“Mia Couto and his African context: Invention of an origin”, The Worlds of Mia Couto, Kristian Van Haesendonck (ed.), Oxford – Bern – Berlin – Bruxelles – New York – Wien, Peter Lang, 2020, p. 41-59. ISBN 978-1-78874-594-9
The main line of argumentation in this chapter traces the process of “invention of an origin” performed by a white, blue-eyed descendant of the colonisers. In response to the criticism voiced by his African interlocutors at the moment of the publication of Vozes Anoitecidas (1986), Mia Couto legitimises his existence as a forerunner of a genuinely African intellectual, whose advent is announced in Um rio chamado tempo, uma casa chamada terra (2002). The literary construction of autochthonism brings him close to other Lusophone writers such as Pepetela, facing the same racial situation as descendants of the colonisers rather than the colonised. This process involves a creative redefinition of the notions of kinship, paternity and transmission, as well as the work on the Portuguese language. Mia Couto tries to rebuild it in such a way that it might render the African vision of the reality, creating a highly peculiar and recognisable style, implying a translingual dimension of the text. At the same time, this endeavour is interpreted as an echo of the centuries-old Portuguese millenarianist vision of the recuperation of the ideal, pre-Babelian speech of man. Nonetheless, the chapter's conclusion focuses on the paradoxical outcome of Couto's struggle for “Africanization”, putting in the limelight precisely the lowly, maculate origin of language and community.
(forthcoming:) “Language – audibility – marginalisation. On dying tongues and creative participation”, Logos & Littera. Journal of Interdisciplinary Approaches to Text, 2020. ISSN 2336-9884.
The essay is dedicated to the problems of linguistic revitalisation and the dynamics leading to language death. Among such factors as colonial oppression and policies of state centralisation, a special attention is paid to the causes of language relinquishment and the situations in which minor languages are abandoned in favour of major ones. The author muses on the lure of larger, more attractive speech communities and the importance of language choice in building global solidarity and networks of exchange of ideas. The main question asked is how to foster the participation and visibility of native creators and intellectuals representing minor ethnolinguistic communities, making the diversity of outlooks and cognitive moods associated with minor languages available and enriching for global majorities.
(in progress:) "Colonial masculinities. Sex, eroticism and virilia in the novels of Fausto Duarte", Journal of Lusophone Studies.
In his portrait of the Portuguese Guinea, the colonial novelist Fausto Duarte paid a specific attention to gender relations and male identities. In his novels Auá, Novela Negra and O Negro sem Alma published in 1930s, he focused on specifically male problems and dilemmas, contrasting various ethnic and religious groups of the Portuguese colony in West Africa. His representation of West African indigeneity was organised around various issues concerning the male body and organs, its ethnic features, cultural rituals – such as circumcision – related to it, diverging models of sexual behaviour, culturally determined rules of the conquest, distribution and control of women. He was particularly interested in the rules of exo- and endogamy, illustrating an endogamist point of view that was quite opposite to the lusotropicalist theory of Gilberto Freyre, adopted some decades later by the Portuguese official propaganda.
"From crux transmarina to Portuguese maritime expansion: a globalisation of the Mediterranean", Analele Universităţii Bucureşti - Seria Istorie.
The aim of this article is to present the continuity between the Mediterranean project of the crusades and the conquest of the New World at the level of the general patterns of imagination and the strategies of justifying and legitimizing violence. Old arguments were adapted to a conflict with new adversaries under novel conditions (maritime exploration and expansion). The question raised is to know in what measure the Europeans recycled the pre-existing categories and in what measure they created new ones, specific for the New World. I argue that the strategies of legitimization put into practice at an early stage of globalization reflect even older mentalities and ideologies, such as Christianized paradigms of Roman imperial rule. Early-modern global imagination reverberates with an echo of the medieval Mediterranean one.
