Open Stream Panels ASAUK 2018

African anticolonial writing: the literary and the political

This interdisciplinary panel will explore literary and political writing in African anticolonial histories, looking at
texts in English, French and Portuguese. Drawing on a growing body of scholarship focused on situating literarytexts within international political thought, as well as debates in materialist literary studies about the limits of ‘literary politics’ and ‘culturalism’, we seek to interrogate the innovative articulations of the relationships between writing and politics that characterised African anticolonial practice and to ask how this history might ground contemporary theorising in postcolonial studies.

The papers in this panel seek to bring forward the historical, geographical and linguistic contingency of
understandings of the relationships between the literary and the political, and between political organising and
print cultures. How was the relationship between the literary and the political understood by those affiliated to
anticolonial movements on the continent? How did relationships between politics and culture evolve in postcolonial Africa? How is it possible to read literary texts as political today without reducing them to their
ideological content?

  • The weapon of culture: anticolonial thought and practice from Paris and Dakar to Havana and Algiers, Gruffydd Jones, Branwen (Cardiff University, UK)
  • “Anticolonial Writing in West African Newspapers (1919-39)”, Younis, Musab (Cardiff University, UK)
  • Beyond realism and formalism: anticolonial conceptions of political writing, Reza, Alexandra (University of Oxford, UK)
  • Beyond Negritude: imagining race and independence in 1920s African anti-colonial writing, Murphy, David ( University of Stirling, UK)

Between Empire and Republic: The Witwatersrand in a Globalising World

The nineteenth century was a period of accelerated globalisation and modernisation that established and enhanced global integration. In southern Africa, the discovery of minerals set in motion a process that reverberated far beyond the region’s new mines. Paul Kruger’s South African Republic (ZAR) was faced with the challenges of rapid modernisation and the quest to establish a modern administration, while regional and imperial powers vied for influence.

People, animals, goods and capital were drawn together through connections and networks that reached across the Atlantic and Indian oceans. The networks that emerged were both local and transnational, formal and informal, between individuals and groups, as well as companies, states and institutions – all within a society undergoing rapid modernisation. They connected politicians, proletarians, bureaucrats and bar owners. These connections brought tensions between governments, mining houses, immigrants and policemen. They also forged new forms of cooperation and patronage. Studying these multifaceted interactions enable us to better understand the patterns of behaviour that emerged under such conditions in the late nineteenth century.

In order to explore the process in the Transvaal, it is imperative to understand the global forces at play, as well as their wider regional implications, which influenced and shaped local developments in southern Africa. For this reason we seek to explore these themes in a panel that draws together the local and the global perspectives, which will help us to examine these broader transnational connections, to stimulate conversation and debate, and to enhance our understanding of late-nineteenth century southern Africa.

  • “The Story of a Conspiracy”: Policing the Witwatersrand on the Brink of War, Muller, Cornelis ( Sol Plaatje University, South Africa)
  • ‘A mutually corrupt relationship’: The Kruger state, the Dynamite Concession and the Transvaal Concessions Commission, c.1900, Koorts, Lindie (University of the Free State, South Africa)
  • Between Empire and Republic: Johannesburg’s financial networks in a globalizing world, 1886-1902, Lukasiewicz, Mariusz (“Institute for African Studies University of Leipzig”,Germany)

Biography and narratives of life in Africa

Most writers on biography seem to agree that the genre is almost borderless, ranging from brief obituaries to multi-volume studies and even overlapping with autobiography. The term ‘biography’ implies one restriction, that examples should be written. This panel sets out to examine what might constitute the range of the biographical genre in Africa, as well as the nature of biographical production today: about African subjects, and about practices within Africa. Papers on the study of individual lives, or groups of lives, are welcome, as are more general surveys of regions, types, or particular languages. We are keen to explore biography-writing as well as the possibilities of life narratives in oral forms, and how these may enrich the genre.

  • Isaiah Bud-M’belle (1870-1947): biographical reflections, Willan, Brian, (ISEA, Rhodes University, Cullompton, United Kingdom)
  • Towards a biography of John Koenakeefe Mohl (1903-85), southern African painter of landscapes-with-figures, Parsons, Neil, (Independent Researcher, London, United Kingdom)
  • Means, methods and motives in African diasporic biography in Britain 1770 to the early twentieth century., Killingray, David, (Goldsmiths, University of London, London, United Kingdom)
  • Samuel Edward Krune Mqahyi and the navigation of Xhosa identity in the inter-war years, Kallaway, Peter, (School of Education, University of Cape Town, CAPE tOWN, South Africa)
  • [Seth Mokitimi], Gaitskell, Deborah, (University of London, London, United Kingdom)
  • Lives matter: biography-writing in Africa, Hughes, Heather, (University of Lincoln, Lincoln, United Kingdom)

Crisis and creativity – political theory in africa 

This panel focuses on three related areas of ‘crisis and renewal’ in political theory and the history of political thought: republicanism, comparative political theory and liberation theory.

