You are here

New Assistant Professor Analyzes Sub-Saharan & Caribbean Literature

January 3, 2019

Portrait of Christian Uwe

Portrait of Christian Uwe
Photo by Jacob Van Blarcom, CLAgency student

CSCL’s newest assistant professor, Christian Uwe, thinks there are untapped opportunities in the way Caribbean and sub-Saharan literatures are traditionally studied.

“Some major writers, such as Edouard Glissant or Ahmadou Kourouma, are abundantly researched, but there are also other writers worth studying, such as Leonora Miano and Fabienne Kanor,” says Uwe, who specializes in sub-Saharan and Caribbean francophone literature. He is excited about exposing students to the regions’ lesser-known writers, who have written significant work but haven’t yet captured the attention of the academic world.

Looking at the Language

Uwe wrote his dissertation on Glissant, a prominent Caribbean writer whose novels revolve around the legacy of slavery. He landed on this area of focus because he “was trying to think about the historical connections between sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.” Studying literature from those regions of the world gave him a way to think about their interconnected history. Born in Rwanda, Uwe’s interest in his field of study comes from the importance of representing his heritage. “Part of it would be my personal history. I come from Africa, [so] the idea of doing research in this field and also being able to teach these literatures was very important to me,” says Uwe. 

His research reveals the political impact that words have in the world and why it’s important to study them. “The very use of language is a political phenomenon,” he explains. “If you look at works like novels, cinema, and that sort of thing, you can approach the ways a novelist or director uses his or her medium as a matter of aesthetic choice. But if you consider them as part of a social reality, you realize that these aesthetic questions do have political implications.” Uwe focuses his research on different mediums, looking for the political meaning within. “Working on the language and the way that one would use language to make creative work leads to questioning the political side of what we are doing as researchers or creative people,” he adds.

Inspired by Exploration

With a teaching style driven by exploration, Uwe says, “When you are teaching literature, there is no set of truths that everybody adheres to, so having students who can read the books and point out something that you never saw in the books is exciting.” It is this critical thinking and creative exploration of the texts that Uwe intends to promote in his classes. His goal is that his students will be able to go beyond just retaining his teachings, so he challenges them to try to figure out analyses and solutions themselves. 

Uwe looks forward to beginning teaching in the 2019 spring semester. His classes will enrich the CSCL curriculum by bringing a new field of study to the department.

This story was written by an undergraduate student in CLAgency. Meet the team.