Upcoming Africanist conferences & events

To inform the editors of the ASAUK newsletter and website about upcoming conferences and workshops, please contact Simon Heap at editor(AT)asauk.net

For past conferences go to this page.

Conferences Future. . .

United Kingdom

‘“There Came a Darkness”: Africa, Africans and World War I’, SCOLMA UK Libraries and Archives Group on Africa Annual Conference, The British Library, London, 17 July 2015. The first shot fired for Britain in the First World War was from the rifle of an African soldier in West Africa. The last German troops to surrender did so on African soil, in today’s Zambia. In between African soldiers and civilians paid a heavy price in blood and lives and their societies and outlook were changed for ever. Recent scholarship reflected in the commemorations and publications for the centenary of the outbreak of the war recognises that Africa was much more than a sideshow in a truly global conflict. This conference will consider the role of scholars, libraries, archives and information sources in documenting and interpreting the African experience of World War I. Topics may include, but are not limited to: campaigns in Africa; African soldiers on the Western Front; the impact of the war on African societies; memory and memorials; and literature, images and ephemera. Abstracts up to 500 words by 31 January 2015 to Terry Barringer: tabarringe@aol.com

Decolonisation and Colonial Legacies’, Senate House, University of London, 21–22 October 2015. The implications of their imperial pasts continue to affect the contemporary internal and external policies of six European Union member states (UK, France, Portugal, Belgium, The Netherlands and Spain). These connected, entangled historical legacies manifest themselves most obviously in the diverse diplomatic associations which draw together countries formerly colonised by these states: the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, the Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa and the Cumbre Ibero-Americana; but all six European states maintain varying institutional links. A comparative analysis of these institutions is timely, as that there has been too little integrated, policy-relevant academic research into the ways in which European policy makers continue to contend with the enduring legacies of the process of decolonization. These legacies also play into the EU as a political space where the long impact of the endings of empires is being played out, between the national and international spheres.

Organised by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, in conjunction with King’s College, London, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa and Universite Paris Diderot, this conference will focus on the complex web of post-imperial legacies for these EU countries and their societies, in terms of political institutions, immigration and community relations, trade, investment and aid, culture and education. It is intended to highlight new research on critical process of transition for these former imperial powers, as well as to bring historians, political scientists and international relations scholars into contact with contemporary actors and policy-makers. Papers are sought on the following aspects of colonial legacies and processes of transition for the UK, Portugal, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium: political institutions and policy making; trade and investment relationships and organisational modes; cultural relations (including education and training; media and memory); legal frameworks and discourse; aid and development policies; and the national dimension versus supranational organisations. 250-300 word abstracts and 150 word biodata by 15 March 2015 to Dr Sue Onslow: sue.onslow@sas.ac.uk

Rhodesian UDI – 50 Years On. Change and Continuity in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. The Record since UDI in 1965’, Senate House, University of London, 11–12 November 2015. November 2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the illegal declaration of independence by the Rhodesia Front government of Ian Smith, against the British crown. Internationally recognized independence under black majority rule was only achieved in April 1980, after a sustained radical national liberation struggle and brutal civil war, external economic isolation in conjunction with repeated attempts at international mediation. The importance of the colonial legacy remains contentions in domestic and regional politics, as do other aspects of political culture and legitimacy, societal trauma and national reconciliation. Yet how much can current internal developments and regional politics be traced back to events of 1965? How far did the failure to achieve accelerated independence at the same time as the rest of British Southern Africa, leave a lasting and complicated legacy for Zimbabwe politics, governance and society today?

