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

‘Documenting Africa: Creating Fact or Fiction through the Lens, University of Westminster, London, 8–9 November 2014. The 6th African Film Conference organised by the Africa Media Centre at the University of Westminster provides opportunities to bring together academic scholars and practitioners from around the world to discuss contemporary issues around how African’s portray themselves and how they are portrayed by others. Topics will include present-day production, distribution, audiences, contested African histories, or post-colonial archives. With an explosion of new media and a further diversification of television landscapes over the last ten years, alongside a revival of documentaries for cinemas and radio documentary productions, this conference will critically engage with the realities of documentary in and about Africa.  How has a form that is often criticized as a ‘Western version’ of re-creating reality evolved across the African continent?  What are the problems and concerns of practitioners? Is the documentary form a useful and adequate format for educating the public?  What are the specific themes and subject matters of African documentary?  What roles have the digitisation of film and television archives played in the self-understanding of the African countries whose memories and visual histories have been frequently stored abroad?  How does an up and coming generation deal with new possibilities in film and video making? To register, contact Helen Cohen, Events Administrator: journalism@westminster.ac.uk

African Archaeology Research Day 2014, on “SS Great Britain”, University of Bristol, 21–22 November 2014. The plenary and keynote papers will take place on the first afternoon. It is anticipated that this year there will be parallel sessions for papers on the second day, together with small group panels on focused themes, and posters. The organisers hope to showcase interfaces between archaeological science and African archaeology at this year’s conference, although the general focus of the conference remains, as always, African archaeology. There will be papers and posters on science in African archaeology; Africa in the wider world; Pleistocene Africa; heritage management in Africa; recent fieldwork and discoveries; technology, conservation and material culture; and climate, landscape and resource use. For more details, check: https://www.facebook.com/AARD2014

‘Eritrea and Rwanda: Post-Liberation Trajectories in Comparative Perspective’, Comparative Symposium, African Studies Centre, University of Oxford, 1–2 December 2014. For Eritrea and Rwanda, 2014 has special significance for the ruling elites, which have dominated politics in both countries for the last two decades. In Eritrea, it marks twenty years since the formation of the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, the political party that succeeded the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front after it had finally won Eritrea its independence from Ethiopia. For Rwanda, it marks twenty years since the Genocide and the rise to power of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, led in particular by former Uganda based refugees. In both countries, the continued presence of liberation leaders -- Eritrea’s Isaias Afeworki and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame -- turned presidents is fuelling speculation about succession, as Rwanda’s elections approach in 2017 and since the prospect of a constitution drafting process was announced by Eritrea’s president in his independence day speech this year.

Whilst critical academic engagement assessing these post-liberation states has proliferated, especially literature examining the development of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the Eritrean and Rwandan Studies communities have both at times faced criticism for being excessively polarising and damagingly insular. Hosted by the African Studies Centre, and supported by the Department for International Development, the Horn of Africa Seminar and the Oxford Central Africa Forum, this conference thus seeks to address both critiques. In bringing together academics working on these two different countries, whose resemblance in political ideologies and history poses interesting questions for the state formations we see now, it seeks to provide a productive space for sharing theoretical approaches and empirical observations through a series of exploratory panels. These are aimed at addressing topics not based on normative models of state formation and behaviour, but observed themes concerning those features which, though distinctive for each regime, appear to have interesting degrees of comparability across the two.Toregister, contact: Jason Mosley: Jason.mosley@africa.ox.ac.ukor Georgia Cole: Georgia.cole@qeh.ox.ac.uk

‘Contemporary Congolese Studies’, Third Congo Research Networkconference, University of Cambridge, 11–12 June 2015. Organised in collaboration with the African Studies Centre, this conference will bring together both junior and senior scholars in Congolese Studies, working at European, North American and African research institutions.  The organisers seek papers, research projects and works-in-progress which address Congolese society, culture or history, with a particular interest in proposals which fall under the following themes: cultures of conflict; environment and natural resources; religious dynamics; postcolonial governance and the role of NGOs; popular and material culture; colonial and postcolonial states; gender and society; urban cultures; and methodologies and epistemologies in Congolese Studies. Abstracts by 31 October 2014 to: congoresearchnetwork@gmail.com



