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Conference Africa and the Academy in the 21st Century

The conference invites the speakers and audience to reflect on a classical work in the field of African Studies, Africa and the Disciplines (V. Mudimbe, R. Bates and J. O‘Barr 1993), but also consider the present and future of African Studies, in particular in Switzerland.

25 years ago, the conference Africa and the Disciplines and the landmark publication that resulted from it, asked for Africa‘s contribution to the disciplines. It showed the extent to which Africa as an apparently marginal field of study had already contributed to the emergence of new topics and ideas in the respective disciplines.

The momentum created by these insights within broader academia was, unjustifiably, short lived. Especially so given that the study of Africa has not only contributed to the development of the disciplines; as an interdisciplinary field, but has also changed the character of what once were separate disciplines and brought them closer together.

Scholars became increasingly interested in the spaces between the disciplines. This interest, which is usually cast in terms of interdisciplinarity or transdisiciplinarity, has bred a wide range of new and interesting studies with stimulating findings. Africa has created new research fields that no longer fit into the existing disciplinary framework. This increasingly affects our view of what the social sciences and the humanities are about, the topics that they will need to address in the future and how these new fields shape our understanding of the academic landscape as a whole.


Over two days the conference will hold four interactive, interdisciplinary plenary sessions. Each session will begin with a 30-minute moderated “paired conversation” between two scholars of a particular discipline. The choice of two “classic” disciplines – Anthropology and History –, and two “modern” inherently interdisciplinary disciplines, Public Health and Urban Studies, – reflects change in the field of African Studies.

Each of the eight conversation partners was invited to reflect on a relevant chapter of the book Africa and the Disciplines, as well as their own experience in academia as an Africanist: How has the field developed since they started. What experiences have they had with non-Africanist colleague’s in academia who question the value of the study of Africa? What types of armour (intellectual or otherwise) have they developed, as a result?

Immediately following the “paired conversation,” to enhance the dynamic, interactive and interdisciplinary purpose of the conference, the audience will be randomly divided into three to four breakout sessions where participants and panel speakers will consolidate the introduced topics in a concentrated group discussion. At the end of each session the audience will reunite for a moderated discussion in the plenary.

The key note address (Carl Schlettwein Lecture) will be presented by Prof Francis Nyamnjoh (UCT).

Organising Committee

Cassandra Mark-Thiesen (University of Basel)
Carole Ammann (SNSF-Postdoc / University of Bern)
Fiona Siegenthaler (University of Basel)
Christelle Favre (University of Basel)
Solange Mbanefo (University of Basel)
Alice Aterianus (Université de Lausanne)
Matthieu Bolay (Graduate Institute Geneva)
Wilfred Elegba (Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute, Accra)


Please register for the conference via the conference website before 19 October 2019 HERE.


Centre for African Studies Basel
Tel. +41 (0)61 207 34 82