African Studies Association 2021 CFP: Re-Centering Africa
by Kathryn Salucka
Program Chairs: Gretchen Bauer (University of Delaware) and Akosua Darkwah (University of Ghana)
The theme of the 2021 African Studies Association annual meeting is “Re-centering Africa: Resistance and Renewal in a World Beyond COVID-19.” The world has been ravaged by COVID-19; tens of millions of people have been infected with the disease and millions have died, while economies have been devastated. At the same time, the global pandemic has forced us to pause and reflect on the values we hold dear and rethink our ways of being. In the last year, concerns about work-life balance, the health of our planet, the value of work, glaring income inequality, racial and ethnic injustice, the harm that the neoliberal development model continues to wreak on African economies have all been raised yet again in different circles. The importance of these ideas has been highlighted as the pandemic shattered life as we know it. Thus, 2020 was not just the year of the pandemic but also a year of shifts in ways of thinking and being. In Africa and elsewhere, 2020 accelerated a paradigm shift that was already in the making. This call invites proposals that reflect on the resistance and renewal in Africa that this paradigm shift represents.
Resistance: From even before resistance to missionary conceptions of work and the varied colonial rules imposed on populations across the continent in the 1800s and 1900s through to contemporary resistance to authoritarian rule – witness Stella Nyanzi and Bobi Wine in Uganda, the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria, #ZimbabweanLivesMatter, academics’ #dropthePUB campaign in Ghana, as well as the efforts of creatives such as the hip hop group Y’en Maare in Senegal and political cartoonist Michael Soi in Kenya – Africa has a long history of resistance. Some of these efforts are well known, others less so, all with varying degrees of success. Each, nonetheless, reflects Africans’ insistence on resisting dominant narratives and practices that seek to silence and harm them. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Africans across the continent are engaging and mobilizing to take their destinies into their own hands and forcing a re-imagining and re-shaping of existing paradigms.
Renewal: Over the course of the pandemic, Africans have demonstrated resilience and the ability to re-imagine and re-shape their futures. African ingenuity and innovation were immediately in evidence as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived at airports across the continent: one-day COVID-19 tests developed in Senegal, drones to deliver test samples in Ghana, drones to enforce mask mandates on city streets in Kigali, ‘Veronica buckets’ for hand washing where running water is in short supply, urban gardens to enhance food security in Johannesburg, the search for a ‘warm weather’ vaccine, among others. Africa’s efforts at renewal are not limited to the health sector and they are not a novelty.
Innovations abound across the continent. In a variety of ways, Africans have shown the way in how things can or should be done. Interested in increasing women’s representation in parliament? Look to Rwanda. Rethinking higher education? Turn to the #RhodesMustFall campaign in South Africa and African Leadership Universities in Mauritius and Rwanda. Reshaping the arts scene? See Ibrahim Mahama’s Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art in northern Ghana. What does attention to Africans’ ways of being and thinking teach us about how to organize politics, economies, societies, religion, culture and more in a world beyond COVID-19?
We invite proposals from a range of disciplines that explore the ways in which Africa provides the context for imagining a brave new world, a world in which Africa, with its historical and contemporary manifestations of resistance and renewal, offers new ways of thinking about a world beyond COVID-19. We acknowledge the many ways these phenomena are interlinked and encourage proposals that explore these synergies.
In issuing this call, we are cognizant of the many ways in which the pandemic has imposed limitations on the work of the ASA community: unable to travel and conduct research, unable to write and publish in the face of income insecurity and new child or elder care burdens, less able to teach and mentor effectively, faced with dwindling resources from our universities, research institutes and foundations, stymied by disrupted job markets, connecting and collaborating only via zoom and not in person…what will be the implications of these impacts for our annual meeting?
As always, submissions that fall outside of the scope of this theme are welcome.
2021 Subthemes & Chairs:
Africa and International Relations: Oumar Ba (Morehouse College) and Beth Elise Whitaker (University of North Carolina)
Africa’s Diasporas: Carolyn Calloway-Thomas (Indiana University Bloomington)
African Feminisms, Gender, & Sexuality: Aisha Fofana Ibrahim (Fourah Bay College), Fredline M’Cormack-Hale (Seton Hall University), and Jacqueline Mougue (University of Wisconsin Madison)
African Philosophy: Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Columbia University) and Bongani Nyoka (Rhodes University)
Anthropology: Bayo Holsey (Emory University) and Charles Piot (Duke University)
Climate Change and Sustainability: Rachel DeMotts (University of Puget Sound) and Parakh Hoon (South Puget Sound Community College)
Development and Political Economy: Emmanuel Balogun (Skidmore College) and Carl Levan (American University)
Digital Humanities: Tunde Ope-Davies (University of Lagos)
Ethnicity, Race, & Nationality: Dauda Abubakar (University of Michigan-Flint)
Health, Healing, & Disability: Donna Patterson (Delaware State University) and Sarah Ssali (Makarere University)
History and Archaeology: Kodzo Gavua (University of Ghana) and Ismail Rashid (Vassar College)
Literature: Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang (University of Ghana)
Music, Performance, & Visual Culture: Ruth Opara (Columbia University)
Parties, Politics, & Elections: Asiyati Chiweza (University of Malawi), Sebastian Elischer (University of Florida), and Vibeke Wang (CMI, University of Bergen)
Peace and Security: Cheryl Hendricks (The Africa Institute, Johannesburg) and Faith Okpotor (Moravian College)
Popular Culture and Media: Joseph Oduro-Frimpong (Ashesi University)
Religion and Spirituality: Annalisa Butticci (Georgetown University)
Social Movements and Resistance: Faisal Garba (University of Cape Town) and Elke Zuern (Sarah Lawrence College)
Sociology: Sethunya Mosime (University of Botswana) and Fumilayo Showers (University of Connecticut)
Urban Africa: Jennifer Hart (Wayne State University) and Garth Myers (Trinity College)
Special Topics: Gretchen Bauer (University of Delaware) and Akosua Darkwah (University of Ghana)