List of panels

(P071)

African studies: scholars and programs

Location C1.03
Date and Start Time 28 June, 2013 at 10:30

Convenors

Ana Lúcia Sá (Centre for International Studies - ISCTE-IUL) email
Elisio Macamo (University of Basel) email
Eduardo Costa Dias (ISCTE- Instituto Universitário de Lisboa) email
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Short Abstract

The panel examines the epistemological and methodological assumptions of the African Studies, by identifying its current academic tendencies, questioning the scientific production and the extent to which "non-African" and "African" are valid categories in the African Studies.

Long Abstract

Based on the idea that the understanding of the purposes of the African Studies is shaped and conditioned by the enunciation spaces from which the African realities became understandable, the panel examines the epistemological and methodological assumptions of this area of studies. The main objective of the panel is to identify the current academic tendencies in confrontation that have been developing in several contexts.

In this perspective, the panel aims to shed a light onto existing debates, within the interdisciplinary space of the African Studies, about changes and proposals coming from the African societies, considering idiosyncratic models of analysis. It also aims to question the scientific production of the African Studies built from geopolitical frameworks of knowledge and the extent to which "non-African" and "African" are valid categories in the African Studies.

This discussion, central to this panel, opens the debate about the supposedly universal suitability of the epistemological and methodological assumptions that ground the African Studies, interrogating if is always in relation to these categories that each researcher stands. It also extends the discussion to the legitimacy of essentialist and primordialist positions and questions the conditions in which it is possible to produce authoritative knowledge about African realities.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Does "Africa" mean the same for everybody?

Authors: Eduardo Costa Dias (ISCTE- Instituto Universitário de Lisboa)  email
Vitor Eustaquio Santos (ISCTE-IUL)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper gives a general overview of programmes and actors currently active in African Studies.

Long Abstract

This paper will give special importance to the political and scientific history of the construction of the scientific area of African Studies.

It questions the heuristic validity of the category "African" and "Non-African" in order to understand if they serve to legitimise (or not) knowledge produced about African societies.

By doing this it will include in the discussion the question of the new intellectuals and analyse their capacity to function as a melting pot of different kinds of knowledge as which they are often seen.

African studies: torn between complexes?

Author: Ulrich Schiefer (ISCTE-IUL)  email
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Short Abstract

Three complexes define African studies: the (longsuffering) development complex, the (growing) humanitarian complex and the (overpowering) military-security complex. They limit access to funding, agenda setting, epistemology, operationalization, validation, publication and utilization of knowledge.

Long Abstract

Although scholars rarely admit to the fact, African Studies have, through the decades, morphed from colonial sciences into intervention sciences, clearly expressed through the intervention complexes that fund and delimit their approach.

While the counter-insurgency based regional studies approaches now seem to run out of steam, if the changes in the European research landscape may serve as an indicator, the submission to the intervention approach seems to be ever more complete. Partly through funding mechanisms, partly through resonance, even areas of non-applied sciences seem to share the underlying and overwhelming industrial paradigm that underpins the intervention targeting as well as the formatting of the research operationalization. The uninspired industrialization efforts of the academic and research institutions as expressed in the "Bologna process" create the impulse and provide the dominant model of research production.

It will be interesting to observe how new non-European players of the intervention game in Africa organize their scientific approach in order to reduce their intervention fiascoes which can partly be attributed to lack of knowledge.

Ideology and science in African studies

Author: Pedro Graca (Technical University of Lisbon)  email
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Short Abstract

Ideology and Science interaction is one of the most intricate problems of the African Studies in post-colonial times. Much “taboos” cover the debate, much emotions arouse when Science attempts to overcome Ideology, especially when it touches the “nation”. The case of Mozambique is paradigmatic.

Long Abstract

We have, as a main problem, the characterization of "Moçambicanidade", a task made harder for being such a recent phenomenon. But at the same time, this is a common problem when reflecting and debating the various "national cultures" of the world, even in the Portuguese case, where, despite its eight centuries of history, the debate on "Portugalidade" is not yet close. In the Mozambican case we can thus only glimpse a few key aspects of the present configuration of Mozambican culture, never seizing to point out that the lack of anthropological, sociological and political studies in Mozambican culture heavily conditions the depth of the analysis.

African studies and Berber studies: epistemological reflections on "two Africas"

Author: Daniela Merolla (LUCAS, Leiden University)  email
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Short Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the long-dating relationships between African Studies and Berber (Literary) Studies. The issue will be approached by looking at the complex relation between North Africa and the ‘rest’ of Africa.

Long Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the long-dating relationships between African Studies and Berber (Literary) Studies. The issue will be approached by looking at the complex relation between North Africa and the 'rest' of Africa.

