7th European Conference on African Studies ECAS 2017 (Basel, 29 June – 1 July 2017)

The 7th European Conference on African Studies ECAS 2017 is taking place 28 June – 1 July 2017 in Basel. This year’s theme: Urban Africa – Urban Africans: New Encounters of the Rural and the Urban. The Centre for African Studies Basel and the Swiss Society for African Studies are organizing the conference, on behalf of the Research Network of African Studies Centre in Europe AEGIS.

CTD project leader Mirjam de Bruijn will give the Carl Schlettwein Lecture Digitalisation and the Field of African Studies on 28 June. CTD researcher Catherina Wilson will take part in the panel ‘Being a non-violent youth in conflict contexts’ with the paper Fleeing as a non-violent strategy: An engaged student becomes an engaged refugee.

28 June 2017 – Carl Schlettwein lecture by Mirjam de Bruijn: Digitalisation and the Field of African Studies

Urbanisation in Africa also means rapid technological change. At the beginning of this century mobile telephony appeared in urban Africa, and ten years later it covered large parts of rural Africa. Nowadays (cheap Chinese) smartphones enable internet and social media access. These are part of technological transformations in digitalization that are supposed to bridge the urban and the rural and will make these borders blurred. They do so through the creation of economic opportunities, information flows, influencing people’s definition of self, of belonging and citizenship. These changes are perceived with huge optimism. The message of ICT4D (Information and Communication Technology for Development) for Africa has been one of glory and revolution. Practice however also shows other sides. Increasingly, publications show that we are facing a new form of digital divide in which Africa is (again) at the margins.

These transformations influence the relation between urban and rural Africa, and between ‘Africa’ and the World and hence the field of African Studies both in its objects as in its forms of knowledge production and in the formulation of the problems that we should study. In this lecture I will reflect on the past two decades of my research experience in West and Central Africa and how for me the field has changed. It has forced me to decolonize my thinking even more, and to enter into co-creation in knowledge production. How can I translate these lessons into a form of critical knowledge production, what are the pitfalls and what is the use of technological change for the redefinition of African studies for the 21st century?

1 July 2017 – Paper presentation by Catherina Wilson: Fleeing as a non-violent strategy: An engaged student becomes an engaged refugee

This paper argues that fleeing war can be seen as a non-violent strategy to navigate through uncertainty. Fleeing is not the same as disengaging. In the diasporic communities, youngsters are able to participate in and give shape to the political evolution of their country.

This paper provides an example of a young Central African who avoids violence by escaping it physically. Euloge (27) grew up as the favourite son of a Central African civil servant. Inspired by his father, Euloge makes his first steps in grassroots politics when he enrolled at the University of Bangui where he becomes an active member of the National Students’ Association (ANECA). When in 2013 the Seleka coup d’Etat plunged the Central African Republic (CAR) into a state of unprecedented chaos, some youngsters decided to take up arms, others decided to flee, yet others decided to stay. Feeling threatened, Euloge fled to Kinshasa (Congo). By focusing on Euloge’s story, fleeing is analysed in this paper as a non-violent strategy to navigate precarious situations. The conflict in CAR pushed Euloge to abandon his country, but not his political engagement. In Kinshasa, Euloge has become the representative of the Central African community of refugees. Euloge has political aspirations and hopes his time in Kinshasa will help him attain a political position once he returns to CAR. By fleeing war and engaging actively in the community of refugees, Euloge has created an alternative political and social space in which he defends the wellbeing of Central African youth in Kinshasa, while staying in tune with the violent and non-violent evolvements in his country.

For more information, see the ECAS 2017 conference website.

Many of our colleagues at the ASCL/ Leiden University are also taking part in the conference, for a complete overview see the ASCL website.