Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Friday, September 7, 2012

Braided Worlds (and related events!)

Later this week, the University of Chicago Press will publish Braided Worlds--a book which combines English Professor Philip Graham's skills as a literary writer with UIUC Anthropology Professor Alma Gottlieb's talents as an ethnographer.  The two have collaborated before, on the 1994 book Parallel Worlds: An Anthropologist and a Writer Encounter Africa (University of Chicago Press).

Here is the book description, pasted in from the University of Chicago press website

"In a compelling mix of literary narrative and ethnography, anthropologist Alma Gottlieb and writer Philip Graham continue the long journey of cultural engagement with the Beng people of Côte d’Ivoire that they first recounted in their award-winning memoir Parallel Worlds. Their commitment over the span of several decades has lent them a rare insight. Braiding their own stories with those of the villagers of Asagbé and Kosangbé, Gottlieb and Graham take turns recounting a host of unexpected dramas with these West African villages, prompting serious questions about the fraught nature of cultural contact.

Through events such as a religious leader’s declaration that the authors’ six-year-old son, Nathaniel, is the reincarnation of a revered ancestor, or Graham’s late father being accepted into the Beng afterlife, or the increasing, sometimes dangerous madness of a villager, the authors are forced to reconcile their anthropological and literary gaze with the deepest parts of their personal lives. Along with these intimate dramas, they follow the Beng from times of peace through the times of tragedy that led to Côte d’Ivoire’s recent civil conflicts. From these and many other interweaving narratives—and with the combined strengths of an anthropologist and a literary writer—Braided Worlds examines the impact of postcolonialism, race, and global inequity at the same time that it chronicles a living, breathing village community where two very different worlds meet."

In concert with the publication of this book, Graham and Gottlieb have scheduled a couple of reading/signing events on campus, which those of you who read this blog from Champaign Urbana (Chambana?  Shampoo-Banana?) may be interested in attending. 

The first of these will be this coming Tuesday, Sept. 11th, from 4:30 till 5:30 in the Illinois Union Bookstore. 

The second, which will be held on September 18 at 7:30 at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH), is a discussion of memoir writing that will feature, in addition to Graham and Gottlieb, our own Janice Harrington and UIUC history professor Harry Liebersohn. You can click through to the IPRH page describing the event--which has bios for all participants and so on--here. 

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