The Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of New Mexico hosted its 10th Annual Cultural Studies Graduate Student Conference on March 23 and 24 in Ortega Hall. This year’s theme was “Identities in Motion: Communities of Belonging and Exclusion in Diasporic Spaces.”
The event was also sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of Student Affairs, the Graduate and Professional Student Association and the Office of Graduate Studies.
The conference featured national and international participants including the University of New Mexico, the University of Arizona, the University of California at Irvine, the University of Southern California, Fort Hays State University, North Carolina Central University and François Rabelais University.
There were five panel discussions throughout the two-day event.
Two panel sessions were held on the first day and the day concluded with a an address and a book signing with keynote speaker Abdourahman Waberi, Ph.D. of George Washington University.
Jason Wilby, senior lecturer of German at the FLL department and the leading organizer of the conference, said graduate students put the conference together each year, and they try to base the topic of the conference on current research and events.
Teresa Caprioglio, a second year master’s student studying comparative literature and cultural studies and one of the event organizers said, “(The conference) is special, because it gives an opportunity to the grad students to converse with their colleagues whether those are from this University or from some broader graduate community, both the U.S. and abroad.”
Lydie Moudileno, professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Southern California, moderated the keynote speaker’s address. Moudileno introduced Waberi as a “nomad, distinguished and post postcolonial.”
Moudileno said Waberi’s relation to the continents of Africa, Europe and North America, his authorship of 12 books including international awards and his work encompassing the eras beyond the postcolonial to the second postcolonial period.
“I think Waberi’s work has been very influential in reviving African literature at the end of 1990s, at the time when it is true that the older generation was perhaps a little bit out of breath, and we needed new ways of writing,” she said.
Moudileno said he was a part of a new generation that showed a new way to write about Africa, consider African literature and express diasporic identities.
“In a way I see him a migrant author, cosmopolitan author and author of the world in terms of what his books say and represent and also the very trajectories he incarnates,” she said.
Waberi said the world is changing rapidly, its inhabitants have fluid identities and it is necessary to utilize imagination to bring out similarities between people.
“The ideology of my idealism is always to find the commonalities with the other person in terms of music, literature, arts — that is the common language to connect this very much polarized humanity,” he said.
Wilby said Waberi was an excellent fit for the theme of this year’s conference, because he bridges the gap between academia and other disciplines with the help of his knowledge of different geographical areas.
Tasawar Shah is the news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tashah_80.