Contemporary Africas, Creative Africas: Conceptual and Methodological Advances in African Studies
University of Leeds
4-5 April 2019
How does one make sense of Africa – as a place and an idea – today? How should we study the dynamics in African societies and cultures as part of our constantly shifting world with its paradoxes of globalisation and locality, postcoloniality and neo-colonialism, a neo-liberal world order and alternative collective imaginaries? How are cultural objects and performances shaping the way that Africa is figured imaginatively and what kind of politics is emerging around cultural representation? What are the innovative concepts and methodologies needed to engage and understand Africa, both as a site of critical new plays for power – between ‘the people’ and ‘the state’ for instance – and as an actor in a changing global political environment? What theoretical and methodological advances are required to push African Studies as a field beyond its problematic histories and trajectories, and to take seriously the quest for decolonisation?
Building on its long history of a multidisciplinary and critical study of African societies, cultures and politics, the Leeds University Centre for African Studies invites proposals for panels and papers with cutting-edge empirical and theoretical research into Africa’s multiple realities, dynamics and meanings. We specifically welcome contributions that probe new methods and concepts from across the social sciences and humanities in order to advance our understanding of Africa as a place and an idea, and the state of African Studies as a field.
We are interested in any proposal that addresses the above questions. For instance, we welcome paper and panel proposals about:
In light of contemporary concerns with decolonisation and meditations on the meaning of the continent of Africa, both within the academy and beyond, we invite papers concerned with African Places, African Spaces as part of our 2019 seminar series hosted in collaboration with the Leeds University Centre for African Studies and Leeds School of English.
For this series, we are interested in papers that address the ways in which Africa is figured as a place and how it occupies space in global thought. This interrogation involves questions about African ontologies, epistemologies, philosophies and literatures comparatively within the continent itself, in relation to other postcolonial contexts, and in terms of its contentious relationship with ‘the West’ or ‘North’.
Proposals can also address the primary question in relation to any of the following:
What place does Africa have in global literature?
What are the material aspects of life in African cities and villages as depicted in literature?
How do explorations of these spaces inform how we view the relationship between individuals and their communities, and between the ‘local’, ‘regional’, ‘national’, ‘continental’, ‘diasporic’ and ‘global’?
How does Africa occupy discursive, cultural and material spaces?
How does Africa travel in film, journalistic, academic, literary and online spaces?
Can we think of contemporary African travel writing (e.g. Noo Saro-Wiwa’s Looking for Transwonderland, Sihle Khumalo’s Dark Continent, My Black Arse & Chibundu Onuzo’s Welcome to Lagos) as examples of reflecting on the spatiality of Africa?
We are accepting proposals from any discipline and especially interdisciplinary work in this area. Proposals must be a maximum of 300 words (in Word format) and submitted to email@example.com by 31 January 2019.
The recent passing of South Africa’s poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile has occasioned an outcry regarding the relative absence of exiled writers in this country’s curricula and public discourse. South African literary history maintained, until the mid-2000s, the idea that the 1960s was a period of silence in South African cultural production. Numerous prominent writers were exiled by the stranglehold of apartheid, and these absent histories are directly linked to the regrettable state of cultural workers, dead and alive, who were actors in the worlding of South African literature, when a fascist regime sought to provincialize and delegitimize their intellectual pursuits. The effects of this are a warped and distorted perception of our knowledge systems – an onto-epistemic disillusionment.
Because of banning, censorship and the threat of imprisonment, South African cultural workers have produced art in almost every continent, in what could be deemed subterranean conditions, and the consequence of this is the lacuna we are confronted with today in our attempts to recover, engage, expose, teach, and promote their work. Our project ‘Recovering Subterranean Archives’, is directed at research into a range of literary, visual, and performance texts that currently remain in exile. The project’s main objective is to investigate South Africa’s deterritorialized national culture. The call for decolonization is a call for this library to surface and to be disseminated, diffusing the uniformity of colonial archives and epistemology which persist even under democracy.
Accordingly, we would like to host a two-day conference in which we explore South African cultural work in exile. Areas of interest include (but are not limited to)
The evolution of Black intellectual culture;
world literature and the vernacular,
Bantu migrations and contemporary exile,
middle passage and contemporary black diasporas,
national languages and their transnational permutations,
border crossings and temporalities,
intersections of anti-apartheid, anti-coloniality, pan-Africanism, and tri-continentalism.
We will circulate a programme once all abstracts have been received. All submissions should be 300-word abstracts, which can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com no later than 15 November 2018. Please include your affiliation (if any), along with your contact details and any access, dietary or other requirements you have. We welcome proposals for the delivery of presentations through art, performance, poetry, multimedia or any other mode of creative expression.
