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25 Years

Rethinking African Studies Symposium

Thu, 04/07/2016 - 9:30am to Fri, 04/08/2016 - 7:00pm
Event Location: 
InFlux, Regis Center for Art East • 120 Andersen Library

African Studies Initiative (ASI)

Inaugural Public Symposium: Rethinking African Studies

April 7 -  InFlux Space, Regis Center for Art | April 8 - 120 Elmer L. Andersen Library

University of Minnesota

Co-sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change

The African Studies Initiative (ASI), a University of Minnesota Title VI African Studies National Resource Center funded by the U.S. Department of Education, will host an inaugural public symposium on the topic Rethinking African Studies at the University of Minnesota, April 7–8, 2016. The Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) will cosponsor the symposium.

Our intent in this symposium is to deconstruct and to pluralize the idea of “Africa” that subtends both African Studies as such and Africanist scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, as these fields are conceived in the U.S. academy today.

Equally important, we seek to deconstruct and to pluralize the notion of “study” that informs African Studies in the United States: that is, to consider how we might decolonize the intellectual geography of Africa in the U.S. university by shifting away from constructions of knowledge about Africa, transacted largely through the epistemological eye of the global North, toward more dynamic co-creations of knowledge with African scholars and African scholarship.

Our focus will be on Africa in two dimensions: time and space. We ask: When is “Africa”? Can we imagine new periodizations of the continent and its diasporas? Should we do away with these altogether? Why Africa now? Do the continent and its diasporas make particular claims on our attention at the present cultural, economic, historical, and political moment?

And we ask: Where is “Africa”? Should we understand specific forms of knowledge as “African”? How does the term “Africa” resonate elsewhere? To whom is it useful? To these dimensions we might add a third, no less vital: language. Indeed, central to our efforts to reimagine reigning conceptions of Africa is a focus on the perilous yet promising task of translation.

This ASI inaugural public symposium will bring together faculty and students across many disciplines—within and beyond African Studies, the ASI and ICGC communities, and the University of Minnesota and other institutions—to engage transformative work. We will consider the challenges posed to African Studies by questions of form and context, by the critique of history and of other forms of disciplinary reason, by postcolonial approaches, and by theory from the South.

See the symposium description for more information and the symposium program for a detailed outline of events.

Questions? Contact asi@umn.edu.