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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Interdisciplinary conversations – the cluster’s kick-off conference debated important questions of African Studies today


At its kick-off conference, the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence welcomed 390 scholars in at the end of October in Bayreuth. The international networking conference “Africa Multiple: Conversations and Building Networks” mainly tackled topics that are high on the Cluster’s agenda ranging from premises of knowledge production to African Studies in the digital age.

Building a large global network of institutions in order to intensify the international and interdisciplinary knowledge transfer and thus contributing to the various questions of African Studies is one of the core ideas that make up the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence’s concept. With this goal in mind, a considerable number of international scholars, students and officials were invited by the Cluster of Excellence to come to the University of Bayreuth from 30 to 31 October 2019 to attend the first international conference “Africa Multiple: Conversations and Building Networks“. 390 participants followed the invitation and experienced two days of networking synergies as well as debating the most important issues regarding African Studies. “Designed as the official kick-off event for the Cluster of Excellence, the conference constituted an opportunity for our international network partners from all over the world to get to know each other and jointly debate important current issues regarding modern African Studies”, the speaker of the Cluster of Excellence, Rüdiger Seesemann explains.

Wide range of topics ranging from Knowledge Production …

The single items on the event’s agenda showed, which topics are especially high on the cluster’s list of priorities and close to the core of African Studies today. The first day of the conference started with the premises of knowledge production: Who produces knowledge, who has access and how is this knowledge passed on? Muyiwa Falaiye from the Cluster’s African Cluster Center at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, and Kaneko Marie from the University of Kyoto, Japan, USA, both gave lectures on the topic before discussing the matter with the audience.

To African Diaspora …

The prevailing topic of the day, however, was “African diaspora”. Giving the audience individual insights on the field John Tunde Bewaji, from the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, and Ajay Dubei, from the Jawahrlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, each scrutinized the question of diaspora coming from two different parts of the world. One of the highlights of the conference also revolved around the issue of African diaspora. In his keynote lecture, one of the most important French speaking authors of our time - Patrick Chamoiseau - elaborated on his thoughts regarding this immensely important topic. Deriving his theories from Edouard Glissant‘s body of work, Patrick Chamoiseau concluded that diaspora today might better be conceived as „Metaspora“. Taking the audience on a philosophical journey from poetry to new worlds of imagination and possible political utopias, Chamoiseau invited his listeners to imagine a world without frontiers and exclusion.

To Gender and Diversity …

On the second day of the conference, one of the primary topics included „Gender and Diversity in African Studies“. Chaired by Christine Vogt-William, this segment of the conference gave room for views by Akosua Domako Ampofo from the University of Ghana, Emmanuelle Bouilly (Les Afriques dans le Monde, Sciences Po, Bordeaux) and Patricia Gomes from Centro de Estudos Afro-Orientais, Salvador de Bahia. Sharing their ideas on questions of gender and identity, the scholars gave gripping lectures elaborating on diverse research examples of experiences and perspectives.

… and Digitalisation

The last item on the agenda of the conference was “African Studies in the Digital Age”. The vast topic was approached from various angles: Tunde Ope Davies from the University of Lagos talked about digital synergies and creating a digital research environment in translational and transdisciplinary studies. Tsepho Mosweu from the University of Botswana conveyed to the audience her ideas by showcasing examples from Botswana while John Hanson from Indiana University in Bloomington, USA explained practices from the United States.

Festive concert marked end of conference

A festive concert marked the end of the Cluster of Excellence’s first international networking conference. Fitting for the special occasion the concert was held in the unique setting of the Margravial Opera House of Bayreuth. (sg)

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