Manthia Diawara

Professor of Cultural Theory and Film at The European Graduate School / EGS.

Manthia Diawara

Biography

Manthia Diawara (b. 1953) is a writer, cultural theorist, film director, and scholar from Mali based in the United States. He is Professor of Comparative Literature and Cinema at New York University, where he also heads the Institute of African American Affairs and the Africana Studies Program.

Born in Mali’s capital Bamako, Manthia Diawara spent his youth in Guinea until 1964 when his family was expelled from the country by the regime of Ahmed Sékou Touré. While attending graduate school in Bamako, Diawara became involved in a student group called “The Rockers” and began listening to music by James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and Ike and Tina Turner. The group was opposed to the Vietnam War and apartheid and aligned itself with Black Power, the Black Panthers, and the Black Muslims. His heroes were Angela Davis, Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali. Diawara went on to study literature in France and subsequently moved to the United States, where he completed his doctorate at Indiana University in 1985. He then taught at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Pennsylvania, establishing the Africana Studies Program at NYU in 1992. In addition to founding the publishing house Black Renaissance, he is one of the leaders of the pressure group Transafrica alongside the actors Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover and the novelist Walter Mosley which supported the candidacy of Barack Obama for the presidency of the United States in 2008.

Manthia Diawara has written extensively on the films and literature of the Black Diaspora. He is the author of “African Cinema: Politics and Culture” (1992), “Black American Cinema: Aesthetics and Spectatorship” (1993), and “In Search of Africa” (1998). There he recounts his journey back to Africa as a married father of two living in the United States who has, in some ways, become more American than African but has not forgotten where he comes from. Using Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Black Orpheus” as his point of departure, he shares his thoughts on the Africa of today and takes us on a philosophical exploration of African and African-American cultures. He has also published “We Won’t Budge: An African Exile in the World” (2003) and “African Film: New Forms of Aesthetics and Politics” (2010). Noting that conflict and constant change are the building blocks of culture, he highlights the permance of class structures in Africa and the lack of West African ‘griots’ (traveling poets or musicians and storytellers) celebrating the emancipation of women, the dissolution of caste, or power sharing.

One of Manthia Diawara’s major works is “Bamako-Paris-New York” (2007), a comparison of social systems and race relations in America and France societies caught between identity politics and multiculturalism on the one hand, and individualism and universal rights on the other hand. As he uncovers and examines new fractures in French society, Diawara shows how conditions in the French suburbs are a clear indication that the country is becoming more like America, a society divided between rich and poor. In spite of his extensive studies, accomplishments, and titles, Manthia Diawara wonders if he has become the cosmopolitan man that he dreamed of being or if he is still a prisoner of a racial or ethnic group. He also offers a challenge to anyone who wishes to actively participate in the construction of adoptive identities as a way to escape the confines of their own culture.

In his writing, Manthia Diawara has reflected on the disillusionment following the independence of African countries led by figures such as Sékou Touré, Modibo Keita, Kwame Nkrumah, and Patrice Lumumba. He has also written about African-American intellectuals such as W. E. B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and Malcolm X; the hip-hop generation in the United States; and films by Sembéne Ousmane, Spike Lee, music, and fashion. In addition to criticizing Africanism as practiced by the ‘white’ centers of ethnic studies, his work has analyzed the informal sector in African economies and sought to redefine the phenomenon of racism in an increasingly globalized world.

In addition to his academic work, Manthia Diawara has collaborated with the renowned Kenyan writer Ngûgî wa Thiong’o in making the documentary film “Sembène: The Making of African Cinema” (1994). He has also directed the documentary “Rouch in Reverse” (1995), a critique of visual anthropology based on the work of the French filmmaker and anthropologist Jean Rouch, one of the founders of cinéma vérité. More recently, Diawara has directed and produced “Bamako Sigi-Kan” (2003), an intimate look at his hometown.

Works

Books

African Film: New Forms of Aesthetics and Politics, Diawara, Manthia. African Film: New Forms of Aesthetics and Politics. Prestel, 2010. ISBN: 3791343424

Neues Afrikanisches Kino Ästhetik und Politik, Diawara, Manthia. Neues Afrikanisches Kino Ästhetik und Politik. Translated by Herwig Engelmann. Prestel, 2010. ISBN: 3791343432

Bamako, Paris, New York, Diawara, Manthia. Bamako, Paris, New York. Présence Africaine, 2004. ISBN: 2708707795

Malick Sibide: Photographs, Diawara, Manthia, Gunilla Knape, and Andre Magnin. Malick Sibide: Photographs. Steidl, 2004. ISBN: 3882439734

We Won’t Budge: An African Exile in the World, Diawara, Manthia. We Won’t Budge: An African Exile in the World. Basic Civitas Books, 2003. ISBN: 0465017096

En Quête d’Afrique, Diawara, Manthia. En Quête d’Afrique. Translated by AïdaSy-Wonyu. Présence Africaine, 2001. ISBN: 2708707361

Blackface, Diawara, Manthia, and David Levinthal. Blackface. Arena, 1999. ISBN: 1892041065

In Search of Africa, Diawara, Manthia. In Search of Africa. Harvard University Press, 1998. ISBN: 0674446119

African Cinema: Politics and Culture, Diawara, Manthia. African Cinema: Politics and Culture. Indiana University Press, 1992. ISBN: 0253317045

Articles

Frames of resistance
Diawara, Manthia, “Frames of resistance.” Artforum Vol. 53, No. 5 (2015): 75-76, 78.

