Call for papers CTD end conference 2017 [Closed]

The call for papers is now closed. The History Institute of Leiden University and CRASH[1] invite you to the end conference of the research programme Connecting in Times of Duress, to take place 25-28 October 2017 in N’Djaména, Chad.

Connecting in Times of Duress, a five-year research project at the University of Leiden, aimed to understand the dynamics in the relationship between enduring conflict, hardship, governance regimes, mobility, migration and connectivity. The project has focused on these themes in Middle Africa, in particular in Cameroon, Chad, CAR, Nigeria, Congo-Brazzaville, DRC and Mali. We choose Middle Africa as a region for its shared history of mobility, of oppression and conflict and of connectivity. Within the region the variation in these three variables and its comparisons would highlight processes and dynamics of socio-political change. The research programme used an interdisciplinary methodology, combining anthropology, history, communication studies, conflict studies, and social geography. The sub-projects were designed to be comparative and complementary, among diverse mobile populations in urban centres, refugee camps, and remote rural areas and of different types of relations between duress and changing communication technologies.

The research programme explored how the introduction of ICTs changes patterns of communication and information flows where people live in duress. More specifically, it concentrated on (a) how, through new communication and information flows people’s experience of duress changes; (b) how new opportunities to be informed, to communicate, and connect influence individual decision making and the (re)forming of communities; and (c) how these changes influence power relations and existing hierarchies.

Definitions of central concepts: Duress: the internalization of hardship and violence that are a result of oppression, conflict and war and its often long and deep history; Connectivity: is defined in relation to ICTs, but not only new ICTs; it is the act of connecting; the assumption is that increased connectivity leads to changing flows of information and communication that informs people’s perceptions and agency; Mobility is the physical movement of people, but we also consider virtual mobility.

Reaching the end of the project, the conference in N’Djaména will present the research programme findings, while also address new questions that emerge from our research. It will offer an opportunity for continuing the debate on the relation between conflict, mobility, and connectivity with those who share an interest in the rapidly changing societies and political dynamics in the Sahel and the broader region. Together, we explore how and why duress in combination with (new) ICTs and their functions as information providers and connecting devices may lead to new directions in conflict, in social and political change. We will also focus on how our methodological approach could contribute to the established fields of conflict studies and communication studies.

Our choice to organize the conference in N’Djaména is based on the wish to be able to disseminate our research on the Middle African region in that same region, to allow a significant contribution from researchers in the area and to continue to engage with policy makers, academics, journalists and artists based there.

From the various research projects five key themes emerged that capture our main findings and new questions on the triangle relation between duress, connectivity and mobility. These themes constitute the point of departure for our panels: (1) Escape Routes (related to, but not limited to, the theme of mobility), (2) Virtual Communities (engaging questions on the use of new ICTs and their relation to social and political change), (3) Remembering in Generations (a theme that investigates the way in which memory is central to how different generations engage with the process of meaning giving with regards to their histories of duress and envisaging of futures).

The two other panels aim to engage a reflection on the above mentioned themes and methodologies used. Duress and (Digital) Silence (4) questions the silences and their meanings that emerge when conducting research on the (digital) Middle African region. The last panel entitled Nomadic Minds (5) questions the epistemological underpinnings of our work.

For all panels we solicit papers from in and outside the CTD team that engage in their own ways with these themes. We also encourage methodological reflections. More details on the panel themes can be found below in the call for papers. Keynote speakers will be announced shortly.

To reach the broader academic, journalistic and policy-making community, the conference will be reported on in daily online audiovisual reports in collaboration with Voice4Thought ( In addition to the daytime programme, there will be attention for local artists who were co-creators of some of our research. A concert, an art exhibition and a film-screening will form part of the conference programme. The conference will end with a closing panel debate drawing conclusions on the findings of the research programme for policy ends.



Please send your abstracts (of no more than 400 words, including title and references) to before March 1, 2017. Please indicate clearly the panel number that your abstract corresponds with.

Panel organizers will ask selected abstract contributors to share their papers by September 30, 2017 in order to stimulate discussion and work towards a joint publication with panel members.

The organizers welcome papers in French and English. The conference is bilingual: translators will be present.

Please note that travel expenses are not reimbursed by the conference organizers. An exception is made for young researchers (PhDs and Post-docs) from West and Central Africa. To apply for a (partial) refund of your travel costs, please send your CV together with your abstract before 15 February 2017.



