(Post)colonial presents in African Studies - 28.06.2017

International Workshop

Talya Lubinsky, photograph from the exhibition "If we burn, there is ash"(2016)

Joining postcolonial and critical scholars of African history, our group critiques the concepts of linear time and the ordering of the past into discrete epochs. As Derek Gregory in The Colonial Present writes, the convention of assuming sharp breaks between historical periods is simplistic. History “is always more complicated than that: always plural, always contested, and shot through with multiple temporalities and spatialities.”  This workshop grapples centrally with these historical complications, to argue that colonial constellations of power, knowledge and geography are powerfully at work in the present. These contested histories, and their multiple temporal and spatial dynamics, actively shape the structures in which people make and narrate history, represent and read different bodies, and reproduce racialised spaces. The workshop aims to bring together researchers who in their individual work analyse various aspects of plural temporalities and spatialities and together want to reflect on current debates and challenges in African Studies.

The workshop will apply the innovative method of “poaching” as a way to present and discuss participants’ papers. The Matsutake Worlds Research Group initially developed this method;  researchers interested in alternatives to conventional conference formats have applied it. Eben Kirksey, Craig Schuetze and Nick Shapiro describe the practice of poaching as following: “Rather than conventional 15-minute papers about their own work, authors [double] as discussants, coming to the event with texts that they purloined from other participants. Panelists ‘[poach]’ the writing of others.”  Thus, each participant is requested to write a paper for the workshop, but instead of presenting their own paper will present another participant’s paper. The poaching method not only deepens discussion about individual papers but also facilitates more collaborative scholarship. Kirksey, Schuetze and Shapiro describe poaching as “an exercise in scholarly generosity.” 

Host institutions: Basel Graduate School of History, Centre for African Studies Basel

Convenors: Melanie Boehi (University of Basel), Julia Büchele (University of Basel), Dr. Sarah Godsell (University of Johannesburg), Alicia Lazzarini (University of Minnesota), Dr. Danai Mupotsa (University of the Witwatersrand), Dr. Napandulwe Shiweda (University of Namibia) and Anna Voegeli (University of Basel)

Synergy with the 7th European Conference on African Studies

The workshop takes place on the day immediately prior to the 7th European Conference on African Studies (ECAS), which will be organised and hosted by the University of Basel from 29 June – 1 July 2017. Funding is available to assist with accommodation costs during the workshop for participants based on the African continent.


WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION | 09:00 - 09:30 | Room 4


GOVERNANCE | 09:30 - 11:00 | Room 4

Joris Tieleman presents Sarah Godsell: Belonging to bantustans: language and exclusion in apartheid and democratic South Africa

Sarah Godsell presents Yves Mintoogue: Thee Narration of the Past and its Political Uses in Cameroonian Nationalist Movement

Yves Mintoogue presents Joris Tieleman: Chiefs in the city


REMAINS OF HISTORY | 09:30 - 11:00 | Room 3

Melanie Boehi presents Talya Lubinsky: If we burn, there is ash

Talya Lubinsky presents Tom Cunningham: The colonial archive as material remains: Reflections from an “Endangered Archives Project”

Tom Cunningham presents Melanie Boehi: Plant histories of fencing: reconsidering Van Riebeeck’s Hedge, 1660-2017


URBAN AND RURAL SPACE | 11:30 - 13:00 | Room 4

Anna Voegeli presents Cassandra Thiesen-Mark: Rural integration and agricultural tours in Liberia

Cassandra Thiesen-Mark presents Alicia Lazzarini: Racialized Urbanity and Lusophone Coloniality in Mozambique

Alicia Lazzarini presents Anna Voegeli: Everyday articulations of agricultural development in the rural hinterlands of
Tzaneen, north-eastern South Africa, 1960s to 1980s


APARTHEID AND PERIODIZATION | 11:30 - 13:00 | Room 3

Janie Swanepoel presents Jess Farrell: Thee Politics of Periodization: Thee ‘End’ of the Atlantic World and e Critique of History

Jess Farrell presents Janeke Thumbran: The ordering of the South African past into the discrete temporal categories of “apartheid” and “post-apartheid”

Janeke Thumbran presents Janie Swanepoel: Postcolonial aridity


LUNCH | 13:00-14:30 | Quelle


DESIRE AND AFFECTION | 14:30 - 16:00 | Room 4

Victoria Onsei-Bonsu presents Napandulwe Shiweda: ‘The love to be modern’: Dreams and desires of Ovambo contract workers in Namibia

Napandulwe Shiweda presents Danai Mupotsa: Against Love

Danai Mupotsa presents Victoria Onsei-Bonsu: Representations of the Other in selected works of Joseph Conrad


PARKS AND CONSERVATION | 14:30 - 16:00 | Room 3

Paul Vig presents Tibor Böhm: African National Parks as (Post) colonial Spaces

Tibor Böhm presents Emmanuel Mogende: Legitimising Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier conservation area: the case of Botswana

Emmanuel Mogende presents Paul Vig: Hunting for Apartheid: Game and Race in the Transvaal, 1943-1949


DISCUSSION | 16:30 - 17:30 | Room 4


DRINKS | 17:30 - 18:30 | Quelle


When & Where

28 June 2017, Department of History, University of Basel, Hirschgässlein 21, 4051 Basel


melanie.boehi@unibas.ch, j.buechele@unibas.ch