Phyllis Taoua

Phyllis Taoua

Professor of Francophone Studies

Phyllis Taoua, Ph.D. is professor of French and Francophone Studies; she is also affiliated with Africana Studies, the Honors College, the World Literature Program and the Master in Human Rights Practice at the University of Arizona in Tucson.  She teaches courses on African literature and cinema, French Theory, Global Africa, Pan-African Protest Movements and Contemporary France.  She has is the author of African Freedom. How Africa Responded to National Independence (Cambridge University Press, 2018) and Forms of Protest: Anti-Colonialism and Avant-Gardes in Africa, the Caribbean and France (Heinemann, 2002) and editor of special issues on Sony Labou Tansi, Sembène Ousmane, and Mongo Beti.  Other recent publications have appeared in World Literature Today, The Cambridge Companion to the African Novel, Transition, SubStance, Research in African Literatures, Cahier d’Études Africaines, South Central Review and Journal of African Cultural Studies.  She was the recipient of a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation award and Resident Fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.  She was elected to the MLA Executive Committee of the Forum on African Languages, Literatures and Cultures and has presented her research in North America, Europe and Africa. Tucson Public Voices fellow with the Op-Ed Project, 2015-2016.  

With relation to human rights, Dr. Taoua's area of research and expertise focuses on the politics of protest in Africa and the African diaspora. There is a direct and natural connection between her scholarship on protest movements and freedom in relation to human rights and social justice. The first phase of her research looked at anti-colonial protest movements in France and the French-speaking world including the Caribbean and Africa. Her scholarship in this field considers cross-cultural influences in the way politically engaged intellectuals and activists articulated anti-colonial political agendas after World War I all the way through the decolonization of French territories in Africa in the 1960s. 

Her work also concentrates more exclusively on Africa and the ongoing struggle for meaningful freedom during and after national liberation. In 2018, she published African Freedom: How Africa Responded to Independence with Cambridge University Press. The core of this research examines African decolonization from multiple angles; it investigates the history of key ideas such as freedom and nationalism; considers the historical process of decolonization (what kind of nation-states emerged) and its historiography (what are the analytical narratives); reads and discusses economic theories of development as well as anthropology and sociology on the colonial legacy in Africa. Building this multi-disciplinary foundation has allowed for investigation of ways of understanding representations of freedom in contemporary African fiction and film and to critically engage with current protest in Africa today. This work is pan-African and comparative in scope, dealing with select countries in each region: north, west, south, east.

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