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Furniss, Graham (Lytton) 1949-

FURNISS, Graham (Lytton) 1949-

PERSONAL: Born June 21, 1949, in Kodaikanal, India; son of Alfred (a pathologist) and Margaret (a teacher; maiden name, Fitton) Furniss; married Wendy Debeer (a school administrator); children: Eleanor, Jack, Katie. Education: University of London, B.A. (with honors), 1972, Ph.D., 1977.

ADDRESSES: Home—27 Butler Ave., Harrow, Middlesex HA1 4EJ, England. Office—Department of African Languages and Cultures, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Thornhaugh St., Russell Sq., London WC1H 0XG, England. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Seminaire St. Louis, Ziguinchor, Casamance, Senegal, professor of English, 1967–68; Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria, part-time lecturer in Nigerian languages, 1973–74; University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri, Nigeria, lecturer in languages and linguistics, 1977–79; University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, London, England, lecturer, 1979–89, senior lecturer, 1990–96, reader in Hausa cultural studies, 1996–99, professor of African-language literature, 2000–, chairperson, Centre of African Studies, 1989–93, dean of languages, 1995–, dean of faculty of languages and cultures, 2002–. Guest lecturer at University of Hamburg, Ahmadu Bello University, Bayero University, Oxford University, and University of Bayreuth. British Broadcasting Corporation, broadcaster, producer, and studio manager for BBC Hausa Service.

MEMBER: African Studies Association of the United Kingdom (member of council, 1986–88, 1993–), Royal African Society (vice chairman), Britain-Nigeria Association.


(Editor) Writings on Hausa Grammar: The Collected Papers of F. W. Parsons, Books on Demand (Ann Arbor, MI), 1982.

(Editor with Philip J. Jaggar, and contributor) Studies in Hausa Language and Linguistics, Kegan Paul International (London, England), 1988.

(Editor) African Languages and Cultures, two volumes, ISSN, 1988–89.

Second Level Hausa: Grammar in Action, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (London, England), 1991.

(Editor with Richard Fardon, and contributor) African Languages, Development, and the State, Routledge (London, England), 1994.

Ideology in Practice: Hausa Poetry as Exposition of Values and Viewpoints, Ruediger Koeppe Verlag (Cologne, Germany), 1995.

(Editor with Liz Gunner, and contributor) Power, Marginality, and African Oral Literature, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1995.

Poetry, Prose, and Popular Culture in Hausa, Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1996.

(Editor and author of new introduction and notes with Lucy Duran, and contributor) Sunjata: Gambian Versions of the Mande Epic by Bamba Suso and Banna Kanute, translated and annotated by Gordon Innes, with the assistance of Bakari Sidibe, Penguin (London, England), 1999.

(Editor with Richard Fardon) African Broadcast Cultures: Radio in Transition, Praeger (Westport, CT), 2000.

Orality: The Power of the Spoken Word, Palgrave Macmillan (Hampshire, England), 2005.

Contributor to books, including Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa, Volume I: Classical Traditions and Modern Meanings, edited by S. Sperl and C. Shackle, E. J. Brill (Leiden, Netherlands), 1996; and The Encyclopedia of Sub-Saharan Africa, edited by J. Middleton, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY). Contributor to periodicals, including Sudanic Africa, Oral Tradition, African Affairs, Research in African Literatures, and Journal of Peasant Studies. Founding editor, African Languages and Cultures.

SIDELIGHTS: Graham Furniss told CA: "Born in India, the son of a missionary doctor who identified closely with the Telugu culture of South India, I was transformed from village Indian boy to young Englishman by the experience of boarding school from the age of six in Ootacamund in the early 1950s. Returning to England with my family, I, like many other children of Post-Empire, never quite felt the sense of belonging to the England of the 1960s. Motivated by a desire to recapture a commitment to elsewhere, anywhere, I volunteered to teach English in Senegal after completing my secondary education in England. The experience of West Africa profoundly affected me, such that I went on to pursue my studies and an academic career in teaching and research on the language and culture of the Hausa-speaking people of West Africa."

Furniss's Poetry, Prose and Culture in Hausa centers on "one of the few major indigenous African languages whose large body of literature receives serious critical attention," according to Tanure Ojaide in World Literature Today. In West Africa, some fifty-million people speak Hausa; its relatively low profile could stem from the fact that Hausa is considered a linguistic, rather than ethnic, entity. In an article for Africa, A. H. M. Kirk-Greene reported that Furniss "offers a comprehensive history of a whole African literary culture, both oral and written." The author "describes his approach as a cross-generic perspective, recalling Raoul Granquist's 'genre convergence' of popular culture," added Kirk-Greene. "For Furniss these parallel domains of discourse interact within particular social and ideological contexts."

In establishing Hausa's literary relationship with West African history and culture, Furniss identifies two critical periods of writing. The first novels and poetry were produced in the 1930s and 1940s by the Literature Bureau, run by the colonial government. Such writers as Abubakar Imam, Bello Kagara, and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the first prime minister of Nigeria, were characteristic of this period. "The second wave of Hausa literature came in the late 1970s and 1980s, with Abdukadir Dangambo and Sulaiman Ibrahim Katsina the major writers," explained Ojaide. Furniss provides "fieldwork [that] is painstakingly thorough," added the reviewer, "and his practical experience … is a measure of the depth of his critical investigation." Praising the book's bibliography as "a major intellectual resource in its own right," Kirk-Greene called Poetry, Prose, and Popular Culture in Hausa a "masterpiece" and concluded that the author "has given an English-speaking audience a superb exposition, scholarly and scintillating, of the dynamics of Hausa literature."

In Power, Marginality and African Oral Literature Furniss and coeditor Elizabeth Gunner collect presentations from a 1991 conference. The book's "great strength," said Landeg White in a review for Africa, "is that it brings together African and Euro-American scholars to debate common ground—something increasingly difficult to accomplish these days." White singled out essays by Paulo de Morais Faris, Isabel Hofmeyr, and Lucy Duran as significant in this collection; but the critic also registered "one grouse," as he put it: that "the whole point about oral research is the search for the moment when what you are hearing baffles you. That is when enquiry begins. It is obviously important to be theoretically and methodologically informed. But it's important, too, to recognise that conclusions reached elsewhere may not apply in Africa." As Deborah James observed in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, "the papers in the volume cover a diverse and comprehensive range of geographical areas, making the book a valuable comparative tool for use by lecturers and students."



Africa, spring, 1997, A. H. M. Kirk-Greene, review of Poetry, Prose, and Popular Culture in Hausa, p. 324; winter, 1999, Landeg White, review of Power, Marginality, and African Oral Literature, p. 171.

African Studies Review, December, 1999, Tanure Ojaide, review of Poetry, Prose, and Popular Culture in Hausa, p. 185.

International Journal of African Historical Studies, spring, 1998, John Hutchison, review of Power, Marginality, and African Oral Literature, p. 409.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, September, 1997, Deborah James, review of Power, Marginality, and African Oral Literature, p. 177; March, 1998, Anthony Buckley, review of Poetry, Prose, and Popular Culture in Hausa, p.

World Literature Today, summer, 1997, Tanure Ojaide, review of Poetry, Prose, and Popular Culture in Hausa, p. 637.

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