In conjunction with Department of War Studies, Kings’ College London, and the Centre for European and International Studies (CEISR), University of Portsmouth, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies is organizing this conference to evaluate lasting legacies of UDI, and to highlight new research on Zimbabwe’s complicated inheritance. Presentations on the following topics, which emphasize the themes of continuity and change, are particularly welcome: land, class, models of development; sanctions, their uses and abuses; practices of insurgency/counter-insurgency; pace of democratization, elections in Zimbabwe, election monitoring; media and nationalism; nation-state construction; education, health and building the nation; ideology and leadership; the ‘Bad Neighbour’ effect? Zimbabwe’s regional relations; evolution of Zimbabwe as regional security actor; gender; and protest and peacebuilding. 250-300 word abstracts and short biodata by 31 March 2015 to Sue Onslow: sue.onslow@sas.ac.uk  

Landscapes, Sources and Intellectual Projects in African History: Rethinking Historical Evidence and its Interpretation’, Symposium hosted by Department of African Studies and Anthropology  (DASA) and Centre of West African Studies (CWAS), University of Birmingham, 12–14 November 2015. What types of evidence, data, and sources can we use to expand knowledge of the African past? How can different types of evidence be critically analysed – be they landmarks on African landscapes or faded texts produced by authors unfolding specific intellectual and political projects? These are some of the questions that have animated the work of Dr Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias for five decades. The symposium aims at confronting these questions and speaking to issues that have been central to Dr De Moraes Farias’ scholarship.

As a very special opening to the symposium, Dr De Moraes Farias has accepted to give the third Fage Lecture. His lecture will be followed by a reception and the two subsequent days will feature workshop-style panels and plenary sessions. These panels will serve both as a broader reflection on Dr De Moraes Farias’ engagement with these themes, and as an important opportunity for a renewed engagement with the sources for the African past at a moment of flux in African historiography.


There are six symposium themes. First, demythologising the African past: what are the enduring myths that distort the interpretation of Africa's history? What explains the existence and endurance of these myths? What are their consequences for historical reconstruction and for knowledge of contemporary African dynamics? Second, historicising African myth: myths are filled with clues. They reveal moral values, aesthetic judgments, and salient themes in the popular imaginary of African societies that provide insights into a past often left unrecorded. What are the historical and cultural dynamics that influence the production, circulation, and transformation of African myths? Third, accounting for context: beyond accounting for the language and culture of the authors of our sources, how can we integrate a consideration of other factors - such as the reckoning of time, awareness of landscapes, landmarks, and the material and immaterial world - in the study and interpretation of sources of the African past?

Fourth, revealing the projects behind the sources: Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias urges us to think of African sources - be they textual, oral, or epigraphic - as the products of the biographic, intellectual, and political trajectories of their authors. Can we use sources as avenues for reconstructing the intellectual projects of their authors, and the discursive fields in which these authors operated? Fifth, developing a historiographic ethics based on a genuine hermeneutical stance in historical exegesis: How can researchers write in a way that reveals the justification in the Other’s point of view (and makes us doubt our own)? Sixth, but not least, contributions related to any of the regional and theoretical lines of inquiry that have animated Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias’ work, including Yoruba, Tuareg, and Songhay oral history; epigraphy; research in medieval Mali, Benin, and Mauritania; jihadist and non-jihadist Islam; Afrocentrism; and critical reassessments of North and West African historiography. 200 word abstracts by 1 February 2015 to Dr Benedetta Rossi: b.rossi@bham.ac.uk


A Sea that Links and Binds: Cooperation, Coercion and Compulsion across the Red Sea from the Eighteenth Century to the Present’, Interdisciplinary Workshop, Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), Berlin, Germany, 4–5 June 2015. The Red Sea links Africa and Arabia into a closely linked, multifaceted socio-economic system that has historically transcended ethnic, linguistic and political divides. Rather than act as a barrier, the sea has facilitated the movement of people, goods and ideas across the region. The creation, maintenance and evolution of this social system has been, and continues to be, dependent on the establishment and development of patterns of human-environment interaction. For example, maritime shipping is dependent on specialized climatological and geographic knowledge that allows ship captains to harness wind patterns and navigate the network of coral reefs and barrier near the African and Arabian littorals. Collective cooperation amongst diverse actors in the interior is required to exploit the region’s natural resources, to move goods to the coast and to develop natural harbours into well used ports. Despite its multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan aspects, this social system has been and continues to be shaped by the forces of compulsion and coercion. Arms have been used to restructure social interactions, as well as patterns of production and trade. Social pressures have led some Red Sea communities to adjust their internal structures and to abandon or adopt specific cultural practices.

