Monday, February 25, 2008

Call for Proposals: African Studies Association

The African Studies Association is accepting proposals for its 2008 annual meeting, to be held November 13-16, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. The deadline is March 15. Details about how to submit a proposal are here. The theme for the meeting is “Knowledge of Africa: The Next Fifty Years.”


Over the past fifty years, the types and levels of academic knowledge produced in African Studies have advanced impressively. African knowledge has gained growing recognition in all fields, from music to the environment, and new constituencies have generated and applied their knowledge to situations on the ground. The fiftieth anniversary of the annual meetings of the African Studies Association marks an important milestone and offers an opportunity to take stock of African Studies and map out possible future directions in the field, which has been characterized by complex interplay between academic analysis and social concern, theory and policy, and knowledge within and outside the continent. Also, knowledge production practices in African Studies have varied between disciplinary and interdisciplinary modes of inquiry; some disciplines and interdisciplinary fields have made greater advances than others.

The theme for the 2008 ASA annual meeting centers on current and projected advances in African Studies as a body of knowledge. The past fifty years of African Studies involved vigorous debate and attempts to overcome Eurocentric theories and analytical models and their application in scholarly and policy discourses. In various disciplines and interdisciplinary fields scholars debated about the relevance of existing theories and methodologies, and sometimes sought to develop new ones, in explaining African phenomena. The applicability of ostensibly universal conceptual schemas was particularly fraught in the realm of policy formation. Many scholars and social activists queried the relevance, and stressed the devastating consequences, of policy prescriptions devised by international agencies and Western governments, such as structural adjustment programs, that were imposed on African countries and took little account of African realities.

As we ponder the next fifty years, based on the past half-century of debate, empirical study, and conceptualization, what are the likely trajectories of knowledge production in the various fields of study and inquiry in African Studies? What are the likely intersections between Africanist and global knowledges, knowledges produced within and outside the continent, and knowledge production and policy formation? Mapping out future directions in African Studies requires an understanding of the changing institutional architecture and ideological trends within Africa and in the major external centers of Africanist knowledge production including the United States—the profound transformations taking place and that are likely to take place in higher education institutions and research systems and in regional and global policy regimes.

This fifty-year anniversary, therefore, provides a good time to review the state of knowledge production in African Studies: the central problems that have been examined, the theories and concepts that have been applied and developed, the most useful principles and methodologies of research, and the relationships among theory, empirical evidence, and policy. Conceptualization and especially theory are central to the development of knowledge in each area of African Studies, so it is critical to interrogate the theoretical and conceptual foundations in the various areas of inquiry in the field. The guiding theories may of course differ in the various categories of disciplines: social science, humanities, arts, liberal professions, natural sciences, and interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary studies.

Out of this systematic attention to knowledge production, it is hoped that the conference will yield an assessment of what the disciplines have become and how African Studies have transformed them. It is also hoped that discussion at the annual meeting will yield a sense of the evident needs and directions of change in African Studies knowledge production.

There is more here.