‘Redefining the Past, Imagining the Future’
Looking at Africa’s past is not only relevant for students and researchers of history. World over, movements of decolonisation are calling for the ‘demythologizing of whiteness’ and its particular version of history that Achille Mbembe describes as entrapping any potentials for transformative human(e) futures . This speaks to the need to unpack perspectives and approaches to doing research on the continent, in tandem with a questioning of the ways that we look at, and are taught about history. When 44% of UK respondents describe feeling ‘pride rather than regret’ about Empire, critical discussions on the ways in which history influences present conceptions of nations, people and power, could not be more needed. Africa, the West’s most recent colonial project and the site of its most organised implementation holds a pivotal place in analyses of Empire, colonisation and the enslavement of thousands of people. Its history and its present are intricately linked and one can hardly be studied without taking into account the other.
What implications does this knowledge have for researchers working on Africa-related topics based in the UK? Is our research a means against nostalgic notions of Empire or does its very nature and placing limit its dissemination to a privileged few? How can we think about and represent Africa in our research in ways that break away from the Western gaze encapsulated in neoliberal and teleological narratives of an ‘Africa rising’?
This year’s AfNet conference works to unpack the importance of a temporal, critical and decolonial gaze on work in African contexts. Under the theme ‘Redefining the Past, Imagining the Future’ we want to encourage PhD students working on Africa to analyse, critique, reflect on and discuss the ways in which Africa’s past needs to be redefined so as to imagine new futures and especially the many ways in which these futures might be reflected in our research. May this be in terms of content, method, epistemological approach or design. We welcome submissions from all social science and humanities disciplines that draw on original PhD research, both empirical and theoretical.
The objective of the conference is to provide a multi-disciplinary platform for students and researchers working on Africa to discuss their current research projects, get inspired and become part of AfNET’s London-wide network of PhD students.