Rhetoric R1A: Retrieval & Rescue: Towards a Rhetoric of Return in the African Diaspora

April 24, 2023

Summer Session A (May 22-June 30)
Rhetoric R1A | Class #14989
Tue Wed Thurs 10am-12:30pm
Instructor: Osarugue Otebele

In The Oracle (Andy Amenechi, 1998), after stealing and selling an object of ancestral worship from their village, 4 men face violent consequences from the haunting spirit attached to the object. In 2022, the British Museum began the first phase of a series of reparations of Benin artifacts first looted from Nigeria in 1897. With the repatriation (loaning) of objects at the center of art and post-colonial discourses, how do African diasporic subjects imagine, embody and (re)present the return of these often sacred and activated objects? This course explores the potentialities and politics of “return,” specifically that of looted objects of the African diaspora. We will examine how African artists, filmmakers and writers attempt to conceive an individual and collective language of repatriation that considers both its necessity and the conditions of its impossibility. Throughout the course, we will engage with literary and visual objects that allow us to investigate how attempts at repatriation bring up questions of trauma, grief, nostalgia, mourning, punishment, and revenge. Student engagement with the artists and texts in the course will require both written and oral presentations where they will be able to demonstrate understanding of how cultural productions of the African diaspora perform an act of retrieval while also challenging and/or championing repatriation.

The course fulfills the R1A requirement.