In Crisis

In Crisis

The theme will critically explore how ‘crisis’ has been imagined, articulated, criticised and co-opted in Africa. ‘Crisis’ has been used to describe many different contexts around the world – ‘economic crisis’, ‘humanitarian crisis’, ‘Ebola crisis’, ‘refugee crisis’.  The narrative of ‘crisis’ can construct identities, intensify hierarchical and oppressive politics, and contribute to depoliticized and dehistorisized understandings.  At the same time, moments of crisis and upheaval, when future structural and symbolic realities are undetermined, can bring opportunities to reform social relations for the better.

This theme is particularly interested in the everyday, lived experiences in Africa of both global and local crises.  The theme will include at least the following four anels: –

1. Arts of Crisis
This panel will explore forms of art produced in and about periods of crisis and disruption. It is situated within the broader aims of the ‘Crisis’ stream, which explores how ‘crisis’ has been imagined, articulated, criticised and co-opted in Africa.

There is often a close connection between crisis and artistic expression.  For example, in 2018-2019, revolutionary protests in Sudan were accompanied by an artistic resurgence, in which street art and murals were at the heart of popular protest movement. This panel will bring together a range of empirical examples to ask: how have artists practicing in Africa engaged with phenomenon that are commonly labelled ‘crises’ (e.g. the ‘Ebola crisis’, the ‘refugee crisis’?) How have artists engaged with conflict, memorialisation and interpreting the experience of atrocity? What has been the role or art and artists in periods of political upheaval – such as liberation struggle and revolution? How does creative work challenge or complicate the temporality of crisis?

We are seeking papers that address a wide range of phenomenon and time periods. They may address visual, performance, poetic or other art forms. Papers might focus on a particular artist or body of work, or take a more thematic approach.

2. Protection in Crisis
Humanitarian protection’s meanings, philosophies and legal conventions have been remade over time and have often ended up in contradiction, confusion and crisis. At the same time, many humanitarian operations have failed to keep people safe during crisis. This panel is interested in the everyday realities of trying to keep strangers safe during periods of crisis. This includes ‘crisis’ in the sense both of contexts of crisis such as armed conflicts where humanitarian actors are active, as well as periods of crisis in humanitarian ideas and practice themselves. The panel will include discussion of the way that humanitarian actors reinterpret their norms through daily practice, as well as the way that non-humanitarian actors provide alternative forms of safety in these contexts whether in cooperation or contestation with humanitarian norms, assumptions and cosmologies. Papers that draw upon new empirical material are particularly welcome.

3. The Everyday in Crisis
This panel focuses on the everyday lived realities, violence, innovations and contestations of people living in contexts of ‘crisis’. The ‘everyday’ and concepts such as ‘hybridity’ and ‘public authority’ have been used to add complexity to discussions of the local in contexts of peacebuilding and armed conflict. This panel is especially interested in contributions that explore the complexity of crisis. The panel explores the daily routines and experiences of people as they live through ‘crisis’. We seek to build on the work of others in seeing the everyday as a site of agency. Therefore, the panel is interested in how everyday actions and responses to crisis reshape the meanings and articulations of what ‘crisis’ is itself, and what can be made possible despite difficult contexts. We are also interested in exploring how the everyday in crisis can be a site for the remaking of other social norms and hierarchies of authority, as well as the restraints upon such agency.

4. Health in Crisis 
The world appears to be engulfed in a new moment of health in crisis. Therefore, there is an urgent need to learn from health in crisis in other times and places, including in Africa. Various types of conceptualisations of health in crisisexist.  This includes emerging virulent epidemics like ebola, SARS, and COVID-19, as well as well-being during complex emergencies.  During virulent epidemics which pose a major threat to health, governments and humanitarians invest much top-down measures including in risk communications, from hand hygiene and to avoid contact with infected people.

At the same time, during complex emergencies in Africa, public authority figures such as humanitarians provide a framework for prioritising and defining what constitutes health in crisis.  Emergency aid principally covers intervention to provide psychosocial support to war-affected people. Psychosocial support may constitute material and health service provision. To provide psychosocial support means to promote mental well-being through addressing the trauma effects of war.  Thereby, the notion of trauma is evoked to refine the impact of violence to a scientific category whereby the mind is frozen at that extreme event.

People at risk, or people affected by war, however, frequently name different health priorities and may sometimes resist top down interventions. Health in Crisis thus means different things to different people. We invite anthropologists, social scientists, historians, humanitarians and health researchers to submit abstracts to our panel. Topics of discussion include but are not limited to theme interrogating stakeholders’ framing of health in crisis, a critique of a major focus in promoting psychosocial well-being, risk communication, and psychological well-being in crisis settings.


Organisers: Grace Akello (, Zoe Cormack (, Leben Moro ( and Naomi Pendle (