This block course uses Namwali Serpell’s celebrated novel The Old Drift as a way to explore the history and historiography of Zambia in central-southern Africa. Serpell’s narration of several generations of three Zambian families, centrally revolving around maternal figures, offers a wealth of insights into Zambia’s colonial and postcolonial history. At the same time a historical novel and science fiction, the novel engages with key events and themes of Zambia’s past, present, and future, including colonization, matters of race and gender, decolonization, and climate change. Juxtaposing Serpell’s interpretations with historical literature on selected events, we explore the blurred lines between fiction and history. Thus, the course is not only an exercise to study the narratives of an African nation, but also interrogates our notion of history as a scientific discipline itself.
A first online session introduces the novel and some of its historical background. We will then assign themes that students are to explore in detail in the course of the semester. There will be at least one consultation (online) towards the middle of the semester to check in on students’ progress with their individual themes. During our block session in June, students will present their research to each other.
Online block on Monday, 14 March, 10:00-13:00
Presentation block (on-site) on Tuesday, 7 June, 9:00-17:00
History, Gender Studies, African Studies