Marseille. The jazz age came to France quite early, in 1917 by most accounts, and was already quite popular in Marseille beginning in the 1920s. The main character in McKay’s book, the eponymous Banjo, aspires to make a decent living playing jazz, but mostly, to establish a Black identity through it. Even though several critics have claimed that Le Docker noir was influenced by Banjo, there is not much evidence to support this position. What seems important to study is the two ways in which the two novels approach the questions of black identity, migration, poverty, injustice, and their divergent representations of the city of Marseilles.

As a second activity,  Aliko Songolo proposes to spend 2-3 days at the archives of the Centre de recherche et de documentation du Sénégal (CRDS) taking an inventory of materials that may need digitizing. CRDS consists of a library, a museum, a reading room, an instructional space, and a collection of important archives, some dating back to the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century and extending through the French colonial period to the present time. During my last visit, he was informed that some of the oldest archives are on fragile paper and need to be digitized. He is indeed confident that the UW Africanist librarian will propose a digitization scheme to the Collaborative Africana Materials Project (CAMP), a national Title VI program run by Africanist librarians which “promotes collaborative approaches to collection, preservation, and access to rare, expensive, or fragile primary and secondary source material from Africa.” UW-Madison is well-equipped in this area, has previous experience with this type of project, and has one of the top African Studies Programs in the US.

Last but not least, since the last 2017-2018 mission, IMéRA is in the process of launching together with the AUF (Agency of French-speaking Universities) a Chair titled “Structural transformations and institutional dynamics in Africa” that is designed to bring together scholars from  social sciences and the humanities (but not only, artists and hard scientists may be also involved) around a specific research issue related notably to the African continent. This chair will be operational from September 2019.  As currently conceived, the contributions of Prof Songolo’s mission to this chair are expected to go beyond the topics of the first mission. In particular, a few new research lines are suggested : (a) the study of forced or voluntary migrations of peoples of African descent worldwide, including intra-continental displacements. This axis will focus on the movement and exchange of the arts, ideas, cultures and peoples by deploying interdisciplinary approaches derived from the social sciences and the humanities; (b) the second axis will seek to understand the ecology of poverty, one of the grimmest scourges of migration. What maintains poverty within the multiplicity of physical, social, and political environments of these populations and what motivates and perpetuates their modes of existence? What are the best ways to explore and recommend pathways for escaping the cycle of poverty in which millions are entrapped? This axis of research will require the collaboration of disciplines such as epidemiology, environmental studies, demography and other hard sciences. Despite the apparent demarcation of the two axes, the team of five scholars to be assembled from Marseilles, Madison and St. Louis will spend two to three weeks in residence in Marseilles in mid-May or mid-June 2020. The team will present a multi-voiced seminar at the beginning of the research residence delineating the issues at hand, and at the end presenting its findings to the resident fellows of the institute and to the public. One of the main activities during this second mission will then be to refine the themes for the research residency in collaboration with the participants at Marseille and St. Louis.

Lien(s) web:


Natif d’Uvira (Sud-Kivu) en République Démocratique du Congo, Aliko SONGOLO a occupé la Chaire Halverson-Bascom de l’Université du Wisconsin à Madison (USA), où il est simultanément professeur au Département de français & italien et au Département de langues et littératures africaines. Ses intérêts en matière de recherche et d'enseignement sont axés principalement sur les domaines des littératures francophones d'Afrique et de la Caraïbe et les cinémas francophones d'Afrique. Il a publié une monographie (Aimé Césaire, Une poétique de la découverte, 1985), deux volumes coédités (Twenty-five Years after Dakar and Fourah Bay, 1998) et Atlantic Cross-Currents / Transatlantiques, 2001), et cinq volumes de New Encyclopedia of Africa (2008) qui ont joui d’une excellente réception par la critique. Il a également dirigé des numéros spéciaux de deux revues dans son domaine, French Review (1982) et Présence francophone (2003), et publié de nombreux articles. Ses projets de recherche actuels concernent la question du cinéma national en Afrique francophone, la post-colonialité dans le sillage du mouvement de la Négritude et la présence d’Aimé Césaire dans les médias.

Curriculum Vitae: