The Africa Network
The State of African Studies
2016 Call for Papers (CFP)
Discourses of development, tribalism, globalization, nationalism, and terrorism have long inflected the study of Africa and the dissemination of images of the continent, its peoples, and cultures in popular media. Notwithstanding the significant contributions that Africanist scholars and activists have made to challenging negative and stereotypical representations of Africa, popular western public discourses still cast the continent as a crucible of demographic, environmental, and political ills. Declension narratives portray African nations and peoples as a harbingers of violence, disease, and overpopulation. What does it signify when meaningful engagement with and study of Africa has only a small impact on the enduring legacy of ignorance and romanticism in public and popular imaginations?
Similar problems abound in the higher education realm. Over the past three decades, American liberal arts colleges have significantly increased their commitments to international education and to the development of non-Western content across the curriculum. Now the clamor from all quarters is for an education that produces graduates who are “global citizens.” Discourses of globalization in this context flatten the world as a global village where we are all easily and cheaply connected via our smartphones, laptops and tablets. Africa, like all other places, is being transformed through digital access. Here too, in spite of the digital revolution, the image that Americans – whether college students or powerful professionals – have of Africa often remains a static one: an Africa where villagers live precarious lives little changed from the pre-industrial era. Only recently, Vice-President Joe Biden spoke of the “country of Africa” in a speech before African heads of state, an embarrassing illustration of America’s general invisibility in the United States. Even before this moment, “Africa is not a country” had become a rallying call for many who teach or write about Africa. Although there are many centers of excellence for the study of Africa at the graduate level and at major research institutions, at the undergraduate level at smaller schools the curricular landscape is more piecemeal. With a few important exceptions, Africa is typically either completely absent or very poorly represented on the rosters of liberal arts colleges around the country.
The Africa Network was founded to develop and enhance a lasting presence for Africa in the academic programs and campus life of the nation’s liberal arts colleges. At our next annual conference at the University of North Carolina (Asheville) on September 30-October 2, 2016, we want to take a moment to review the state of African Studies in the liberal arts curriculum and to prepare selected conference proceedings for publication on the following themes: where are we, how did we get here and what does the future hold for popular and academic engagement with Africa.
To this end we invite papers that either reflect on the past or analyze specific programs or fields of study. Please submit an abstract or panel proposal of 250-300 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com by June 15, 2016 with the subject line “fall conference.”
Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- Teaching African languages, literatures, art, history, etc.
- Historical overviews of and/or new trends in African and Africana Studies programs
- Study Abroad
- Africa and Digital Media
- Policy and funding landscapes
- African Studies and Stem