From the end of the eighteenth century to the present, the Red Sea social system rapidly transformed alongside other rapid political, economic, technological and environmental changes. In response to these changes, individual and collective strategies based upon cooperation, coercion and compulsion were adjusted. For some people, this meant improved personal security. Unfortunately, for others this meant further instability and an increase in the precariousness of everyday life. Suggested papers include: port cultures; social dynamics on board ships; migrations, forced and otherwise, and the integration of migrant communities in their new homes; relationships between ruling elites and their subject populations; the spread of religious beliefs and spiritual practices; the regional transmission of knowledge about the natural world; and the impact of climatological change and environmental hazards on inter- and intra-communal relations. Abstracts up to 500 words and short CV by 1 February 2015 to: steven.serels@zmo.de

Africa: Looking East or West’, Second Annual International Interdisciplinary Conference, Kisii University (KSU), Kenya, 24–27 June 2015. The rise of China and India is creating tensions and anxiety in the global arena largely because of the new financial opportunities for Africa. African countries are said to be looking to the East with a lot of interest and excitement. Chinese leaders are regarded very highly in Africa, in ways that Western leaders were regarded few decades ago, because they come with goodies for African countries. The purpose of this conference is to allow scholars to compare the experiences that the two regions have had in the development partnerships with Africa. Japan has been an older partner, but China and India seem to have had greater ascendance in the past twenty years in their relations with Africa. Is the relation between African and Western countries changing due to new friendships with China? What benefits are African countries getting from their relation with China and India? These are the type of questions that papers are invited to explore. The conference will consist of ten colloquia organized along East and West themes: social, economic and political changes in Africa; management of resources in Africa; education and development in Africa; East and West constitutionalism and human rights; science and technology in Africa; religions in Africa; peace and conflict in Africa; library and ICT; and interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research in Africa. 250-500 word abstracts by 30 March 2015 to Professor Maurice Amutabi: mauriceamutabi@gmail.com

African Art and Artists after the Millennial Turn’, Faculty of Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria, 24–27 June 2015. African art today has become more visible and respectable in the global space both in theory and practice. The works of African artists at home and in the Diaspora have increasingly penetrated the global art world through landmark exhibitions and have become the subject of important symposia and publications. While many African artists in the Diaspora have worked their way into major museum collections and other formal art establishments in the West, a number of African artists (such as El Anatsui, Bruce Onobrakpeya and Ablade Glover) have continued to work at home, establishing themselves as celebrated figures who brought fresh and exciting artistic vocabularies to the making and discourse of global art. Eminent African curators, such as Okwui Enwezor, are now playing the game at the highest level, manning such high profile global art presentation and discursive platforms as the Documenta and the Venice Biennale. Major international auction houses are turning their gaze at African artists, and strong auction houses have now emerged within the continent itself. Art schools have multiplied.

How might we critically engage African visual art through the multiple lenses of mass communication, theatre and film studies, linguistics, literary studies, music, economics, anthropology, history and international relations, archaeology, tourism and museum studies and political science? What range of fresh views and interpretations are possible in the critical interrogation of the life and work of important contemporary African artists who have worked or are working at home or in the Diaspora? How have curators re-thought or not re-thought the long-drawn criticism over their representation or construction of the form and content of African contemporary artistic production based on its few Diaspora artists? In view of rising concern surrounding ownership of Africa’s cultural patrimony and the call for the restitution of Africa’s art objects looted by the West and held in their museums and galleries, how are the leadership of African countries joining the discourse and how prepared are they to handle the objects should they be returned? What is the relevance or role of the available national museums and galleries in African countries to the increasing visibility of African art and artists in the global art world? Who actually benefits from the current surge in the display and commoditisation of African art through the political and economic networks that define global and regional biennales and auctions? 200 word abstracts by 15 February 2015 to Dr Ozioma Onuzulike: ozioma.onuzulike@unn.edu.ng