karen bouwer headshot

Karen Bouwer


Full-Time Faculty
Kalmanovitz Hall 381


Karen Bouwer, born and raised in South Africa, is Professor of French and African Studies and is also affiliated with the Honors College. After dedicating the first years of her career to questions of gender in twentieth century French poetry, she turned her attention to African literature and film. Her abiding interest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo culminated in the publication of her book Gender and Decolonization in the Congo: The Legacy of Patrice Lumumba (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). She was responsible for the “Actualités littéraires” for sub-Saharan Africa for the journal Nouvelles Études Francophones between 2009 and 2013. Her ongoing research interests include Francophone African literature, African cinema and gender. Current projects focus on contemporary literature produced in the Great Lakes region and literary and cinematic representations of urban spaces, primarily in Africa. She enjoys teaching all levels of French and Francophone language, culture and literature as well as classes on African literature and film and has served as co-chair of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and coordinator of African Studies.


  • Literary studies
  • Francophone studies
  • African studies

Research Areas

  • Francophone African literature
  • African cinema and gender


  • Michigan State University, PhD in French Literature, 1994
  • Michigan State University, MA in French Literature, 1990
  • University of the Witwatersrand, MA in French Literature, 1990
  • University of the Witwatersrand, BA Honours in French Literature, 1984
  • University of Witwatersrand, BA in French and Psychology, 1983

Selected Publications

  • Axes of Hope: Flights of Fancy in Recent Work on Urban Congo” Forum for Modern Language Studies (Special Issue on Urban Utopics. Writing the City in the Light of Utopia). Volume 59 Issue 1, March 2023. Pp. 71-88.  
  • “Lumumba entre deux genres: Peck’s Filmic Diptych.” Lumumba in the Arts. Edited by Matthias de Groof. Brussels: University of Leuven Press, 2020. Pp. 180-191. 
  • “Kin: reflets romanesques et cinématographiques.” Dynamiques sociales et representations congolaises. Edited by Rosario Giordano,Edoardo Quaretta, and Donatien Dibwe Dia Mwembu. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2019. Pp. 171-180.
  • “Samantha à Kinshasa: apensanteur et mémoire en transit,” Francophonia 76, 2019, pp. 35-50. 
  • “Life in Cinematic Urban Africa: Inertia, Suspension, Flow,” The Companion to African Cinema (edited by Kenneth Harrow and Carmela Garritano), Wiley-Blackwell, 2019, pp. 69-87.