The 27th biennial conference of the African Studies Association of the UK took place at the University of Birmingham on 11-13th September 2018. With over 800 delegates and 15 exhibitors, contributing to 40 streams and 166 panels, 16 roundtables, and seven book launches, this was the Association’s largest and most diverse conference yet.
A conference organizing committee made decisions about bursaries and abstracts outside of pre-organised streams and panels. The conference organisers advertised, awarded, and administered over 50 conference bursaries for African scholars, including 19 bursaries funded by the ASAUK and the College of Arts and Law at the University of Birmingham, 13 Visiting Fellowships from the Cadbury endowment also at the University of Birmingham, 16 bursaries by the Guggenheim Foundation, and 4 bursaries by the British Academy. They also supported additional bursary processes funded by the Universities of Cardiff and Warwick and by the International African Institute where required. Such great support helped a record number of academics from Africa to participate in the conference. The conference organisers also gratefully recognize the significant contributions of material and other resources by many other contributors to the conference’s bursary programme.
The conference was opened with a welcome address by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Professor Sir David Eastwood. Professor Grace Musila from the University of the Witwatersrand gave the conference keynote address on ‘MAKHUMALO’S SPAZA SHOP || LENA MOI’S DANCE’.
At the conference dinner, the Distinguished Africanist Awards for 2017 and 2018 were awarded to Professor Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias, FBA, and Professor Karin Barber, FBA. The Audrey Richards Prize for the best dissertation in African Studies defended in 2016-17 was awarded to Dr Simukai Chigudu, with runners-up Dr Nicki Kindersley and Dr Clara Devlieger. The Fage and Oliver Prize for the best monograph in African Studies published or distributed in the UK in 2 ASAUK Newsletter No. 93 2016-17 was awarded to Francis Nyamnjoh for #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa.
On the final day, Outgoing ASAUK President Insa Nolte gave the Presidential Address on the topic ‘The future of African Studies: What we should do to keep Africa at the heart of our discipline’.
The book fair proved a popular area for browsing, buying and bargain hunting, as well as a venue for authors to firm up their prospective publications in the months and years ahead.
The administrative work surrounding the conference was carried out under the overall direction of Elisa Tuijnder [E.Tuijnder.firstname.lastname@example.org]. Before the conference, in July, she was joined by Maud van Merrienboer, ASAUK’s first ERASMUS intern. Both of whom often went far beyond the call of duty to ensure that delegates had a good conference experience. Elisa will continue to be based at the University of Birmingham until the end of the year to oversee the collection of conference feedback. The immediate feedback on social media (#ASAUK18) was overwhelmingly positive, with many comments on the high quality and timeliness of presentations and discussions.
Thanks are also due to the many professional colleagues in the College of Arts and Law who supported the conference. The Association also thanks the delegates and stream organisers whose time, efforts, and dedication contributed to the conference and made it the positive and friendly experience it was. We are particularly grateful to our delegates and stream organisers from African Universities. For many of them, coming to Birmingham has involved significant travel time and expense, and we understand too that the visa process at British Embassies and High Commissions has been challenging for many. Thanks to everyone for joining us and contributing to a wonderful conference!
See you in Cardiff in 2020!