  • ‘Freedom in the Decolonizing Republic’, Professor Lawrence Hamilton (NRF/British Academy Research Professor in Political Theory, Witwatersrand and Cambridge, South african and UK)
  • ‘Decolonisation and the History of Political Thought: a case for comparative political theory in Africa’, Ayesha Omar (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)
  • ‘Liberation Theory in Crisis: the case of South African student movements’, Moshibudi Motimele (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa)


Mugabe’s 37-year grip on Zimbabwe came to a dramatic end following a military intervention in November 2018. The event has since sparked debates around the nature of the military takeover, which the Zimbabwe military was adamant that it was not a coup, while others have described it as a unique or soft coup. The military intervention saw the Zimbabwean population unite in marches and vigils demanding Mugabe to step down and in praise of the Generals. Given the unprecedented nature of the event, and the excitement and expectations generated among Zimbabweans, academics, governments, it is perhaps prudent to have a panel to interrogate the different dynamics of the Mugabe’s era and ouster. This panel will welcome papers that will stimulate debate on the nature of the military take-over; the roles of the military, Zimbabwean civilians both in and out of the country; Mugabe’s liability; the  role first ladies during and after the military intervention; general gender dimensions to Mugabe’s ouster; the role and responses of the international community; ideological, legal and religious dimensions to the ouster ; and analysis of the Munangagwa administration to date vis-à-vis the claim to restore legacy.

  •  “The king is dead, long live the king!”: Public sentiments on the Post-Mugabe ‘New’ Dispensation, makombe, eric, kushinga, (University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe)
  • Social Media and Playful Engagements on the Zimbabwean Economy, Marowa, Carlington, Clint Simbarashe, (University of Zimbabwe Economic History Department, Harare, Zimbabwe)
  • From grievances to violence: Recourse to violence in 2016 protests in Zimbabwe”, Mude, Torque, (Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, Midlands State University, Gweru, Zimbabwe)”
  • Violence, Volition and Victimhood: Questioning victimhood and perpetrator narratives in Zimbabwe’s post-2000 political violence., Chitukutuke, Edmore,(University of the Witwatersrand, Witwatersand, South Africa)
  • ‘Anyone is better than Mugabe’: The Military Takeover and the Fall of Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Dzimbanhete, Jephias Andrew, (Great Zimbabwe University, Masvingo, Zimbabwe)
  • A woman used and abused or a courageous user and abuser? Grace Mugabe in the run-up to Zimbabwe’s military take-over, November 2017    “Mahamba, Barbara, (University Of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe), Biri, Kudzai, (University Of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe)”

 Making sense of ‘crisis’ in South Sudan

This panel will draw on research in South Sudan to better understand how people live with ‘crisis’ from an everyday perspective. What strategies do people employ to live with – or live off – uncertainty? What do South Sudanese perspective and experiences tell us about the concept of ‘crisis’? As the current civil war enters its fourth year – and seems to be fragmenting further – there is urgent need to better understand the social impacts of chronic disaster. How might notions of ‘trauma’, ‘normalisation’ and ‘resilience’ (which profoundly shape humanitarian interventions) be more critically understood in the context of South Sudanese lives?

All papers draw from long term research in different parts of the country. Together, they bring empirical depth to the question of what it means to live with chronic disaster in South Sudan and will explore how South Sudanese experiences can inform broader understandings of the social landscape of crisis and emergency.

  • Emerging Norms, Survival Instincts and Enduring South Sudans constant conflicts, Kuyang Harriet Logo (University of Juba, Juba, Sudan)
  • Bearing Witness in Crisis: Changing practices of journalism in South Sudan, Richard Stupart (London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom)
  • Understanding sexual violence in South Sudan’s conflict: Women as commodities in the violent political marketplace, Luedke, Alicia, (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada), Hannah Logan (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada), Logan, Hannah (London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom)
  • Crisis in South Sudan and role of religious spirituality, Martin Ochaya  (University of Bradford, Bradford,, United Kingdom)
  • “Then We Will Benefit”: Planning Amidst Precarity in Juba and Ramciel, South Sudan, Christian Joseph Doll ( University of California, United States)
  • “Everyday mobility in the midst of the conflict”, Emmanuelle Veuillet ( Panthéon-Sorbonne University, France)
  • Murle experiences and practices of everyday peace and violence in Boma, Diana Felix da Costa ( Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Norway)

