Past Events


27 August, Turun kaupunginkirjasto (Turku City Library)

Päiväkirjojen jäljillä -keskustelutilaisuus.
Book launch of an edited volume on diaries, co-edited by Maarit Leskelä-Kärki, Karoliina Sjö & Liisa Lalu


Due to the epidemic and the closing down of the university from 18 March onward, all SELMA events for the Spring were cancelled.

5 March, 12–14 Jäntere E121

Gender Perspective on Memory and Narrative

Gender and blackness in African Francophone autobiographical literature written by Ken Bugul – Kaiju Harinen

Ken Bugul’s novel, Le Baobab fou, [The Abandoned BaobabThe Autobiography of a Senegalese Woman], focuses on the memories of a young “black” woman and discriminations related to “race”, sexualized gender and the myth of ‘true womanhood’ that the novel’s protagonist experiences in the context of postcolonial Europe. Autobiographical literature serves here as a political tool for healing the stigma of the colonial experience (Mouzet 2015, 161), as announced in the paratext of the novel: The obliterated shall be remembered. Ken Bugul’s life story can also be seen as a cautionary tale (Coly 2010, xix) for other black young women desiring to ‘become white’ and to live in Europe–the Eldorado. In order to do that, the author uses strategic exoticism, performativity, irony and burlesque humour, and storytelling to make visible the apparently invisible intersectional oppression.

Failing in Gender: Narratives of Embodied Vulnerability – Lotta Kähkönen

Gender Failure (2014) is a book based on a live performance show by two Canadian artists, Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote. The book delves into the artists’ memories of and journeys with their failed attempts to fit into gender binary. The artists emphasize storytelling as an art form that enables a transformative space. In this talk, I will discuss how the storytelling in Gender Failure explores embodied vulnerability and works as embodied practice. Failing to approximate “proper” corporeal norms in the spatially and temporally shifting frames of gender binary causes a risk in the artists’ everyday lives. Yet the sense of vulnerability as a differentiating condition is not perceived simply as disabling and negative experience, but as something that can be shared through storytelling, and in so doing, even turned into a possibility.


Kaiju Harinen holds a PhD in Francophone literature. Her doctoral thesis, defended in October 2018 at the University of Turku (Finland), focused on the discrimination related to “race”, gender, sexuality, social class and religion that the protagonists of Calixthe Beyala’s and Ken Bugul’s semiautobiographical novels, young “black” women, experience in the context of postcolonial Europe and West Africa. She is currently working as a part-time teacher at the University of Helsinki and prepares a postdoctoral research project about the intersectional encounters of afropolitanism and storytelling applied in various fictional and feminist texts written by Jo Güstin, Léonora Miano, Minna Salami and Taiye Selasi in French and in English.

Lotta Kähkönen is University Lecturer in Gender Studies at the University of Lapland. She is also a member of a research project studying the implications of the Texas Campus Carry law, conducted at the John Morton Center for North American Studies, University of Turku. Her research interests include gender and embodiment, transgender experiences, trauma narratives, and U.S. gun culture.