‘Development, Urban Space and Human Rights in Africa’ Conference, University of Texas at Austin, USA, 3–5 April 2015.Development, which has always been intertwined with human rights, is increasingly linked to the fate of urban spaces and urban livelihoods. Questions about poverty, economic growth, quality of life, social inequality, human rights and citizenship are framed through the lens of urban planning and development policies. Whether indigenously derived or externally influenced/imposed, development strategies for Africa are based on visions of alternative futures that seek to redefine social relations and spatial organization both within the continent and abroad. The social, political, and cultural landscapes envisioned and created under the context of development highlight the historic and ongoing challenges that frame efforts to transform Africa’s development trajectory. The goal of this year’s conference is to generate interdisciplinary insights that can interrogate development paradigms and intervention practices as they relate to urban space and human rights in Africa.          

What does development mean in the context of indigenous strategies of self-determination and global intervention? How do notions of development shape urban space and urban policies in Africa? In what ways have development strategies affected human rights? How is development conceptualized, and how does this advance or foreclose intervention practices? How can development related issues be conceptualized in contexts of vulnerability and crises that arise across urban, government, or individual levels? In what ways do individual voices inform collective strategies that address development, and how do these voices support or contradict dominant/external development goals? How do indigenous collectives and global activists define human rights and urban rights, and how can these definitions shift notions of development?

Potential topics may include: development debates; narratives of development; development and the aid industry; development paradigms and conceptualizations of development; urban space and development practices; intervention in development issues human rights debates; intervention in human rights; urban rights, rights to the city; African development strategies; sustainable development; gender and development; entrepreneurship and development; insurgent development practices; methodologies of development; human rights and border issues; urban informalization/informality and citizenship; social exclusion, displacement, and urban marginalization; rhetoric and culture of international human rights; Africom and intervention; NGOs, MDGs and prospects for development; sanctions for better or worse (Zimbabwe, Sudan); intellectual property and struggle over resources; urban planning and development strategies; development and land and water rights; dependency and human rights issues; intellectual property and struggle over resources; concepts of under-development, urban space, and human rights; education for development; children and youth: development strategies for/impacts, rights and life prospects; development, imagined futures, and existing social realities; and development and perceptions of futurity (state-directed conceptualizations of pathways to future progress and notions of risk-laden futures). 250 word abstracts by 30 November 2014 to africaconference2015@gmail.com and Professor Toyin Falola: toyinfalola@austin.utexas.edu

‘Islam in Africa: Historical and Contemporary Processes of Islamisation and Re-islamisations’, Joint conference of the Swiss Society Middle East and Islamic Cultures and the Swiss Society of African Studies, Berne, Switzerland, 24–25 April 2015. An estimated 500 million Africans, or roughly 45% of the total population on the African continent, is Muslim and many countries are predominantly Muslim or have significant Muslim populations. However, there is a huge diversity within Islam. The conference aims to explore the dynamics behind this diversity. It is interested in both historical and contemporary processes of islamisation and re-islamisations in Africa and their consequences. Earlier examples include economic and cultural exchanges in Northern and Eastern Africa and the Horn that were triggered by trade and frequently pre-dated contact with Europeans. These exchanges had significant impacts, among other, on the political sphere, education, science, and everyday practices. Beyond these earlier examples and their transformations, there are both transnational and domestic contemporary processes. They include adapted trade flows, investment and banking relations or development aid. Among the consequences are reform movements, but also (violent) political change. These forms of change have different social effects depending on gender, age, social class and other markers of difference. Other processes of islamisation and re-islamisation are based on migration and cultural flows based on the internet, media or popular culture, again having distinct effects on the micro, the meso and the macro level.