The next seminar paper in our Theorising Africa series will be delivered by Stephen Bulman and is entitled “Re-thinking Sunjata: epics and epistemology in West African oral narratives”. The seminar will take place on 27 March at the LHRI seminar room 1 at 4pm. The event is free and open to all.
African oral epics, in common with African oral traditions as a whole, have in the past too often been understood as hallowed messages from the past, handed down unchanged from generation to generation. New thinking based on analysis of Manding epics about Sunjata Keita and his rival for power Sumanguru Kante, two legendary rulers from the pre-colonial era, suggests that such oral traditions are part of a cultural meta-discourse fashioned and re-fashioned over time in response to social and political shifts; and their tellers, hereditary griots or jeliw, intellectual actors whose narratives help shape and re-form the identities of, and relationships between, cultural and social groups. This seminar will examine how the recently published Epic of Sumanguru Kante, a narrative retelling medieval Mali’s foundation from the perspective of Sunjata’s defeated rival, offers fresh insights into the role of African historical oral poetry in shaping Manding ‘oral historiography’ and epistemology.
He said: It is true, indeed, I came with my name. My name is Soo-Maanguru. That’s the meaning of being Sumanguru. He said: I, here, I will not be slave. I will not be lackey.
– Bulman The Epic of Sumanguru Kante (2017)
About Stephen Bulman
Stephen Bulman (Ph.D. Birmingham 1990) studied the Epic of Sunjata as a doctoral student. He has taught history at Newman University in Birmingham, worked as an academic at Leeds Trinity University and Cumbria University, and has published several studies of the Epic of Sunjata and related African oral traditions including, with Valentin Vydrine, a critical source edition of The Epic of Sumanguru (Brill, 2017) based on an oral epic he recorded in the Republic of Mali.
The field of cultural theory has – for as long as it’s been a discipline – been dominated by Western epistemologies. Our ways of knowing have, undoubtably, always required a framework through which they can be conceptualised – or even legitimised. The consequence of this institutionalisation of thought, which has its roots in a myriad of complex historical and structural implementations of power, is that other epistemologies often get overlooked or even rebranded under different names or theories, at the behest of fitting the demands and criteria of Western academe. The notion of a history of ideas that is grounded in a Euro-American paradigm obscures, and limits, our understanding of and engagement with the multiplicities of meaning at work in cultural analysis. Theorising Africa seeks to explore what it means to be human, to be a member of society, through the exploration of identity, aesthetics, and politics by placing cultural theory and African epistemic frameworks in dialogue.
The concept of Ubuntu finds its distorted counterpart in some versions of post-humanist thought. Ideas of community deriving from Igbo cosmology similarly find their traces – albeit inversely – in much of the discourses pertaining to community building in the fields of cultural theory, law, and literature. Subverting the closure inherent in binary oppositions, we seek to bridge the divide that has so far disadvantaged African epistemologies on the academic platform, entering into dialogue and engaging with a richly diverse history of ideas.
For this seminar series we are interested in looking to Africa for its history of ideas: How has African thought transcended boundaries and how can it continue to do so? What can African thought contribute to the many blind spots in the fields of cultural theory? How can these contributions account for the work of knowledge-making? In what ways are these contributions necessary?
We seek papers and proposals on topics including, but not limited to:
African literary theory
Reframing the history of ideas – philosophical interrogations
Politics and bio-violence
Feminisms and policy
Challenges to the legacy of the writer
Any non-conforming inquiry which doesn’t fall into a field
Please get in touch with proposals (max 300 words + bio) in Word format to firstname.lastname@example.org by 31 January 2018.
2nd Narrative Enquiry for Social Transformation (NEST) International Conference
22-24 March 2018
University of the Witwatersrand
Molly Andrews is Professor of Political Psychology, and Co-director of the Centre for Narrative Research (www.uelac.uk/cnr/index.html) at the University of East London. Her research interests include political narratives, the psychological basis of political commitment, political identity, patriotism, and aging. She is currently working on a project called The Unbuilding of East Germany: Excavating Biography and History. Her books include Lifetimes of Commitment: Aging, Politics, Psychology and Shaping History: Narratives of Political Change (both Cambridge University Press), and Narrative Imagination and Everyday Life (Oxford University Press). Her publications have appeared in five languages.
Gabeba Baderoon is the author of Regarding Muslims: from Slavery to Postapartheid (awarded the 2017 National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences Best Non-fiction Monograph Award) and the poetry collections The Dream in the Next Body, The Museum of Ordinary Life and A hundred silences. She is a recipient of the Daimler Award for South African Poetry and is a member of the editorial board of the African Poetry Book Fund. With Alicia Decker, Baderoon co-directs the African Feminist Initiative at Pennsylvania State University, where she is an Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and African Studies. She is an Extraordinary Professor of English at Stellenbosch University and a Fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study.
