AFRIEUROTEXT – Encountering Future Perspectives


AFRIEUROTEXT is a bookstore, located in Vienna, focusing on the literatures by Africans based on the continent and in the diaspora, written in both African and European languages. But it isn’t just a bookstore. That is something we discovered early into our discussion with its founder Dr.phil. Daniel Romuald Bitouh.

We, students of the Master´s degree of Comparative Literature(s) at the University of Vienna, had the chance to speak with him virtually in our course “Institutions of African LiteratureS: Past, Present, FutureS” run by Rémi Tchokothe. Why is it so evident to talk about a bookstore like AFRIEUROTEXT in this class? A bookstore may be a small institution, but its contribution in shaping the literary ecosystem of a society should not be neglected or downplayed. Its physical space provides access to a differentiated collection of texts about and from Africa.

The bookstore expands the selection of subject-specific bookstores (e.g. “Buchhandlung Hartlieb”, “Tiempo Nuevo”, “Shakespeare & Company”, etc.), enriches the literary field in Vienna and creates or fosters consciousness about African writings and African literatures. The “Text” in AFRIEUROTEXT on one hand signifies the location where books are being sold, presented and discussed. On the other hand, it is a metaphor to be understood as a reference to the tissue-like dimensions of our everyday life, in which meaning is established through its actors. Just as the meaning of a literary text is interpreted and discussed in different ways, the social field is open for changes.


The story behind

But there is more to the story of the bookstore. It all started in 2014 when the association AFRIEUROTEXT was registered. It became the foundation for building a platform which aims to challenge the representation of African and diasporic literatures in the past and to make it more visible in the future. So, there is more than one institution: a cultural association, a bookstore and even an educational project in Cameroon, which launched at the beginning of 2021. Together they challenge the status quo and bring new perspectives into Vienna’s literary landscape. Before its opening in 2017 there weren’t any other bookstores in Vienna that focused on African literatures and “black” issues.


Literature – our daily bread?

AFRIEUROTEXT is an excellent example for a bottom-up approach to doing things. It was founded by a Cameroonian who has expertise in the field, but it also set up a programme (“Kilet Kiass”, “Our bread”, “Unser Brot”) in Cameroon to establish sustainable education and jobs for people in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Especially when talking about African cultures and literatures, the danger of tapping into “single story” narratives (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 2009) is omnipresent. A collection of books about Africa, selected by someone who didn’t grow up in a European-western societal context, offers a different story of African writings. Bitouh travels to Cameroon on a regular basis to acquire books from local bookstores, as well as doing field research and to oversee the local projects.


More than a single story

Single stories certainly don’t simply vanish because of a bookstore – but they might start to crumble, revealing their true nature of singularity, not universality. AFRIEUROTEXT isn’t only a bookstore that gives access to a selection of African literatures, but is also an institution of knowledge that can offer in-depth insight about current socio-political events. It provides literature for individual background reading, but is most importantly an institution that stands as a counterpart to traditional Austrian media and thus can help to transform single stories and narratives. The Black Lives Matter Movement emerging in 2020 is a great example for a political issue where Bitouh’s collection of books can provide further, and most importantly, broader insight. However, AFRIEUROTEXT isn’t the first European bookstore to address “l’absence'' of Africa on European scenes. The French bookstore “Présence Africaine” is an established institution in Paris since the 1960ies, founded by Alioune Diop who also launched the influential magazine under the same name in 1947, proving the impact such an institution can have. Other European examples include the 60ies-founded UK-based bookstore “New Beacon Books” and the German “InterKontinental” in Berlin, set up in 2018. Even though being independent projects, these bookstores are united in their dedication to create a visible space for African writings.


Filling up the gap

AFRIEUROTEXT is a best practice example for stepping out from the space behind the book and leaving the “ivory tower” of humanities, for getting out in the field in order to carry out concrete projects. As both the university and AFRIEUROTEXT ultimately try to be at the cutting edge of socio-political developments, a fertile collaboration with different departments of the university (like it is already the case with the department of German and Roman philology and philosophy) and AFRIEUROTEXT can easily be imagined. In more specific terms, this could include considering (institutions of) African literatures and its diasporas as possible research fields in studies of Comparative Literature(s). Moreover, one could envision the future cooperation between the department of Comparative Literature(s) or African studies with AFRIEUROTEXT in terms of using the location for the presentation of projects, reading circles and public discussions. Last but not least, students could apply for an internship at AFRIEUROTEXT in Vienna, Yaoundé and other locations which partner with AFRIEUROTEXT and benefit from insights into various fields of the book market and the work of a cultural association with an Africa-centred approach.

In our opinion, AFRIEUROTEXT can be seen as a welcome synthesis of extra- and intra-institutional spaces for debates. In its interdisciplinary structure it facilitates the collaboration of various literary/cultural and non-literary/cultural institutions which form opinions and widen the horizon of their individual audiences. We as students and future literary and artistic players can take advantage of the possibilities a structure like AFRIEUROTEXT offers to us, namely to put new life into the space between the research-community and society. Or, to break-open and reorganize illusionary borders between them and to show that it is possible to open (literary and cultural) studies to a broader, non-Eurocentric discourse, as well as using our personal influence inclusively and reflectively.

In the long run, AFRIEUROTEXT can and should be a tool for “decolonizing” humanities (Ngũgĩ wa Thiong´o, 1986). Strengthening the collaboration between AFREUROTEXT and other institutions by mutual enrichment and productive dialogues will undoubtedly be another step towards cultural pluralism (Paulin Hountondji, 1973) in Austria and hopefully beyond borders in the nearer future. Talking about the past is important. Nevertheless, talking about the future that is yet to come is even more so. We cannot change the past, but we can all help to shape the future(s).




Further readings:



  • Wa Thiong´o, Ngũgĩ: Decolonizing the Mind. Oxford: Heinemann 1986.
  • Hountondji, Paulin: “Pluralism - true and false”. In: Olaniyan, Tejumola / Quayson, Ato (eds.): African Literature. An Anthology of Criticism and Theory. Oxford: Blackwell 2007.
  • Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi: The danger of a single story. 2009. [last consult: 9.2.2021]