“Congregatio mundi today. New perspectives on Guillaume Postel (1510-1581)”, Primerjalna Književnost, no 41, 1/2018, p. 191-199. ISSN 2591-1805
The aim of this paper is to reflect on the perspectives of a critical return to certain aspects of the Postelian heritage, while in the recent decades the figure of this heterodox Renaissance thinker has been apparently downgraded from fascinating to merely secondary. Certainly, his equation between intercultural communication and universal concordia remains generally valid to the present day, even for those who do not share his Adamitic and cabbalistic conceptions of language. On the other hand, his concept of congregator mundi appears as a valuable starting point for the discussion on the role and prerogatives of the intellectual as a mediator between human societies and the transcendent sphere, especially if compared with the recent thought of Giorgio Agamben, re-collocating the intellectual and the cultural critic in the line of the monotheistic prophets.
(in progress:) "Expanding vocabulary and the frontier of unspeakable. The names of love in Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya's Rawdat ul-Muhibbīn", projected as a contribution to Oriens, 2020.
I come back to the topic of my conference paper and essay once published in Poland, inspired by Fatema's Mernissi bilingual appropriation of Ibn Qayyim's Garden of Lovers. This time, I'm curious to examine more in detail the place of this little treatise in the multifaceted work of the Islamic scholar, as well as in a larger tradition of codifying love, at the intersection of mystical venture and earthly eroticism.
(in progress:) "The 20th/21st-century Neo-Sufi adventure and the quest for extra-cultural dimension of man", 2020.
A step toward my Poetics of the Void, this essay will deal with several recent novels in which mystical traditions of Islam are creatively transformed into a secular quest for liberation from cultural paradigms.
(in progress:) "Limes. An essay in liminal criticism"
After the Syrian refugee crisis, the aim of preventing the Saharan and Sub-Saharan refugees from crossing to Europe becomes the topic of the day in the media; at the same time, the existence of largely uncharted and uncontrolled territories so close to the European shores haunts the imagination of the public. In fact, the Saharan limes have been, since the beginnings of the European history, not only the natural frontier of the Euro-Mediterranean oecumene, but also of the “civilized” world of states, governments, official policies and law enforcement. Growing actuality of the topic justifies a glance back to Driss Chraïbi's novel Une enquête au pays, first published in 1981. Its hero, inspector Ali, hostile to the author of the book in which he is the main protagonist (he comments unfavourably on Driss Chraïbi the dangerous intellectual, or rather, as he calls him, the insectuel), penetrates the wasteland interior of the country not to investigate any crime in particular, but rather to establish the presence of the police in the otherwise uncontrolled territory – bled es-siba (“region of anarchy” in contrast to the civilized, tax-paying and law-abiding bled el-makhzen according to a categorization first established in the 14th c., valid throughout the colonial era, and apparently till the present day). The detective is a forerunner of modernity and civilisation (an important key word of the Chraïbian writing), penetrating a world that refuses to let itself be governed, submitted to taxation, and policed. Significantly, Ali's endeavour is backed up by Europe, closely collaborating with the Maghrebian state. On the other hand, the nomads oppose those joint efforts by their only resource – mobility, the readiness of abandoning their abodes and disappearing in the desert. Control and detection prove to be inherent to the sedentary world; even crime narration – a tool of criminalization of the human existence – is forced to capitulate in confrontation with the wasteland.
(in progress:) "Adelard of Bath and his De avibus tractatus. Falconry as a field of pre-modern empiricism", 2020.
The aim of this presentation of the figure of Adelard of Bath (1080-1152) and his treatise dedicated to falconry is to reflect on the transfer of knowledge across the Mediterranean world in the Middle Ages. The East-West transmission of falconry skills as a specific competence is usually associated with the Sicilian court of Frederic the Great, the emperor that became famous as a falconer and an early researcher interested in birds; nonetheless, the precedent had already been created before by some scholars traveling across the Mediterranean, namely Adelard.
Falconry inspired a new approach towards nature that had progressively emerged since the 12th century. In the eyes of a northern scholar such as Adelard, falconry was an important part of the Arabica studia (the “Arabic studies”), an attractive inspiration for the new scientia naturalis (the “science of nature”), as this new knowledge was called in the Christian world. The importance of Adelard's treatise, De avibus (“On birds”) is thus to be seen not only in the narrow context of the falconry history, but also as a part of a larger process of the birth of science, to which the Arabic world gave a substantial contribution, also through falconry. It became a kind of early empirical paradigm based on careful observation and interaction with a non-human element that fostered the medieval beginnings of modern science.