Tolulope Akinwole

Position title: Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow (2023-2024)

Pronouns: He/him

Ph.D. Candidate, English, UW–Madison

This is a headshot of a man taken against the blurred background of a white board and a bookshelf.

Vehicular Articulations: Public Buses, Cityness, and Cultural Aesthetics in Postcolonial Africa

Since the turn of the twenty-first century, cultural historians have turned keen attention to African cities, especially as the United Nations projects that population in African urban centers will increase exponentially by the year 2050. Often compellingly interdisciplinary in their departure from earlier readings of African cities as chaotic and enmeshed in crises, these recent studies of African cities emphasize the highly dynamic social organization of African cities as well as the creative improvisations of inhabitants of those cities. However, an analytical paradox haunts this post-2000 scholarship on African urbanity: emphasizing the improvisational strategies of urban dwellers understates their uncomfortable navigation of decrepit city infrastructure, and to deemphasize city dwellers’ improvisation is to inscribe their activities within a fatalistic logic of chaos and crisis and thereby consolidate the unflattering representation of Africa in global media. Mobilizing multiple genres of cultural expressions, encompassing material from oral history, newspaper reports, government documents, literary, musical and filmic texts, I interrogate extant theories of African cities through the critical storytelling practices and performative acts of African urban subjects. This project contextualizes readings of African city life within the frame of automobility to stress the high-level disjunctive flow that characterizes city life in postcolonial Africa.

Tolulope Akinwole is a doctoral candidate in English at UW-Madison. His research interests revolve around global black literatures, African cultural studies, and critical geography. He obtained master’s degrees in Literary Studies, African Cultural Studies, and English Language from UW-Madison and the University of Lagos. In 2016, he was a Fulbright Scholar in the Department of African Cultural Studies at UW-Madison. His writings on global black literatures, African urban representations, and Afro-diasporic mobilities have appeared or are forthcoming in the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, Matatu: Journal for African Culture and Society, and the Journal of African Literature Association. He is associate editor of, an online magazine of contemporary African and African diaspora literatures, and he manages His research has been supported by the National Federation of Modern Language Teachers’ Associations, the African Studies Research Award, the Ebrahim Hussein Research Fellowship, and the Graduate School at UW-Madison. His dissertation focuses on literary representations of automobility in postcolonial Africa.