RT08
New paradigms for researching Africa’s past: Round table in honour of Patrick Harries (1950-2016)

Convenors:
Giorgio Miescher (University of Basel)
Chair:
Giorgio Miescher
Format:
Roundtables
Location:
KH033
Start time:
1 July, 2017 at 16:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

Honoring the life and work of an innovative scholar like the late Historian Patrick Harries requires more than simply revisiting what he has achieved and contributed to our way of thinking and writing about Africa. Honoring Patrick also means to discuss the challenges universities in Africa and in particular in South Africa face today, what this means for doing African Studies and researching and teaching Africa’s past in Europe, and to look for new intellectual projects that offer a way forward. The round-table, therefore, brings together different generations of scholars: companions and former students of various age from Cape Town and Basel, as well as a new generation of South African and Swiss lecturers.

Long abstract:

The round table honours an outstanding South African historian, whose work and personality has influenced and stimulated many of us. It pays tribute to a colleague and friend, who has been crucial in the promotion of African Studies and African history in Switzerland. Honoring the life and work of an innovative scholar like Patrick Harries requires more than simply revisiting what he has achieved and contributed to our way of thinking and writing about Africa. Honoring Patrick also means to discuss the challenges universities in Africa and in particular in South Africa face today, what this means for doing African Studies and researching and teaching Africa’s past in Europe, and to look for new intellectual projects that offer a way forward. The round-table, therefore, brings together different generations of scholars: companions and former students of various age from Cape Town and Basel, as well as a new generation of South African and Swiss lecturers. Born and raised in Cape Town, Patrick Harries became known as one of the few South African historians of his time who crossed the Limpopo, both physically and intellectually, and developed an understanding of South African history beyond the limits of the nation-state. His first monograph Work, Culture and Identity: Migrant Workers in Mozambique and South Africa, c. 1860-1910 (1994) testifies for Patrick’s great ability to merge radical history and historical anthropology in a transnational framework. In 2001 Patrick became Professor for African History at the University of Basel. This move to Switzerland coincided with Patrick’s research interest in trans-continental knowledge production and identity formation, and his familiarity with French-speaking Switzerland. He was especially interested in how the encounter between Swiss missionaries and African societies left deep marks on both sides. His monograph Butterflies and Barbarians: Swiss Missionaries and Systems of Knowledge in South East Africa (2007) brought Switzerland’s colonial past – against its conventional self-perception as a country without colonies – to the fore. Patrick Harries was crucial in establishing African Studies in Basel, and his retirement in 2015 meant the end of an era deeply marked by Patrick’s presence and intellectual qualities. Participants: Melanie Boehi (University of Basel), Sarah Godsell (University of Johannesburg), Didier Péclard (Université de Genève), Ciraj Rassool (University of the Western Cape), Napandulwe Shiweda (University of Namibia), Henri-Michel Yéré (École polytéchnique de Lausanne)