Religion and cross-cultural transformations in West-Africa, 16th-19th centuries

The aim of this panel is to analyse religious and cultural exchange as a central element in shaping West-African societies. This was a complex and fluid process that challenges simplistic notions about cultural and social identities. The panel will include the following confirmed presentations:

Discussant: Toby Green (King’s College London, UK)

  •  “A Sea vodun in the Slave Trade: the example of Adantoxu leadership at the slaving port of Ouidah (XVIII or XIX century)”, Emmanuelle Kadya Tall (EHSS, Paris)
  •  “God of Christendom, the Bishopric of Kongo, and African Religious Freedom in Central West Africa (XVII Century): The Case of Emanuel Sa, from Angola to the Vatican”, Jose Lingna Nafafe (Bristol, UK)
  •  “«To civilize the blacks»: the Church and the colonial project for Angola (1764-1790)”, Hugo Ribeiro da Silva (Kings College London, UK)

Revisiting the civil war in Mozambique

This panel will discuss a new book, and some of its chapter authored by the participants, entitled The War Within. New Perspectives on the Civil War in Mozambique, 1976-1992 (James Currey: 2018).  The historiography on armed conflict in Mozambique has been narrowly focused until recently on Renamo, its external nature and its social basis, ignoring other actors of the war and other facets of the conflict. The panel participants will discuss armed movements before Renamo appeared, the state army deployment and evolution, Renamo’s internal dynamic, churches and NGOs, as well as the independent popular militia which emerged in the 1990s. Beyond the military, into the social, economic and ecological, this panel will revisit the history of civil war in Mozambique between 1976 and 1992.

  • “The Anti-Frelimo Movements and the War in Zambezia”, Sérgio Chichava (Instituto de Estudos Economicos e Sociais, Mozambique)
  •  “Spiritual power and the dynamics of war in the Provinces of Nampula and Zambézia”, Corinna Jentzsch  (University of Leiden, The Netherlands)
  • “The War as seen by Renamo: Guerrilla politics and the “move to the North” at the time of the Nkomati Accord (1983-1985)”, Michel Cahen (L’Afrique dans le Monde, SciencePo Bordeaux, France)
  • “War in Inhambane: Re-shaping State, Society and Economy”,  Eric Morier-Genoud  (Queen’s University Belfast, UK)

State-making from below: New approaches to ‘the African state’

This panel wants to challenge two pervasive ideas about African states. The first is that states ‘think’ in a particular, inevitable way; and the second is that states are shaped only by elites acting within the constraints of the international realm. The literature on the state in Africa has often seen it as somewhat divorced from the population within its bounds ‘Extraverted’, a ‘gatekeeper’.  In contrast, this panel explores how African states are brought into being through the ways the populous think about them and engage with them, in a variety of ways in different political and social contexts.

Papers present work that explores some of the ways citizens/ordinary people imagine and create their states and the variety of forms of statehood that are realised in these ways. Papers tackle bottom-up ideas of state personality and state authority; popular conceptions of the state’s role in the world; and how people help realise statehood through engagement with its banal aspects.

  • Military Intervention and State Formation: Lessons from Chad, Daga, Moudwe,(Royal Holloway, University of London, EGHAM, United Kingdom)
  • State personality and state authority: a reading through architecture, Gallagher, Julia, (Royal Holloway University of London, London, United Kingdom)
  • Post-party Politics? Local, National and Transnational Dimensions of Liberia’s 2017 Elections”, Harris, David,(University of Bradford, Bradford, United Kingdom), Pailey, Robtel,(University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom)
  • Ghana’s prisons – what it means to be Subject to State power, Routley, Laura,(Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom)

Violence, Protest and Discipline at african universities

  • A Hundred Years of University Education in South Africa: Any Cause for Celebration? With Special Reference to the University of South Africa, Andrew Hayden Manson (University of South Africa, South Africa)
  • Re-reading the “Fees Must Fall” Student Protests and Responses in South Africa: The Case of University of the Western Cape, Naume Choguya (University of the Western Cape, South Africa and Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation)
  • When Comrades Become Radicalized: Students’ Fears, Everyday Relations and Perceptions of Security in Moi University, Kenya, Bernard Musembi ( University of Gothenburg, Sweden and Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation)
  • Surveillance, Spying and Disciplining the University: Deployment of State Security Agents on Campus in Zimbabwe, Simbarashe Gukurume ( University of Cape Town, South Africa and Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation)