Call for papers - Affinities and Influences :African Literatures and Law Special Issue


The English romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, once wrote in an essay, “The Defence of Poetry” (1821), that “poets and philosophers are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. Shelley’s literary/legal conviction – which we strongly share – is that literature can exert exemplary moral/intellectual power on life and across disciplines such as law. His assertion forces us to rethink the rigid compartmentalisation of academic disciplines, particularly in the African socio-economic and political transitions, marked by uneven pockets of development in literature, law, economics, human and people’s rights to life. The intellectual trend that links literature to law has created the new humanity discipline called “Literature and Law”. This discipline is now firmly institutionalised in universities established in Europe and the USA. However, at the level of theorising the intersection and intertextuality between literature and law, there appears little interest to vigorously promote, and at the same time question, the intellectual motivation behind the establishment of the discipline of African literatures and law in many African countries.


Yet, the global academic enterprise is at a point of emphasizing nourishing and symbiotic relationships between literature and law within the context of decolonising received notions of what constitutes paradigms of international/glocal knowledge economies. This is what we have learned in the studies inspired by Covid-19, where the past over-medicalisation of the treatment of diseases such as HIV and AIDS has been questioned and forced to take on board insights from humanities and behavioral concepts from social sciences to combat the spread of Covid-19. Thus, in a similar fashion, a critical re-focus on the contiguities of African literatures and law can intellectually be experienced as a contact “zone of occult instability” (Fanon 1963) from which it is possible to generate new insights that might assist in resolving challenges of crime, poverty, betrayal of aspirations of independence, corruption, and ideologies of genocidal violence inspired by fundamentalist ideologies putting brakes on Africa’s development. These challenges are putative, permeate the everyday and, thus, threaten to further tear apart already fragile African modes of existence and livelihoods. In mitigating these existential threats, we propose to approach and generate empowering intellectual modes of producing knowledge in Africa, by adopting a conjugant approach to “African Literatures and Law” to re-affirm the relevance of inter- intra-, trans-, and multi- disciplinary approaches of engaged scholarship.


What is more, critical interrogation of African literatures and law that weave or are woven within their symbolical/ narrative interstices can add scholarly value and intellectual benefit to African knowledges. Our view which, we hope, shall be elaborated further in the accepted articles from potential contributors, is that African literatures and African law exist in liminal contexts that encourage constant tracking of cultural resources between disciplines, so that imaginative spaces inhabited by African literatures are fractious to, as well as supplement and question, African legal discourses. African creative literatures can announce themselves as law on one hand, and on the other hand can exist as separate from, yet coterminous with, African legal systems. This paradoxical relationship of dependency and antagonism that exists between African literatures and African law can generate unexpected philosophical expressions of critical reflections on how both African literatures and African law create evidence that endows the discipline of African literatures and African law as a site of legal/ethical judgments on life, only enabled by the imaginative ethics of symbolical metaphors.


Thus, we contend that while the basis of African legal studies may tend to work to promote ‘order’ by policing the breaches of the rule of law to make power/authorities account, the fractures encouraged by the symbolical sign constitutes the very decisive ethics of literary metaphors with which African literatures can supplement, question and destabilize their own and those certitudes found in the discourses of African legal narratives. African literatures’ rhetorically constituted discourses self-reflexively favour the polysemy of the sign and ideological contingencies in narratives in place of, or against, cultural frequencies sedimented through some narrative forms implied in discursive legal absolutism. This constant interrogation between literary and legal discourses can deepen our understanding of how and with what evidence narratives constitute, and then assign, themselves discursive authority.


In response to the intellectual imperative to promote engaged scholarship that is relevant to the 21st century African knowledge production, this CALL FOR PAPERS seeks to invite articles of 5000-7000 words in length from dedicated African scholars for possible publication in a special issue on “Affinities and Influences: African Literatures and Law” in Imbizo: International Journal of African literary and Comparative Studies, scheduled for September 2022. Potential contributors are expected to engage any one of the topics suggested below (but are not confined to these) that speak to the unstable relationship between literature and law in comparative perspectives.


  • Theorising the interface/intertextualities of African literatures and law
  • Interrogating new hermeneutics of the law and ethics of fiction
  • Comparative perspectives on African literatures and law
  • Colonial governmentalities: African literatures and law, and the role of literature bureaus
  • Expressive and imaginative dimensions of indigenous legal systems in African oral and written literatures (foreign and local languages)
  • Postcolonialities of the literary/legal studies of African feminisms
  • New interpretive laws of narratology, historical discourses and genre theories
  • National constitutions as imagined literary universes
  • Human rights discourses in African literatures
  • International law, migration, and contestations over bounded and unbounded citizenship in African literatures
  • African Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, questions of justice and social redress in African literatures
  • African cultural productions and postcolonial censorship of literary/filmic works
  • African symbolic artifacts (song, drama, video and film) and contestations over copyright law
  • Literary discourses of the moral and legal authority of African popular cultures
  • Detective stories and legal novels
  • Literature and laws of libel
  • Political instability, crisis of governance, and terrorism in African literatures and law
  • African literatures, plagiarism and international law
  • Dissident narratives and literary mandates for re-writing empire
  • Law and African genocide literatures (in indigenous and foreign languages)
  • Representations of legal litigations in African literatures
  • Cultural institutions and the moral authorities of African oral cultures
  • Criminal procedures, law and African cultural practices in African literatures
  • Representations of child labor in African fictions
  • Contestations over property rights in African symbolical narratives
  • Representations of global trends in civil rights movement in world literatures
  • Legal infrastructures of African publishing
  • Gay rights, law and African literatures
  • Transitional justices in African literatures
  • Law, literature and society in postcolonial Africa
  • Literature, law and revolutions
  • Trauma, fiction, law and strategies for social interventions

To submit an article, please visit and follow the steps to make a submission to the special issue section of Imbizo. The deadline for submissions is 30 April 2022.