The Africa Institute congratulates its Ali A. Mazrui senior fellow Naminata Diabate on winning the 2021 ASA Best Book Prize for her book Naked Agency: Genital Cursing and Biopolitics in Africa (Duke University Press, 2020). The award recognizes the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English and distributed in the United States during the preceding year. The ASA began awarding the prize in 1965. Previous honorees of the award include Frederick Cooper, Pearl Robinson, Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Iris Berger, Adom Getachew, and J.H. Kwabena Nketia.

 

Synopsis

Naked Agency

Naked Agency: Genital Cursing and Biopolitics in Africa

Across Africa, mature women have for decades mobilized the power of their nakedness in political protest to shame and punish male adversaries. This insurrectionary nakedness, often called genital cursing, owes its cultural potency to the religious belief that spirits residing in women’s bodies can be unleashed to cause misfortune in their targets, including impotence, disease, and death. In Naked Agency, Naminata Diabate analyzes these collective female naked protests in Africa and beyond to broaden understandings of agency and vulnerability. Drawing on myriad cultural texts from social media and film to journalism and fiction, Diabate uncovers how women create spaces of resistance during socio-political duress, including such events as the 2011 protests by Ivoirian women in Côte d’Ivoire and Paris as well as women’s disrobing in Soweto to prevent the destruction of their homes. Through the concept of naked agency, Diabate explores fluctuating narratives of power and victimhood to challenge simplistic accounts of African women’s helplessness and to show how they exercise political power in the biopolitical era.

To read more about the book, visit Duke University Press.

About Naminata Diabate

Naminata Diabate is associate professor of comparative literature at Cornell University. She is a member of the core faculty in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (FGSS), and affiliated faculty in Romance Studies; Africana Studies and Research Center (ASRC); Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies; Performing and Media Arts; and Visual Studies. Diabate holds a PhD in Comparative Literature with dual concentrations in African Diaspora Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies from the University at Texas at Austin (2011).

A scholar of African and African diaspora studies and sexuality and gender studies with linguistic expertise in Malinké, French, English, Nouchi, Spanish, and Latin, her work seeks to redefine how we understand specific forms of embodied agency in the neoliberal present in global Africa. Diabate engages multiple sites, including novels of 20th and 21st centuries, online and social media, pictorial arts, film, journalism, and oral traditions from Africa, black America, Afro-Hispanic America, and the French Antilles. Her most recent provocations of defiant disrobing, erotic pleasure, and the impact of Internet media on queerness have appeared in her book, Naked Agency: Genital Cursing and Biopolitics in Africa (Duke University Press, 2020), peer-reviewed journals, and collections of essays, such as Nka: Journal of Contemporary African ArtResearch in African LiteraturesAfrican Literature Today (ALT)InterventionsRoutledge Handbook of African Literature, and Fieldwork in the Humanities.

In addition to her interventions in the conventional academic channels, Diabate contributes regularly to several media outlets, including newspapers, women’s magazines, and podcasts. Recently, she wrote for the women’s magazine Voix/Voie de Femme in Côte d’Ivoire, PBS’s Academic Minute, The New Books in Women’s History podcast, and the South African Podcast series, Sound Africa. Diabate’s forthcoming work will appear in African Studies ReviewThe Journal African Literature Association (JALA) and the edited volume, New Visions in African and African Diaspora Studies. Currently, she is working on two monographs, “The Problem of Pleasure in Global Africa” and “Digital Insurgencies and Bodily Domains”.

The Africa Institute congratulates its Ali A. Mazrui senior fellow Naminata Diabate on winning the 2021 ASA Best Book Prize for her book Naked Agency: Genital Cursing and Biopolitics in Africa (Duke University Press, 2020). The award recognizes the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English and distributed in the United States during the preceding year. The ASA began awarding the prize in 1965. Previous honorees of the award include Frederick Cooper, Pearl Robinson, Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Iris Berger, Adom Getachew, and J.H. Kwabena Nketia.

The Africa Institute congratulates its Ali A. Mazrui senior fellow Naminata Diabate on winning the 2021 ASA Best Book Prize for her book Naked Agency: Genital Cursing and Biopolitics in Africa (Duke University Press, 2020). The award recognizes the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English and distributed in the United States during the preceding year. The ASA began awarding the prize in 1965. Previous honorees of the award include Frederick Cooper, Pearl Robinson, Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Iris Berger, Adom Getachew, and J.H. Kwabena Nketia.

 

Synopsis

Naked Agency

Naked Agency: Genital Cursing and Biopolitics in Africa

Across Africa, mature women have for decades mobilized the power of their nakedness in political protest to shame and punish male adversaries. This insurrectionary nakedness, often called genital cursing, owes its cultural potency to the religious belief that spirits residing in women’s bodies can be unleashed to cause misfortune in their targets, including impotence, disease, and death. In Naked Agency, Naminata Diabate analyzes these collective female naked protests in Africa and beyond to broaden understandings of agency and vulnerability. Drawing on myriad cultural texts from social media and film to journalism and fiction, Diabate uncovers how women create spaces of resistance during socio-political duress, including such events as the 2011 protests by Ivoirian women in Côte d’Ivoire and Paris as well as women’s disrobing in Soweto to prevent the destruction of their homes. Through the concept of naked agency, Diabate explores fluctuating narratives of power and victimhood to challenge simplistic accounts of African women’s helplessness and to show how they exercise political power in the biopolitical era.

To read more about the book, visit Duke University Press.

About Naminata Diabate

Naminata Diabate is associate professor of comparative literature at Cornell University. She is a member of the core faculty in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (FGSS), and affiliated faculty in Romance Studies; Africana Studies and Research Center (ASRC); Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies; Performing and Media Arts; and Visual Studies. Diabate holds a PhD in Comparative Literature with dual concentrations in African Diaspora Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies from the University at Texas at Austin (2011).

A scholar of African and African diaspora studies and sexuality and gender studies with linguistic expertise in Malinké, French, English, Nouchi, Spanish, and Latin, her work seeks to redefine how we understand specific forms of embodied agency in the neoliberal present in global Africa. Diabate engages multiple sites, including novels of 20th and 21st centuries, online and social media, pictorial arts, film, journalism, and oral traditions from Africa, black America, Afro-Hispanic America, and the French Antilles. Her most recent provocations of defiant disrobing, erotic pleasure, and the impact of Internet media on queerness have appeared in her book, Naked Agency: Genital Cursing and Biopolitics in Africa (Duke University Press, 2020), peer-reviewed journals, and collections of essays, such as Nka: Journal of Contemporary African ArtResearch in African LiteraturesAfrican Literature Today (ALT)InterventionsRoutledge Handbook of African Literature, and Fieldwork in the Humanities.

In addition to her interventions in the conventional academic channels, Diabate contributes regularly to several media outlets, including newspapers, women’s magazines, and podcasts. Recently, she wrote for the women’s magazine Voix/Voie de Femme in Côte d’Ivoire, PBS’s Academic Minute, The New Books in Women’s History podcast, and the South African Podcast series, Sound Africa. Diabate’s forthcoming work will appear in African Studies ReviewThe Journal African Literature Association (JALA) and the edited volume, New Visions in African and African Diaspora Studies. Currently, she is working on two monographs, “The Problem of Pleasure in Global Africa” and “Digital Insurgencies and Bodily Domains”.

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