Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
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Sabbatical academic year 2012-2013
I grew up in Kenya, speaking Kikamba, Kiswahili, English, and later, during my high school years, picked up Gikuyu and Kiembu. Like so many African children who grow up in an environment where many languages and cultures coexist, my whole life experience was a dress rehearsal for comparative study, though I never imagined being a comparatist! After a B.Ed. and M.A. from Kenyatta University in Nairobi and two years of teaching Swahili language and literature at Egerton University, Kenya, I came to the U.S. and earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature with a minor in women's studies from Penn State. Since coming to Smith in 1999, I've taught comparative literature courses on postcolonial rewritings of the Tempest; African women's drama; twentieth-century literatures of Africa; and gender issues in African women's narratives. Most recently, I have offered courses on the art of translation; South African literature and film; and childhood in the literatures of Africa and the African diaspora.
My research interests include contemporary African women's theater; childhood in African and diasporic literatures; and postcolonial theory and translation. In 2002 I edited a special issue of Metamorphoses: Journal of the Five College Faculty Seminar on Literary Translation on translation in Sub-Saharan African languages, in which I authored the introductory article titled "Translation, Mistranslation, and Cultural Theory: African Inflections, Challenges, and Prospects." My book, Women's Spaces, Women's Vision: Politics, Poetics, and Resistance in African Women's Drama (2007) focuses on the ways in which colonial histories, post-colonial politics, and the theatrical inventiveness of African female playwrights come together to establish gendered performance spaces that reflect the complexities of African women's realities. My other articles include:
- "Blurred Genres, Blended Memories" Engendering Dissidence in Nawal el Saadawi's Memoirs of a Woman Doctor and Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions, in Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism (2006).
- "Four Swahili Women Playwrights and a Critique of Development," in Kiswahili: Journal of the Kiswahili Research Institute (2005).
- "Oral Performance and the Creative Imagination in Penina Muhando's Nguzo Mama," in a special issue of Folklore Forum: Folklore and Instruction in Africa (1997).
- "Negotiating Between Tomb and Womb: Mariama Bâ's So Long a Letter" in Contemporary Literature in the African Diaspora (1997).
I'm interested, as well, in the dialectic between regional and European influences on African narratives, in postcolonial theory, and in African women's perspectives on feminist theory and action.