CALL FOR PANELS AND PAPERS
Narrative Enquiry for Social Transformation (NEST) is a research network launched in July 2015 with the aim to foster the theory and practice of narrative as a field of study through interdisciplinary research and empirical investigations into questions of human experience, development and social change. Its members are drawn from the Humanities and Social Sciences as well as creative and community-based constituencies. The current configuration of the NEST network allows for an articulation between the Arts, Social Sciences and Socio-psychological work.
NEST is informed by the principle that narrative is one of the defining features of what it means to be human. Personal and collective senses of self, experience, desires, fears and hopes are developed in and through narrative meaning-making, providing recognition and validation, and deepening our sense of human dignity across lines of difference and existence. The transformative possibilities of narrative lie in the ways in which it enables people to: give coherence to their lives and the world around them; develop forms of critical consciousness and thinking; imagine possible alternative social realities and futures; and, ultimately, not only to read them-selves and their place in the world but also to be read by others. It is people who make culture and culture that in turns remakes us, and this process is always political and potentially transformative.
NEST seeks to undertake research that traces ideologies, experiences and identities across time as constructed through inter / cross generational experience and storytelling; the reconstruction of (cultural memory); and transmission of unofficial histories and alternative narratives by ordinary people, particularly in families, communities, educational and creative contexts. Its research agenda incorporates a wide range of theoretical and critical conceptual and creative work that can be undertaken from multiple disciplinary perspectives and methodologies. The following constitute the core thematic threads of NEST:
The narrative formation of consciousness and subjectivities
Marginality, the body, affect and narrative
Narrative form and symbolic representations in multiple modalities: textual, visual, archival, aural and performative.
Developing knowledge and praxis through empirical projects
We invite papers and panels that use NEST research threads as a catalyst but other explorations of any aspects related to narrative are also welcome.
Once abstracts have been accepted, participants will be notified. The conference will take the form of pre-circulated papers for discussion. Full Papers will be due a month in advance of the conference to allow sufficient time for discussants to read.
Conveners: Jill Bradbury and Bhekizizwe Peterson
Committee Members: Hugo Canham, Lindelwa Dalamba, Cynthia Kros, Ronelle Carolissen, Grace Musila, and Khwezi Mkhize.
THE GENDER EQUALITY DISCOURSE OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS AND OTHER INSTRUMENTS FOR GENDER EQUALITY : HOW FAR CAN SUCH INSTRUMENTS PUSH FEMINIST AGENDAS IN AFRICA FORWARD
Contributors are invited to write on the topic above from either a research or an activism perspective. Abstracts and contributions must be written in English and in a style accessible to a wide audience. Please submit abstracts to email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is15th August 2017.
Agenda has been at the forefront of feminist publishing in South Africa for the past 30 years and raises debate around women’s rights and gender issues. The journal is designed to promote critical thinking and debate and aims to strengthen the capacity of both men and women to challenge gender discrimination and injustice. The Agendajournal is an IBSS/SAPSE accredited and peer reviewed journal. You can visit the website to listen to check out past issues, listen to podcasts, or watch the web documentaries.
ABOUT SAT (Southern African AIDS Trust)
SAT is an innovative organization with a regional footprint contributing to improved systems for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of girls, adolescents and women in Southern Africa. We work to empower girls, adolescents and women to participate in inclusive and equitable systems for health at local, national and regional levels. SAT is inspired by its values and vision of a world in which resilient communities across Southern Africa enjoy good health and wellbeing free from stigma and discrimination. The ultimate goal is to contribute to improved health and well-being of girls, adolescents and young women in more equitable and inclusive systems for health.
GUEST EDITORS: Vicci Tallisand Claire Mathonsi
This edition of AGENDA seeks to interrogate the best way for us to impact on the lives of women and girls in Africa – thinking about feminist activism, women’s movements and advocacy on specific rights that may or may not be contained in international and Regional instruments. It also aims to interrogate ways to shift both thinking and action on gender equality and ensuring women’s rights.
At a global level the imperative for reaching gender equality is entrenched and driven by the Sustainable Development Goals (5 and to some extent 3 and 4), launched in 2015 as a follow on from the MGD’s. The goal of SDG 5 is to chieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030. Government commitments (often driven by the promise or availability of resources) often pay lip service to the attainment of the SDG’s which highlight nine key areas and set targets that will “end” gender inequality:
End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life
Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences
Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws
Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women
Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels
Africa has her own vision of gender equality Agenda 2063 – “the Africa we want to be” and other instruments such as the Maputo Plan of Action on SRHR – which is seen as very progressive. The contradiction is that the Africa Bloc often pushes a more conservative agenda at a global level – highlighting the shrinking space for civil society in general and for women’s rights and gender specifically.
