previous arrow
next arrow

Global Africa and The Humanities Series

  • Naminata Diabate
  • Cornell University
  • Abstract Title: “Notes Toward Disrobing for the Human-Ecology”


Many see in environmental activism a matter of life and death. The perceived death and life of the planet and that of living entities is thus inextricably entangled in this social and intellectual landscape that is mostly animated by social movements and tactics including Occupy Wall Street, World Naked Bike Riders, PETA, and Spencer Tunick’s famous and large-scale exhibitions. Taking seriously this putative entanglement, the paper investigates news reports on land disputes in Uganda, visual arts on the mismanagement of natural resources in Nigeria, and cultural products on the devastating effects of the importation of toxic waste in Cote d’Ivoire. The analysis provides compelling examples of the ways in which certain last resort contestation strategies, in particular defiant disrobing, are deployed in connection to the ostensibly endangered ecology. In this trans-African context, women’s collective uncivil self-exposure in the name of the human-environment illustrates both the increasing vicious attacks on the environment as well as women’s increasing distrust of conventional strategies— voting, participating in political parties, lobbying, and writing letters to politicians— to prosecute grievances or to bring about positive change. 

Naminata Diabate is associate professor of comparative literature at Cornell University. A scholar of gender, sexuality, and race in Africa and African diaspora studies with linguistic expertise in Malinké, French, English, Nouchi, Spanish, and Latin, her work seeks to redefine how we understand specific forms of embodied agency that determine the neoliberal present in global Africa. Taking as her archives literary fiction, cinema, visual arts, digital media, and field research, Diabate’s most recent work has appeared in a monograph, peer-reviewed journals, and collections of essays. These include Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, Research in African Literatures, African Literature Today (ALT), Interventions, Routledge Handbook of African Literature, and Fieldwork in the Humanities. Her book, Naked Agency: Genital Cursing and Biopolitics in Africa (Duke University Press, 2020) is the winner of the African Studies Association 2021 Best Book Prize. Diabate also contributes to newspapers, women’s magazines, and podcasts. Her forthcoming work will appear in African Studies Review, The Journal of African Literature Association (JALA), and the edited volume, New Visions in African and African Diaspora Studies. This year, she holds the Ali Mazrui Senior Research Fellowship at the Africa Institute of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, working on two monographs, “The Pleasure of Problem in Global Africa” and “Digital Insurgencies and Bodily Domains.”   

Global Africa Events

No events