African Identity and the Provenance of the Centre for African Literary Studies: A University of KwaZulu-Natal Special Collection

Keywords: African identity, Afrocentrism, special collections, archives


Drawing on Asante’s Afrocentric idea and the importance of location and agency in an Afrocentric paradigm, this article explores African identity. The study is located in the Centre for African Literary Studies (CALS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Pietermaritzburg, which was established to house the Lindfors private collection of African literature. This article also draws on Polak’s 2016 study, which explores the role of CALS as a UKZN special collection and the question as to whether CALS is able to fulfil its role in facilitating African studies at UKZN and in the broader community. In seeking to define African identity, the researchers conducted an in-depth literature review and, in attempting to elucidate the provenance of CALS, they relied on the findings of in-depth interviews with its founders and directors. The study was underpinned by an historical research approach. The article concludes that there is no definitive description of what African identity is. It throws light on the role of CALS in advancing African scholarship and Afrocentric research, and makes recommendations for policy and practice.

Author Biographies

Fiona Margaret Polak, University of KwaZulu-Natal

PhD Graduate, School of Social Sciences, UKZN.

Christine Stilwell, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Emeritus Professor and Fellow, School of Social Sciences, UKZN

Peter Graham Underwood, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Honorary Professor, School of Social Sciences, UKZN

Ruth M. Hoskins, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Professor, School of Social Sciences, UKZN