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Reconfigurations in Africa - and in African Studies
30 September - 02 October 2024, Bayreuth

VAD2024 Rationale and streams

Rationale

A range of global processes deserve urgent attention, from climate crisis, to war and pandemics, to the challenges democracies are facing. The upcoming VAD conference seeks to understand such processes by thinking through and with African perspectives. Thus, we – African and European academics, activists, politicians, artists etc., coming together for this conference – will address issues of reflexivity, relationality and multiplicity, taking into account the situatedness of knowledge and knowledge production.

Given this global constellation, Africa-related institutions outside Africa, including museums, universities and associations, have recently come under pressure to reconfigure their structures, ideologies and representations. African studies, for example, have worked to find new ways of collaborating across disciplines and places. However, there is a need to review what has been achieved or overlooked.

To address such omissions and decentring the European perspective, this conference will focus on recent changes in African universities and other institutions, including their challenges, contestations, and reforms. From a perspective that focuses African experiences in dealing with pandemics, climate crises, and wars, we hope to newly understand and to critically analyse these current global processes.

The streams of this conference foreground recent and historical changes on the African continent and their global academic reverberations. African Studies have the capacity to account for the situatedness of knowledge production and dissemination. With that in mind, the VAD conference continues this critical and multi-disciplinary discussion to foster collaboration and intellectual exchange.

Streams:

1. Location-based African Studies: Discrepancies and Debates
What do African Studies look like from different location-based perspectives? Given the historical anchoring of African Studies disciplines in the Global North, this stream provides a platform to discuss interlinked perspectives on African Studies with a focus on their African situatedness. Do African Studies provide “distinct perspectives” in different local contexts, for example in German speaking countries?

2. Perspectives on current crises
This stream invites contributions on global processes defined as crises such as migration; health and pandemics; climate change; war; terrorism; land-rights; debt; disinformation campaigns and their effects on social cohesion; race-, class-, gender- and sexuality-based persecution; budget cuts in education; attacks on constitutional integrity and the ways they are relevant for African Studies. Who are the experts defining crises and how does their expertise influence how crises are dealt with?

3. Imagining ‘Africanness’
2024 marks the final year of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent. The conveners invite research dealing with the self-understanding of different individuals and groups in Africa and its diaspora and their (historical and recent) interrelations and mutual perceptions. This includes what it means and has meant to be ‘other’ in African contexts, as informed by (but not limited to) queer and intersectional studies.

4. Political Economy of Extractivism
Recurrent increases of debt, the post-colonial scramble for Africa’s rare earths and green hydrogen (also in the quest for energy transition) render the analysis of African economies and their relation to global capitalism ever more urgent. This stream invites empirical and conceptual panels that explore lingering and new dependencies, as well as African responses to these.

5. Social media, archiving and ‘the digital’
The digital sphere provides new avenues for communicating in and about Africa. Scholars, artists, and activists are increasingly taking advantage of the digital to collaborate, collect information, and to combine, visualise and archive different forms of content. This stream seeks to provide a forum for discussing case studies, future opportunities, and constraints as they relate to digitization processes.

6. New forms of collaboration in African arts
Recent cultural productions from Africa are enjoying an unprecedented level of attention across the globe. Literature, music, dance, and the fine arts in physical and digital forms are appreciated everywhere from Seoul to Bayreuth. This stream invites studies on art worlds reflecting these new developments.

7. Ecology and planetary consciousness
Planetary consciousness is considered a relevant continuation and enhancement of globalisation studies that surpasses narrow national frameworks. This stream invites proposals on the more-than-human and relationships between organisms and their environment. What social, political, spiritual, and economic implications do these wider perspectives have for questions such as food scarcity, pollution, population growth, and related technological interventions?

Formats: panels, roundtables, workshops

Conference is accommodating following formats:

Traditional panels

Traditional panels have up to four paper presentations per 90-minute session, with up to two sessions (max 8 papers).

Campus in Bayreuth

Roundtables

A group of scholars (usually no more than five) discusses themes/issues of general scholarly interest in front of (and subsequently with) an audience for the duration of a single 90-minute session. While a roundtable can include short (5-10 minute) contributions, the aim is to create a lively debate rather than focus on any one presenter. You may list/name contributors in your long abstract, or leave the list open and take in 'contribution' proposals during the call for papers, selecting five of those to be in the roundtable. 

Workshops

Conceptualised as practical events containing collective research activities, guided interactions and free-format exchanges leading to specific public outputs. A workshop may have up to two 90-minute sessions. They may include elements of performance, various collective activities, exhibitions, or interactive media displays. Proposals must list the practical requirements of the workshop at the end of the long abstract: specifications for required space, materials, maximum number of participants etc. 

Institut für Afrikastudien
Cluster of Excellence
University of Bayreuth
African Studies Library