The organizers welcome papers on the following sub-themes of the conference:
Panel 1: Islam and Power (Organiser: Daniel Künzler, University of Fribourg: daniel.kuenzler@unifr.ch). The diffusion of Islam is closely related to questions of power. It is linked to diverse and ambiguous processes such as the emergence of (early) elites, social reform projects, the collaboration with or the resistance to colonial domination and postcolonial governments. Furthermore, forms of religious revitalization with its influences on popular lifestyles and institutions (re-)shape the socio-political order and its underlying power struggles and games, both in support of dominant groups or as a challenge to them. This panel welcomes papers that analyse historical and contemporary developments and transformations of the political space. Papers may focus on the (re-)negotiation of policies and polities or on politics.

Panel 2: Islam and economics (Organiser: Thomas Würtz, University of Berne: thomas.wuertz@islam.unibe.ch). Trade was a major factor for the diffusion of Islam in Africa. Especially trading across the Sahara desert was for centuries in the hand of Muslim tribes. Merchandise were spices, salt, gold and ivory as well as manuscripts and slaves. Later on Sufi communities combined Islamic forms of spirituality with economic matters. The most prominent example for this connection may be the activities of the Muridiyya community in Senegal with regard to peanuts farming. Investments are nowadays done in the primary sector (land grabbing), the secondary sector (raw materials) and the tertiary sector (tourism, Islamic Banking). All these activities taken together with development cooperation contribute at different degrees to the re-islamisation in African countries.

Panel 3: Islam and change of material and immaterial cultures (organiser: Anne Mayor, University of Geneva: anne.mayor@unige.ch). Islam has been progressively adopted in Africa in different time periods and through different modalities. This caused and continues to cause important changes in domains as different as architecture, funeral rites, art and handicraft, clothing and eating practices, not to mention music and popular culture. Historically, the diffusion of Islam accompanied the development of long-distance exchange networks and the large-scale settling-down of people, processes that structure societies until now. For the cultural heritage of African societies, islamisation signified also the abandon, consented or under constraint, of sacred places, funeral rituals and objects used for the cult of ancestors, or even the delocalisation of entire villages. All this contributed to the transformation of the cultural spheres of both converted individuals and societies. Processes of re-islamisation touch these questions even more radically and concern also societies that have been Muslim for a long time. This is exemplified by the recent destruction of manuscripts and mausoleums of Muslim saints or by the canon used for the generalised reconstruction of mosques that differs from the canons used for the ancient mosques of Sahelian Africa.

Panel 4: Imagined communities (organisers: Thomas Herzog, University of Berne: therzog@islam.unibe.ch and Elisabeth Bäschlin, University of Berne: elisabeth.baeschlin@giub.unibe.ch). The diffusion of Islamic religiosity and practices in Africa participates in the multiple processes of identity construction in the past and in the present (islamisation and “re-islamisation”). In this panel we would like to welcome all contributions which deal with the field of interaction of Islamic religiosity and the construction of identity. We understand ‘identities’ as constructions in the sense of Benedict Anderson (Imagined Communities, 1983), as a product of religious, ethnic, cultural and national ascriptions and self-ascriptions. Currently religion is in the focus of self- and external perception and is discussed as such. One of our concerns is to widen the perspective and to include other relevant aspects (culture, history, tradition) and processes (ethnicizing). 200 word abstracts in French or German by 30 November 2014 to the panel organisers listed above.

