This panel examines the analytical and heuristic potential of the concept of representation(s) and its linkages to concepts of culture, identity, and politics in contexts of social, cultural, political, and economic transformation, creativity and innovation in contemporary Africa.
The concepts of representation(s) and the imagination play an important though implicit role in the social and cultural sciences. They frequently appear as the smallest but hardly defined unit of concepts of culture and identity or serve as their substitute. Studies on popular culture gave important insight in how citizens interpreted and dealt with authoritarian contexts and how representations of legitimacy and success underwent profound transformations during the democratic transitions in the 1990s. More recently, studies accounted for the creativity of African citizens and institutions in contexts of on-going social, political, economic, and cultural transformation. Finally, the "writing culture" debate and its repercussions addressed questions of authorship and the production of knowledge to which the question of representation(s) is central. However, the notion is rarely based on clearly defined concepts or connected to a corresponding methodology. This panel examines the analytical and heuristic potential of the concepts of representation(s) and the imagination. How can we conceptualize the notion of representation(s) both in the sense of ideas, perceptions, and the imagination of future possibilities and of the modes of their presentation and expression through language, practices, cultural productions, and performances? What epistemological and methodological implications follow from these concepts? The panel invites papers, which propose innovative theoretical and methodological approaches to the notions of (social) representations and the imagination and of their linkages to concepts of culture, identity, and politics through empirical research in contexts of social, cultural, political, and economic creativity and innovation in contemporary Africa.