All the difference in the world
Diawara, Manthia, “All the difference in the world.” Artforum Vol. 52, No. 6 (2014): 160-167.

Kader Attia, une poétique de la réappropriation
Diawara, Manthia, ” Kader Attia, une poétique de la réappropriation.” Littérature Vol. 174, No. 2 (2014): 53-62.

Architecture as colonial discourse: Angela Ferreira’s Maison tropic ales
Diawara, Manthia, “Architecture as colonial discourse : Angela Ferreira’s Maison tropic ales.” Nka: journal of contemporary African art 22-23, Spring-Summer (2008): 20-27.

Self representation in African cinema
Diawara, Manthia, “Self representation in African cinema.” Nka: journal of contemporary African art 21, Fall (2007): 74-81.

L’intellectuel public dans la sphère publique africaine
Diawara, Manthia, “L’intellectuel public dans la sphère publique africaine.” Présence africaine 181 (2010): 371.

Le cinéma populaire et le nouvel imaginaire social = Popular fiction and new social imaginary
Diawara, Manthia, “Le cinéma populaire et le nouvel imaginaire social = Popular fiction and new social imaginary.” L’HommeI 198/199 (2011): 13-32.

J’accuse: French Intellectuals and thé Race Question
Diawara, Manthia, “J’accuse: French Intellectuals and thé Race Question.” Présence Africaine: Revue culturelle du monde noir Vol. 175-177, No. 1-2 (2007): 319-323.

Lives: The Pretender
Diawara, Manthia. “Lives: The Pretender.” The New York Times Magazine, May 4, 2003.

The Blackface Stereotype
Diawara, Manthia. “The Blackface Stereotype.” Black Cultural Studies (1998).

Pan-Africanism and Pedagogy
Diawara, Manthia. “Pan-Africanism and Pedagogy.” Black Cultural Studies (1996).

Pan-Africanism and Pedagogy
Diawara, Manthia. “Pan-Africanism and Pedagogy.” Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall (1996).

Out of Ouaga — Guimba by Cheick Oumar Sissoko / Keita: The Heritage of the Griot by Dani Kouyate / Haramuya by Drissa Toure / Le Franc by Djibril Diop Mambety
Diawara, Manthia. “Out of Ouaga — Guimba by Cheick Oumar Sissoko / Keita: The Heritage of the Griot by Dani Kouyate / Haramuya by Drissa Toure / Le Franc by Djibril Diop Mambety.” Village Voice Vol. 40, No. 16 (1995).

Malcolm X and the Black Public Sphere: Conversionists Versus Culturalists
Diawara, Manthia. “Malcolm X and the Black Public Sphere: Conversionists Versus Culturalists.” Public Culture Vol. 7, No. 1 (1994).

Whose African Cinema Is it Anyway?
Diawara, Manthia. “Whose African Cinema Is it Anyway?” Sight and Sound Vol. 3, No. 2 (1993).

On Tracking World Cinema
Diawara, Manthia. “On Tracking World Cinema.” Public Culture Vol. 5, No. 2 (1993).

Noir by Noirs: Towards A New Realism In Black Cinema
Diawara, Manthia. “Noir by Noirs: Towards A New Realism In Black Cinema.” African-American Review Vol. 27, No. 4 (1993).

The Perpetual Rebel
Diawara, Manthia. “The Perpetual Rebel.” Village Voice Vol. 38, No. 14 (1993).

Cultural Studies/Black Studies: Performative Acts
Diawara, Manthia. “Cultural Studies/Black Studies: Performative Acts.” AfterImage (1993).

Canonizing Soundiata In Mande Literature: Toward A Sociology Of Narrative Elements
Diawara, Manthia. “Canonizing Soundiata In Mande Literature: Toward A Sociology Of Narrative Elements.” Social Text Vol. 10, No. 2-3 (1992).

Ganja and Hess: Vampires, Sex, and Addictions
Diawara, Manthia. “Ganja and Hess: Vampires, Sex, and Addictions.” Black American Literature Forum Vol. 25, No. 2 (1991).

The Absent One: The Avant-Garde and the Black Imaginary in Looking for Langston
Diawara, Manthia. “The Absent One: The Avant-Garde and the Black Imaginary in Looking for Langston.” Wide Angle Vol. 13 (1991): 3-4.

On Film: Idrissa Ouedraogo’s Tilai
Diawara, Manthia. “On Film: Idrissa Ouedraogo’s Tilai.” Black film Review Vol. 6, No. 3 (1991).

Report from FESPACO
Diawara, Manthia. “Report from FESPACO.” Black film Review 7 (1991).