Historically, research studies on North Africa and African Studies have internationally developed on relatively parallel tracks since studies on North Africa have usually been included within the scope of research on the Arab world and on the Middle Eastern world, while 'the rest' of Africa has been approached and studied as a relatively homogeneous world different from the Northern African one. In the way research developed we can recognize socio-historical processes that emphasised the unity of Africans by defining and "essentializing" their identity in terms of colour. Such socio-historical processes, and related disciplinary motivations, are now well-known and criticized (Zeleza 2006, Benthar 2011). The epistemological force that moulds the separation of the "two Africas" is however still at work, for example, in the preponderance of papers that privilege 'black' Africa at the conferences organised by AEGIS (Africa-Europe Group for Interdisciplinary Studies). In this sense, the state of the art of Berber Studies offers a specific case of the critique of the separation between a North and a South in Africa and the opportunity to reflect on the construction of disciplinary fields of African research.

On the referential illusion: the production of knowledge about Africa in the historical avatar of modernity

Author: Claudio Tomas (ISCTE-IUL)  email
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Short Abstract

History, referential illusion, modernity and colonialism

Long Abstract

Thinking about modernity forces us to think through 'man's time'.

Modernity establishes man as the center of the (natural) world he

claims autonomy from, and the world he appropriates through science

and technology.

Modernity, as Heidegger states, is when man establishes his time, its

laws, its truth and its history. In other words, modernity is the time

when the "man" is constituted as a subject, the subject of history. To

realize "man as subject" required new developments in science and

technology. These tools help achieve, and confirm, the greatness of

the subject in its modern management. Therefore it is not surprising

that both History and photography were established in the nineteenth

century as privileged means of narrative. They offer a universal

representation of "subjectivity" that was introduced by the subject.

This article seeks to understand how History mistook formal processes

(meant to be objective) and transformed them into a performative

imaginary within the elaboration of a process that we designate here

as the avatar of modernity—colonialism.

African studies in Japan: an example of a non-western view on Africa

Author: Nicole Keusch (Goethe University Frankfurt)  email
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Short Abstract

Being both “non-African” and “non- European”, Japanese research offers an alternative approach to Africa. As an example of “the rest” observing “the rest”, it counters the European perspective of otherness as well as African self-perception, thus giving way to a more balanced global view on Africa.

Long Abstract

Despite the large distance between Japan and Africa, the academic community dealing with the continent is considerably large and diverse. However, Japanese academic concepts are often strongly influenced by European thoughts and approaches ever since the times of modernization in the second half of the 19th century when modern academic institutions started to develop. Hence Japan has utilized the European perspective and concepts in order to facilitate its own transformation to a leading nation in the global community.

Thus, the Japanese perspective is an interesting example for research undertaken within the system of knowledge production dominated by the western view. At first sight, there are not many signs of opposition to the European model. Still with respect to Africa, Japan does argue from a distinctly different point of view: With no colonial legacy and out of a formerly marginalized position, researchers are likely to put different accents, draw different conclusion and show interest in other aspects when dealing with the continent.

In this respect, being both "non-African" and "non- European" is an important trait of Japanese observations on Africa. Research in Japan is both influenced by a mixture of western views and ideas and at the same time trying to develop new concepts in area studies especially in recent times. To integrate such different angles into a wider global academic approach to Africa and to observe the direct links between African and non-western regions should be one of the big challenges for researchers today.

"Restituer l'histoire aux sociétés Africaines": African revision of sociology

Author: Ana Lúcia Sá (Centre for International Studies - ISCTE-IUL)  email
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Short Abstract

Departing from selected works of Jean-Marc Ela, the paper examines the premises of the scientific revision of Sociology within the interdisciplinary field of African Studies.

Long Abstract

The defence of a rootedness of social sciences in Africa and the need to overcome the paradigms linked to the modern/colonial frames of analysis are topics raised in the epistemological discussions of African Studies.

Departing from selected works of Jean-Marc Ela, the paper aims to analyse the place of Sociology within the interdisciplinary space of African Studies and to discuss the meaning of "African" in an "African revision of Sociology".

The corpus will be mainly constituted by Cameroonian scholars and the paper will stress the themes linked to the defence of idiosyncratic methodologies and modes of analysis of African realities. It will also be considered the relationship between locus of enunciation, places of dissemination and the production of authoritative knowledge about Africa.

African studies and African contemporary art: aspects of a complex relationship

Author: José Carlos Venâncio (University of Beira Interior)  email
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Short Abstract

The purpose of the paper is to discuss the apparently contradictory relationship between the academic area of African Studies and African contemporary art (read plastic arts). The discussion will give special attention to the experience of painters from Portuguese-speaking countries.

Long Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the apparently contradictory relationship between African Studies and African contemporary art (read plastic arts). African Studies emerged after World War II as an integrated approach to a regional reality, indexed to some social sciences and humanities, such as Anthropology, History, Sociology and Linguistics. One of the subjects analyzed and studied under this epistemological perspective was the so-called traditional art, a domain that continues to be studied mainly by Anthropology. This purpose, however, collides with the practices and expectations of the African contemporary artists. Although under the influence of nationalism, Pan-Africanism, Negritude and other ideas and movements fighting for the decolonizing of African art contemporary African artists and writers strive to revitalize aspects and dimensions of the traditional world, they wish to be recognized as contemporary artists by the various players in the international art and book markets and to sell their works on an equal footing with their counterparts of the Western world, that is, they do not want their works to be valued for some kind of exotism resulting from an approach still influenced by colonialism.