1. Escape Routes

The Connecting in Times of Duress team has followed people moving through fields of conflict and duress. Movement is not an anomaly but inherent to people’s nature. In this panel we look at movement in terms of escaping duress. To escape is defined as the act of breaking free from confinement or control. Yet escaping is not unidirectional, but multidirectional, people move back and forth to all sides and directions over time. While some decide to leave, others decide to stay, or even to move into conflict zones because crisis offers opportunities as well. By escaping one can thus choose to move away from something, escaping coercion for instance, but one can choose to escape towards something too, namely towards better opportunities, aspirations and dreams.

Escaping does not necessarily entail physical movement. Escapism is defined as the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy. Escape routes can therefore be found in the minds (dreaming) without ever being made tangible, yet they are not less real, as dreams oftentimes have very concrete consequences. The role of ICTs and information flows herein is paramount in both designing the escape route, in controlling the ‘escapees’ and in the creation of alternative realities.

Whether dealing with refugees in search for safety or young urbanites who flee stagnation, the escape route panel invites contributions that concentrate on decisions made around escaping, the planning of escape routes, the dreaming about alternative realities, possible blockades and deviations along the route, the narratives of voyage, the physical routes, the political struggles. It also invites contributions that discuss the ways in which individuals try to break free from confinement and control by establishing and organizing themselves in alternative orders, such as religious and political associations, or by escaping into another (new) identity.


2. Virtual Communities

In 2011, the Arab Spring exposed the world to the revolutionary character of the social media. Ever since, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are considered important environments for protest all around the world, including Africa. But unlike the events of 2011 in Egypt and Tunisia, online protest in Africa has only limitedly led to offline mobilization or considerable political change. But with an increasing number of young people in Africa having regular access to the internet, the question rises how online networks contribute to social change on the continent. In this panel, we will present the virtual communities of Africa and its diaspora, relating it to the offline realities of duress. Generation Android, the youth that is increasingly connected through (android) smartphones, has appropriated the social media to meet their local needs and (global) aspirations. Virtual communities are made up of (transnational) networks of engaged young citizens who are seeking political change and socioeconomic emancipation. Looking beyond, but not excluding, the idea of digital activism as the response to hardship and conflict in the region, this panel will present virtual communities as, directly or indirectly, driving social change. Entrepreneurial initiatives, religious networks, community building, (satirical) memes, online cartoons, etc., are all part of the virtual communities. These are all responses to the everyday (offline) lived experience of its users. In this panel we try to explore whether it is possible to understand these communities as alternative social spaces (Iwilade, 2013) for civil engagement, as a way of balancing the overemphasized revolutionary character of the social media.


3. Remembering in Generations

Memory is an important instrument of meaning giving to people living in duress. Memory is a purposeful act that helps make sense of the present, as well as the future and thus to people seeking to change their current predicament. Memory becomes even more pertinent in the Middle African region because of the limited, and often highly politicised, historiography that has produced narratives that reflect the position of those in power, but hardly gives voice to the ways in which ordinary citizens have experienced their lives.

Following Fabian (2003), we consider memory work as a double act of remembering and forgetting, as a purposeful and conscious act. It thus becomes a site where different generations may be contesting each other on their understandings of the past and the present. In this panel we are interested in exploring memory-work of different generations in the Middle African region along three main angles.

Firstly, we question what different generations (choose to) remember and question what discrepancies we can observe in the memory work of different generations, and how we can understand this in the context of struggles for political change. In pursuit of their aspirations for a better and different future, memory-work then becomes a purposeful act for (transitional) justice, for reconciliation, as well as a source for inspiration through the remembrance of visionary and inspirational leaders of the past such as Sankara, Lumumba and Fanon. In light of 20th century volatile history in this region, memory-work may then not merely become a double-act of remembering and forgetting, but also a politicised act of remembering and forgetting, and in doing so, of silencing and creating histories.

Secondly, we question how generations remember. Younger generations may opt for different practices of remembering and forgetting as a means to create authentic sites of remembering. What do younger generations choose to remember, and what technologies of remembering do they employ? New technologies of remembering enabled by increasingly widespread access to ICTs in the region may also enable new technologies of remembering through which younger generations find new ways to make the past meaningful for them.

Thirdly, how does memory work mediate the often complex inter-generational relations in the region? How do young generations reflect on older generations that allowed the social, economic and political disintegration since the 1980s to happen? And how do older generations remember (post-)colonial history, and how relevant is their memory for Africa’s youth today?


