African Child Soldiers in Literature and Film.
Representation, Discourse, Aesthetics

After 2000, the presence of African child soldiers in media and artistic discourse in the global North as well as in African and Afro-diasporic cultural productions is extremely pervasive. This project aims at a thorough critical discussion of literary, filmic and artistic representations of African Child soldiers. It analyses how narrative and audiovisual texts, which focus on the symbolic figure of the child soldier, transcend historical and sociological boundaries through their specific aesthetics. The project interrogates the value of the ethical impact and the political contribution of such cultural productions as well as examines the reproduction of stereotypes about the African continent, which may be perpetuated through the focalisation of unspeakable violence on the puerile figure of a disaster victim. The project argues that representation is a form of figuration that includes the interpretation of reality and that contributes to the discursive construction of imaginations of “Africa”, childhood and war. Therefore, the project aims at documenting those literary and cinematographic narratives that function as a space for human(istic) negotiations of violence as well as of fundamental social concepts such as the nation, gender or age. Ultimately, literature and film can contribute to the understanding of the history of war and to the healing of individual and collective trauma. The project’s analysis comprises international as well as local forms of cultural discourse and will eventually cross-examine both. Fieldwork will be carried out in West Africa (with focus on Nigeria) and in Central Africa (with focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo). As an overarching method, postcolonial Foucauldian discourse analysis will be employed while a literary-sociological contextualisation and textual close readings with narratology, rhetoric, semiotic and intertextual critical frameworks will refine the study. Expert interviews with African academics, writers and filmmakers will further contribute to a better conceptualization of the discursive field. On the one hand, the project will unmask the complexity of fictional and testimonial representations and evaluate their specific aesthetics at the same time. On the other, the pitfalls of the renewed representation of Africa as continent of atrocious violence through the ubiquitous figure of the child soldier will be debunked. Due to the sensitivity and complexity of the subject, ambivalences and interferences of both tendencies are however inevitable. These tensions must be critically evaluated and perceived as part of the discursive ensemble.

Principal investigators
Gehrmann, Susanne Prof. Dr. phil. (Details) (African Literatures and Cultures)

DFG: Sachbeihilfe

Duration of project
Start date: 10/2015
End date: 02/2019

Research Areas
General and Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies

a) Gehrmann, Susanne/Charlott Schönwetter (Hg.): The Ubiquitious Figure of the Child Soldier. Interviews with African Writers, Academics and Cultural Activists followed by a Comprehensive Bibliography WVT, Trier., 2019.

Gehrmann, Susanne. Rezension von Toyin Falola/Ogechukwu Ezekwem (Hg.): Writing the Nigeria-Biafra War. Woodbrige, James Currey 2016, 492 S., in: Études littéraires africaines 44/2017, S. 230-232.

Schneider, Marlene; Schönwetter, Charlott: „Kindersoldaten in Uzodinma Iwealas Roman
Beasts of No Nation in der englischen Filmadaption und der deutschen Hörspielfassung“,
in: Stichproben. Wiener Zeitschrift für kritische Afrikastudien No. 37, 2019, S. 73-91

b) Gehrmann, Susanne; Schönwetter, Charlott: "The African Child Soldier Novel: Anti- or Alternative Bildungsroman? ", Arbeitspapiere/Working Papers, Institut für Ethnologie und Afrikastudien, Universität Mainz 2017, 15 S.

Schönwetter, Charlott. „Chimamanda,Ngozi Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun”, in: Kindlers Literatur Lexikon, 2018, Onlineressource$fn=index.htm$q=[rank,500:[domain:[and:[field,body:half of a yellow sun]]][sum:[field,lemmatitle:half of a yellow sun][field,body:half of a yellow sun]]]$x=server$3.0#LPHit1 (14.8.2019)

Schönwetter, Charlott: “Uzodinma Iweala: Beasts of No Nation“, in: Kindlers Literatur Lexikon, 2019, Onlineressource of no nation]]][sum:[field,lemmatitle:Beasts of no nation][field,body:Beasts of no nation]]]$x=server$3.0#LPHit1$fn=index.htm$q=[rank,500:[domain:[and:[field,body:Beasts (14.8.2019)

Schönwetter, Charlott. „African Child Soldier Narratives in Children’s Literature. A Cross-Regional and Cross-Language Comparison”, in: Pepetual Mforbe Chiangong (Hg.). Crossings & Comparisons in African Literary and Cultural Studies. Erscheint bei WVT, Trier, 2019, 17 S. (Annahmeerklärung der Herausgeberin = Anlage 5; Skript = Anlage 6)

Last updated on 2022-08-09 at 11:06