Does this apparent rupture further accentuate the position of African studies (in Europe and North America) as a "ghetto", as some critics point out, or will this discipline be open enough so as to embrace the tendencies of contemporary Africa? These are some of the issues to be addressed in this paper.

African studies and literature: alternative to the production of knowledge?

Author: Eliane Veras Soares (Universidade Federal de Pernambuco )  email
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Short Abstract

The objective is to discuss the status of literature as a form of knowledge, seeking to investigate the boundaries between science and fiction with a view to deepen the debate about the epistemological dimension of literature.

Long Abstract

When analyzing the debate about African literatures, the "African"/"non-African" classification system reveals some tensions. The first one is related to the language in which these literatures are produced. In this context, unlike what occurred in the Americas, the legitimacy of the literature produced in European languages was challenged. Another tension concerns writers' origin and/or racial identity. Taking the case of Mozambique as an example, it is remarkable the scrunity of the early Writers Association of Mozambique in an attempt to define criteria for a national literature. I put forward a discussion that highlights another kind of tension, that has not been given much attention, one that establishes a separation, and likewise, a hierarchy between literature and knowledge production. The relationship between literature and knowledge (science) does not seem to be satisfactorily treated neither by the sociology of knowledge nor by the sociology of literature. For the former, the literature can be conceived as a form of knowledge, but has to preserve its "fictional nature" in contrast to scientific knowledge. For the latter, what matters is the social dimension of literature and how it can express in an exaggerated, distorted, controversial manner the reality, without being confounded with it. The argument that I put forward does not to stablish an equivalence between literature and scientific knowledge, but it seeks to explore new ways in which literature can be seen as a valid epistemology for understanding social dynamics. This procedure certainly should be exercised by the social scientist.

Migration in African studies: a journey from backstage to footlight

Author: Joelma Almeida (ISCTE)  email
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Short Abstract

This article aims to discuss African migration knowledge production in the postcolonial studies, exploring research questions, knowledge claims, strategies of inquiry and methods.

Long Abstract

Spatial movement has been a relevant feature in social organization in Africa since time immemorial. In precolonial times Africans moved for several reasons, such as in search of natural resources (e.g. trade, pasture, and agriculture land) and/or for sociocultural events (e.g. pilgrimage). Colonial powers took measures to prevent what they saw as "disruptive, and exceptional" movements, whereas at the same time they created new forms of spatial movement for meeting the colonial system demands (i.e. military, natural resources, and labor).

Despite regular or frequent, the spatial movements has only integrated the Africanist research agenda in the fifties. Rhodes Livingstone Institute and Manchester School-inspired field sciences, Political Science and the recently created History of Africa contributed a great deal to include different forms of spatial movement into the research agenda whether through the rural-urban continuum (i.e. Social Anthropology and Sociology), or labor under a global or world-system perspective.

African migration-related knowledge production has only occurred under the aegis of the Postcolonial studies, mostly in the last decades and in the context of a governmental policy-oriented agenda.

This article aims to discuss African migration knowledge production in the postcolonial studies, exploring research questions, knowledge claims, strategies of inquiry and methods.

The first generation of intellectuals of Centro de Estudos Afro Orientais (Bahia/Brazil, 1959-1982)

Author: Luiza Reis (UESC/UFBA)  email
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Short Abstract

Displays intellectuals Centro de Estudos Afro Orientais dedicated to issues concerning Africans and african-Brazilian: Agostinho da Silva Costa Vivaldo Lima, Waldir Freitas Oliveira, Pierre Verger, Paulo de Moraes Farias, Guilherme de Sousa Castro, Yeda Pessoa de Castro and Julio Braga.

Long Abstract

This paper discusses itineraries intellectuals who worked at the Center for Afro-Oriental Studies (CEAO) Federal University of Bahia (UFBa) since its founding in 1959 until 1982, over two decades of operation. Marked by interest in the humanities and social sciences, in Brazil to produce knowledge about the African continent and of african descent, the CEAO agglutinated different researchers. Throughout this period acted George Agostinho da Silva, Pierre Verger, Vivaldo Costa Lima, Waldir Freitas Oliveira, Paulo de Moraes Farias, Guilherme de Sousa Castro, Yeda Pessoa de Castro, Julio Braga, who corroborated for the conformation of a field of african studies -Brazilian and African studies stimulated in Brazil. To analyze the different pathways that intellectuals have developed should be considered in addition to academic production, other activities undertaken by the Centre for the exchange of researchers and students between Brazil and African countries like Nigeria, Senegal, the relationships established with government through the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, which dialoguing with the proposed approach with academic Africa, had as a partner to participate in some events in Africa quoting the Second Festival of Black Arts in 1977, in Nigeria. These intellectuals had their paths marked by closeness or distance to the different demands of the black population in Salvador in the construction of the Afro Brazilian Museum in 1982, was a significant moment.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.