4. Duress and (Digital) Silence

Silence can have many reasons and forms. Apart from the political, psychological or even infrastructural explanations, silence can also have many diverging cultural meanings that deserve exploration. In this panel we will reflect on two themes in relation to Silence: (1) what does silence mean in relation to the experience of duress? and/or (2) what does silence mean in a digitally (dis)connected Middle Africa?

People who have undergone traumatic experiences may be unable to tell of the ordeals they went through. When traumatic experiences pile up during one’s lifetime this can become even more complicated. Others chose to remain silent out of the experience of not being heard anyway, or for not wanting to hurt others by speaking about a shared fate when every day is a collective attempt to escape that same fate.

From a more political perspective silence has often been equated with subordination and is seen as a manifestation of oppression whereas emancipatory politics all over the world have been occupied with a reclamation of the right to speech (Connerton 2011: 52). In our (dis)connected world social media increasingly allow a plurality of voices to be heard. At least, in theory, and where those voices are not rendered silent by interventions of authoritarian states or companies curbing the potential of people to connect. In this panel we would therefore like to cast a reflexive eye, returning to the silences these social media reinvigorate in our contemporary world or the new silences they create. Who are the people in our research region who are not active on social media platforms? Does this mean they are silent or silenced (note the difference in agency, where silence can be seen as chosen, and being silenced as a form of coercion, ibid.: 70)? If they are purposefully silent, what motivates them? Can silence be empowering? How do communication infrastructures, oppressive regimes and Facebook policies contribute to silencing? Are there also other (cultural) factors which play a role such as social hierarchies and gender? And finally, for those people that are very vocal on social media: what are the silences in their speech? Which are the topics they are unable or unwilling to touch upon, despite their audibility? Within the context of our research region we are curious to explore this intersection of duress, silence and digital connectedness.


5. Nomadic minds

In this panel we discuss and question the borders and demarcations between forms of knowledge production; between art and academic research, between producer and subject of knowledge production, and between co-creators with an eye for the dialectic processes that we recognize in the nomadic mind.

Hazan & Hertzog (2012) introduced the nomadic turn in anthropology: nomadism as a state of mind central to the understanding of the ethnographic enterprise. A nomadic mind is characterized by flexibility, adaptation to new circumstances, changing ideas, and constant flux. Theories are shaped by the environment they encounter. It turns knowledge production into a dialectic process between the ‘field’, the theory, and the observer. This resembles the artistic (non-linear) process in which the practice of creation is as much a part of knowledge production as the end product. How does this compare with our academic work, for example within the CTD programme, in which knowledge production has not been linear?

In this panel the process and dynamics of the nomadic mind are questioned in the context of the CTD programme. In our academic research on the field of duress the informant is in a way one of the central mediators of knowledge production. The informant becomes co-researcher and the researcher becomes co-informant; both are moulded in the process of knowledge creation in more or less conscious ways (Van der Geest, 2010). In the CTD programme this co-creation in flexibility and adaptability has been taken very seriously. We followed an almost phenomenological approach in which the dialectics of knowledge production sometimes confused or surprised us. How can this nomadic state of mind then be put to use effectively in academic research? How can a nomadic state of mind and the process of co-creation influence interactive publications, blogs, use of media as well as academic output? Can scientific work that we produce at the same time be artistic and is the artistic work at the same time scientific? Where do these different forms of knowledges meet? And how can they understand each other? And, not unimportantly, is the nomadic state of mind the ultimate key to understand and capture what duress entails for the individual? We invite papers reflecting on the process and dynamics of the nomadic mind.



Connerton P. 2011. Silences. In P. Connerton, The Spirit of Mourning. History, Memory and the Body. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. 51-82

Fabian J. 2003. Forgetful Remembering: A Colonial Life in the Congo. Africa, Journal of the International African Institute 73(4): 489-504.

Hazan H. & E. Hertzog (eds.) 2012. Serendipity in Anthropological Research: The Nomadic Turn Research. London, Ashgate.

Iwilade A. 2013. Crisis as Opportunity: Youth, Social Media and the Renegotiation of Power. Journal of Youth Studies 16(8): 1054-1068

Van der Geest 2010. Patients as co-researchers? Views and experiences in Dutch medical anthropology. In S. Fainzang, HE Hem, and MB Risør (ed.), The Taste for Knowledge: Medical Anthropology Facing Medical Realities, 97-110.

[1] Centre de Recherches en Anthropologie et Sciences Humaines in N’Djaména, Chad

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