Cinema Studies, the Strong Thought and Black Film: Guest
Diawara, Manthia. “Cinema Studies, the Strong Thought and Black Film: Guest.” Wide Angle Vol. 13, No. 3/4 (1991).

Black Cinema
Diawara, Manthia. “Black Cinema.” Wide Angle (1991).

V. Y. Mudimbe: A Special Section
Diawara, Manthia. “V. Y. Mudimbe: A Special Section.” Callaloo Vol. 14, No. 4 (1991).

English and Blackness: Cricket as Discourse on Colonialism
Diawara, Manthia. “English and Blackness: Cricket as Discourse on Colonialism.” Black Cultural Studies (1990).

The Nature of Mother in Dreaming Rivers
Diawara, Manthia. “The Nature of Mother in Dreaming Rivers.” Third Text 13 (1990).

Vampires, Sex and Addiction: Ganja and Hess
Diawara, Manthia. “Vampires, Sex and Addiction: Ganja and Hess.” Jump Cut 35 (1990).

Reading Africa Through Foucault: V.Y. Mudimbe’s Reaffirmation Of The Subject
Diawara, Manthia. “Reading Africa Through Foucault: V.Y. Mudimbe’s Reaffirmation Of The Subject.” October 55, (1990): 55.

Twenty-five Black African filmmakers: a critical study, with filmography and bio-bibliography
Diawara, Manthia with Pfaff, Francoise. “Twenty-five Black African filmmakers: a critical study, with filmography and bio-bibliography.” Film Quarterly 42, Spring (1989).

The African Tale Of Cinema
Diawara, Manthia. “The African Tale Of Cinema.” Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture Vol. 11, No. 2 (1989).

Black Spectatorship:Problems of Identification and Resistance,
Diawara, Manthia. “Black Spectatorship:Problems of Identification and Resistance.” Screen Vol. 29, No. 4 (1988).

The Other(‘s) Archivist
Diawara, Manthia. “The Other(‘s) Archivist.” Diacritics Vol. 18, No. 1 (1988).

Popular Culture and Oral Traditions in African Film
Diawara, Manthia. “Popular Culture and Oral Traditions in African Film.” Film Quarterly Vol. 41, No. 3 (1988).

New Perspectives in African Cinema: an interview with Cheick Oumar Sissoko
Diawara, Manthia and Robinson, Elizabeth. “New Perspectives in African Cinema: an interview with Cheick Oumar Sissoko.” Film Quarterly 41, Winter (1987/1988): 43-8.

Interviews

One World in relation : Èdouard Glissant in conversation with Mantia Diawara
Diawara, Manthia and Èdouard Glissant, “One World in relation : Èdouard Glissant in conversation with Mantia Diawara.” Nka: Journal of contemporary African art 28, Spring (2011): 4-9.

The Art of Identity: A Conversation Between Sonia Boyce and Manthia Diawara
Diawara, Manthia. “The Art of Identity: A Conversation Between Sonia Boyce and Manthia Diawara.” Transition 55 (1992)

Films

Conakry Kas
Conakry Kas. Directed by Manthia Diawara. K’a Téléma Productions, Nova Prod, 2004.

Bamako Sigi-Kan
Bamako Sigi-Kan. Directed by Manthia Diawara. K’a Téléma Productions, 2003.

​In Search of Africa
In Search of Africa. Directed by Manthia Diawara. 1997.

​Rouch in Reverse
Rouch in Reverse. Directed by Manthia Diawara. 1995.

Sembène: The Making of African Cinema
Sembène: The Making of African Cinema. Directed by Manthia Diawara. 1994.

Edited Works

Black Genius: African American Solutions to African American Problems
Diawara, Manthia, and Walter Mosley, et. al, eds. Black Genius: African American Solutions to African American Problems. W. W. Norton, 1999. ISBN: 0393047016

Black American Cinema
Diawara, Manthia, ed. Black American Cinema. Routledge, 1993. ISBN: 0415903963

Black British Cultural Studies: A Reader
Diawara, Manthia, Houston A. Baker Jr., and Ruth H. Lindeborg, eds. Black British Cultural Studies: A Reader. University of Chicago Press, 1992. ISBN: 0226144801

Lectures

Manthia Diawara

Faculty Interview

28.08.2019
Manthia Diawara

“Edouard Glissant: A Demand for the Right of Opacity”

08.08.2019
Manthia Diawara

“The Tout-Monde Chaos-World, The New Baroque”

04.08.2019
Manthia Diawara

“The World Seen from the Eye of the Archipelago”

21.01.2019
Gina Dent, Manthia Diawara

Critical Resistance

06.11.2018
Manthia Diawara

Identity and Différance in Black Literature

28.12.2012
Manthia Diawara

On Edouard Glissant’s Film One World In Relation

30.11.2012
Manthia Diawara

Leopold Senghor’s Criticism of African Art

10.05.2012
Manthia Diawara

The Concept of Négritude

07.05.2012
Manthia Diawara

Identity and Relation in Edouard Glissant

23.04.2012
Manthia Diawara

On Edouard Glissant’s film One World In Relation

24.02.2012