Feminists have long argued against the de-politising of “gender” which has become more and more technical and less about the power dynamics that drive the oppression of women. How then do we as movements use the SDG’s and other “technical” instruments to forward our struggles? This edition will explore the discourse of SDG’s and gender equality and examine how far such instruments can push our agendas forward:
Measuring African commitments against the SDGs. Identifying progressive instruments that take us further than the SDGs.
What are the experiences of African feminists in processes such as Commision on the Status of Women? Can we revolutionise and change such spaces?
With a background of some progressive legislation why does the Africa Group push a more conservative agenda at global level. What are the sticking points and how do we address these?
Is there currently a shrinking space for civil society especially around Women’s Rights & Gender – how can we increase agency and voice?
Does gender discourse really speak to women’s realities (in all our diversity) and does it provide solutions that will fundamentaly impact? Is gender equality feminist?
How do we, or do we need to rejuvenate the women’s movement? How do/have young women fit into that? What is our role in gender equality discourse and action
What, if anything, did the MDGs do for women’s rights, women’s lives and gender equality? Did this as a Northern agenda really tackle the issues of women in the South?
Maputo Plan of Action on SRHR – is it a feminist agenda? How do we deal with instruments being watered down at regional and country levels.
What are the views and actions of African post-modern / post colonial feminist thinkers?
Links to activism from other regions – how can we build global solidarity around global targets?
* Contributions are accepted in any form, prose (both theoretical and practical), poetry, narrative, interviews, and visual arts. Submission guideline and further information is below.
The following guidelines are intended to assist authors in preparing their contributions.
Agenda invites contributions from feminist and gender scholars, activists, researchers, policy makers, professionals, educators, community workers, students and members of women’s organizations and organizations interested in and concerned with gender issues.
Submissions should contribute to developing new thinking and fresh debate on women’s rights and gender equality in Africa and other developing countries.
Writers need to:
Write in an accessible and understandable style;
Inform, educate or raise debate;
Try to pin down reasons for contradictions and point out differences of opinion;
Provide an analysis and an argument;
Be sensitive to but not uncritical of how gender, class and race affect the reporting of an event;
Ensure the introduction encapsulates the contents of the piece and that it attracts the reader’s attention by either making a controversial statement, providing a thought-provoking or new insight into the subject;
Utilize a gender or feminist lens.
We publish articles in various formats, which range from 6,000 words for more theorized articles, which form the main reference pieces in an issue, to shorter pieces with a minimum of 1,500 words.
Formats of Contributions
Article (6 000 words max) should be based on new research and contain analysis and argument.
Briefing is an adaptable format for writers to write on a wide range of subjects (2 500 – 4 000 words)
Focus examines an aspect of a chosen theme in detail (4 500 words max)
Profile looks in detail at an organisation, project or legislation, or a person (2 500 – 3 500 words)
Report-back covers reports on meetings, conferences workshops etc
(1 500 – 4 000 words)
Review typically reviews books or films (1 500 – 3 000 words)
Interview can record a conversation among a group of people or a one-on-one interview in which the writer asks the interviewee/s questions on a subject (1 500 – 3 000 words)
Open Forum is a vehicle for debate and argument, or pieces which deal with argument and difference of opinion on a subject/issue (2 500 – 4 000 words)
Perspective is an adaptable format in which writers are able to use a more personal reflective, narrative style (1 500 – 3 000 words)
Contributions should be submitted in the following format:
File type: Microsoft Word
Size: 10 pt
Line spacing: single
Referencing: Harvard style
ALL submissions should have the following:
Abstract: 200 – 300 words
Keywords: approx 5 keywords
Bio: 100 – word author biography, including email address
Bio picture: head-and-shoulders photo in 300 dpi jpeg format
Contributors are encouraged to provide photos and/or graphics to illustrate their submission
Selection and Editing Process
All submissions are peer reviewed. Articles, briefing and focus pieces go through a double blind peer review process, while all other contributions are reviewed by at least one member of Agenda’s Editorial Advisory Group.
Reviewers comment on the suitability of a text for publication in the Agenda journal, as well as provide comments to help develop the piece further for publication if required. Contributors will be asked to rework the paper accordingly.
On resubmission, the piece will be assessed by the Agenda editor and a final decision made regarding its publication in the journal.
Please note that Agenda reserves the right to edit contributions with regard to length and accessibility or reject contributions that are not suitable or of poor standard.
Agenda also invites the submission of poems on the topic of women’s rights and gender.
Please note, as per Agenda’s policy, writers who have published in the journal within the last two years
WILL NOT BE ALLOWED to publish – to allow new writers to publish in Agenda.