STREAM: Africa 90 years on

STREAM: Africa 90 years on

The IAI’s journal Africa was first published in 1928. Over the course of the subsequent 90 years it has consolidated its position as the premier journal devoted to the study of African societies and culture. It has been noted for its interdisciplinary approach (involving humanities, social sciences, and environmental sciences); for its increasing attention to African production of knowledge (highlighting the work of local African thinkers and writers); for its interest in emerging social and cultural trends ‘on the ground’; and for tracing links between local and national levels of society. The theoretically informed analysis of the locally-articulated cultural categories has been – and continues to be – of foremost importance. As the journal prepares to celebrate its 90th birthday in 2018, we ask members of its transcontinental Editorial Advisory Board, with members in Europe, the US and Africa, to offer papers exploring the journal’s distinctive character. They will reflect on its commitment to documenting ‘life on the ground’, and in the process provide state-of-the-art reviews of relevant literature in their own particular fields. At the same time they will offer challenges and provocations as to how the journal might position itself in future.


Erotic transgressions as illicit empowerment: perspectives from Africa

Organisers: Geschiere, Peter, , (University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Hendriks, Thomas, (University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom)
Spronk, Rachel, (University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Many Africanists have pointed at the intimate relationship between power, transgression and occult accumulation in different political-historical configurations in past and present African realities. But while scholars often recognize the importance of sexual imaginaries and gender ideologies in these articulations of power, analysts usually approach erotic transgressions merely from an angle of repression, homophobia and misogyny. Recent ethnographic analyses, however, explicitly foreground the productivity of erotic transgression as a strategy for empowerment, a tool for accumulating capital and a means for providing new agencies. Although these forms of power, capital and agency are usually illicit, the world-making capacities of hedonism are a fundamental dimension of contemporary life. We argue that a closer attention to these often-ignored aspects of erotic transgression is needed to move the exploding field of sexuality studies in Africa into new promising directions.

This panel therefore seeks to further study the ambiguity of sexual and erotic transgression. While the link between sexual dissidence and illicit empowerment seems to be surprisingly universal, the coincidence of erotic transgressions and power in many African realities is expressed through specific inflections and particular modes of action that have long regional histories. On the one hand, we call for papers that investigate the occult dimensions of the sex/power nexus in popular imaginations and discourses, such as, for instance the sexual theft of vital forces or the sectarian accumulation of riches by sodomitic phallocrats. On the other hand, we call for papers that analyze the multiple ways in which public performances of same-sex enjoyment, illicit relations and extra-marital affairs are prosaic mechanisms for accumulating capital in particular social fields, such as nightlife and urban ambiance, that increase situated self-confidence. We not only aim to situate these contemporary imaginaries and practices vis-à-vis earlier pre-colonial “traditions of invention” and broader (post)colonial “logics of extraversion” but also to look for emerging possibilities and situations that allow for socially affirmative and healing expressions of agencies and desires that are often dismissed as dissident and anti-social.

Over the past few years AFRICA published several articles that relate to such perspectives. A special issue is in the making. We hope that this panel will promote further contributions along these lines to the journal.

Work, wealth and welfare

Organiser: Deborah James (

Issues of political economy, viewed through the prism of ‘life on the ground’, have been an abiding concern in African Studies. The pages of Africa have reflected these in various ways, as scholarly concerns have shifted over the decades. Recent special issues on ‘Work Across Africa’, ‘Mutual Help in an Era of Uncertainty’, and ‘Popular Economies in South Africa’ have engaged with these topics, reflecting the resurgence of economic anthropology. How do new promises of abundance and upward mobility relate to prospects of employment (or to post-crash precarity for those on the margins)? How do individuals and groups reconcile their aspirations with the dependency of those who cannot participate in new promises of wealth? How do salaried civil servants, or people accustomed to locate themselves in the formal sector more broadly, join the dots to include participation in the ‘second’ – or what Janet MacGaffey called ‘real’ – economy? How do household members negotiate their small-scale enterprises with their roles of care and reproduction? As they strive to patch together economic lives, how do people relate to state institutions? Is life as fragmented and piecemeal as some scholars make out? This panel invites early career researchers and others to present current work on these themes and reflect on how we can take them forward.


If you have any queries or suggestions please contact Stephanie Kitchen (; Karin Barber (; Deborah James ( For panel and paper submissions please follow the instructions on the website 

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