‘African Renaissance and Pan-Africanism: Epistemologies of the South, New Leadership Paradigms, and African Futures’, Toyin Falola Annual Conference (TOFAC) Conference, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, 2–4 July 2015. Africa is at once an invention, an idea, and a reality. Its geo-political cartography is linked to the global cartography of power.  It has a long and proud pre-colonial existence including being the cradle of human civilization and an experience of a traumatic insertion into the evolving modern/imperial/colonial system. Mercantilism, the slave trade, imperialism, Islamisation, Christianisation, colonialism, apartheid, neo-colonialism, underdevelopment and structural adjustment programmes – collectively constituted the colonial global power structure in place since Conquest. Africa has also experienced epic forms of African resistance and de-colonial struggles, demonstrating beyond doubt its agency and initiative in shaping and creating its own futures

In the realm of knowledge, although various impartial historical, scientific, and anthropological studies have confirmed that the continent is the cradle of human civilisation, Euro-North American-centric epistemology privileges Hellenocentrism, Eurocentrism and Westernization and continues to contest African endogenous and indigenous epistemologies.   Consequently, a series of violent encounters with the West and Arabs in form of the Trans-Saharan and Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, colonialism, neo-colonialism and globalisation  have left the continent with scars and debilitating psychological traumas that have continued to shape her existential realities to this day. Africa has also suffered from epistemic violence as racist, anthropological and Euro-centric historical studies have denied or distorted the history of Africa, dismissed her indigenous knowledge base and emasculated any attempt at developing context specific knowledge production.

Pan-Africanism was the rallying point for African unity as well as struggles against imperial domination and control. It was a movement and cultural-cum-political consciousness among Africans on the mainland and their kith and kin in the Diaspora. Protagonists of Pan-Africanism believe in the rediscovery of the African person as a complete human being who is capable of making scientific discovery, innovation, and contributing to human development. They believe that despite the challenges that the continent has faced over several centuries of exploitation and domination, it can rise again. The hope of the Pan-Africanists is that the progress and the realisation of Africa’s huge potential lie in her unity and integration.

In view of the complicated trajectory of Africa marked by failures and successes, defeats and triumphs, trials and tribulations, as well as hopes and despairs, questions continue to arise about the future of Africa and its agency. This conference therefore calls for papers that focus on the following broad themes and questions: genealogies, trajectories, and horizons of Pan-Africanism; the current state of the Africa’s Renaissance; what is the appropriate framework for uniting the African Continent; what kind of leadership is needed to turn the current tide of captured development; which epistemologies are relevant in driving the change that the continent needs; what is the impact of colonialism on power, being, and knowledge in Africa; how can we develop a beneficial form of engagement with other parts of the world; and what strategies can be used to resolve conflicts currently afflicting Africa?

The organisers welcome papers that address the following interrelated thematic issues. History: African pre-colonial governance structures and processes; African political economies in pre-colonial times; African relations with the outside world in pre-colonial times; African indigenous knowledge systems; African dispute settlement mechanisms; and patterns of migration in pre-colonial Africa. Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance: Pan-Africanism: utopia or reality; identity crisis in Post-colonial Africa; Pan-Africanism and regional integration in Africa; nationalism and Pan-Africanism; political citizens and society in Africa; and the African Renaissance. Epistemology of Change and Knowledge Production for Africa Development: rethinking African Studies; African historiography and institutions of learning; African literature and development; Afrocentric education and development; African cultural studies and philosophy; context specific curriculum and education; gender studies and feminism; communication studies and development; social science studies and development; language and visual arts; and science, innovation and technology for development in Africa. Leadership, Followership and Governance in Africa: African agency in development; transformational leadership; progressive forces-civil society, labour unions and student movements; youth and governance in Africa; corruption and challenges of development in Africa; democracy; and peacebuilding and security in Africa. The State and the Economy in Africa: rethinking the state in Africa; the state and the market; industrial policy and development in Africa; public policy and African development; the state and social policies in Africa; informal economy; and cross-border trades. Africa’s geo-political relations in critical perspectives: Afro-Asian Relations; Africa-EU Relations; Afro-American Relations; Afro-Latin America Relations; and Africa and the BRICS. 250 word abstracts by 30 November 2014 to: tmali@unisa.ac.za and oloruso@unisa.ac.za