Call For Papers – ASAUK Sept 2014 – Critical African Studies Panel Stream‏

 source : Communiqué de presse / Press Release

Deadline: 25th of April 2014 avril 2014 – appels à contributions / candidatures


Lizelle Bisschoff –
Wolfgang Zeller –


Critical African Studies Panel Stream’African Utopias/Dystopias’

L’Association d’Etudes Africaines de Royaume Uni tient sa conférence biennale du 09 au 11 septembre 2014, à l’Université de Sussex (R.U)

L’appel à papiers se clôt ce 25 avril 2014.
Le panel thématique des Etudes africaines critiques (Critical African Studies) aura lieu autour de “Utopies/Dystopies Africaines, ainsi que quatre autres panels ouverts à propositions sur 4 sujets :
* Science Fiction et Fantastique Africaine
* Technologie
* (Re)Matérialiser la dytopie/utopie dans le Rwanda contemporain
* Le scissionnisme (la sécession) en Afrique

traduit de l’anglais par Thierno. I. DIA
(Voir plus bas l’appel complet)


Call for Papers
Critical African Studies Panel Stream

2014 Biennial Conference

September 9th – 11th, University of Sussex

African Utopias/Dystopias

Africa has long suffered the caricature of being’without history’, but in the early 21st century it is constraints upon the multiplicity of possible futures that often appear like a more prevalent and immediate burden across the continent. Just as African pasts once appeared inevitably constrained by normative imaginations from the outside, so it can now seem as if African futures and potential trajectories remain limited by the juggernauts of’development’,’human rights’,’neo-liberal’ economics, or even’post modern’ and’post-structuralist’ thought. But there is nothing inevitable about afro-optimism or afro-pessimism. Just as African pasts are in reality dynamic and unconstrained by ahistorical caricatures imposed upon them, so too for their corollary, African futures. More often than not the two are intertwined in ways that defy conventional temporalities. Whether in rich fictional colours or dark nightmares, African imaginations of pasts and futures and the wider world are powerful drivers of real cultural, political and economic change.

In line with CrAS’s agenda to forge new perspectives based on African realities and promote critical and theoretical innovation in African studies, this panel stream will examine various aspects of African utopias and dystopias as they emerge from lived realities on the continent.

Critical African Studies is convening four panels for the ASAUK 2014 which link to the theme ‘African Utopias/Dystopias’. Full details of the four panels can be found below. The call for papers will close on the 25th of April. Full submission guidelines and online submission instructions for paper abstracts can be found here:

Please direct any other questions to individual panel conveners or the editorial office for Critical African Studies (

Critical African Studies Panel List

ASAUK 2014 Biennial Conference

September 9-11th, University of Sussex

Panel: African Science Fiction and Fantasy

In contrast to the social realist tendency prevalent in African visual arts, cinema and literature, genres of science fiction and fantasy are increasingly being explored by African artists, filmmakers and writers. This is evident, for example, in Angolan artist Kiluanji Kia Henda’s series of photographs Icarus 13 (2006), Cameroonian filmmaker Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s feature film Les Saignantes (2005), Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu’s short film Pumzi (2009), South African writer Lauren Beukes’ novel Zoo City (2010), and Nigerian author Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death? (2011). Science fiction as a genre emerged during the height of European colonialism, and is profoundly shaped by it. The use of science fiction and fantasy in African arts is thus significant, because the continent has consistently and continually been represented as the orientalist ‘other’, alien to ‘the West’. Narratives of science fiction and fantasy afford Africa, just like the genres are used in Western visual arts, film and literature, the possibility to project different, alternative and multiple futures. As such, these narratives could serve a counter-hegemonic function which enhances African emancipation and self-reclamation. At the same time, these genres should not be seen as merely escapist, as they often draw on the present, confront social issues and are products of the societies in and on which they are based.

This panel will explore how African artists, filmmakers and writers adopt and adapt the genres of science fiction and fantasy to create utopian and dystopian representations that allow us to imagine Africa outside of the normal “third-worldist” representations of the so-called “Dark Continent”.

Contact: Lizelle Bisschoff

Panel: Technology

Technological progress and the influence of the so-called digital revolution has been much-hailed in an African context. Africa’s exposure to technology is different from the West; most Africans do not own a desktop computer and are introduced to the internet through mobile phones, while in the West it works in the opposite way. The utopian view of technology emphasises the democratising role that more accessible and affordable technologies can play on the African continent in empowerment, emancipation and communication. Africa has certainly embraced new technologies, as is prevalent in rising statistics of mobile phone and internet usage in many parts of the continent, particularly the urban centres. The accelerated process of technological progress that Africa has undergone over the past decade is providing multiple possibilities of innovation, including new forms of citizenship and activism (as could be observed, for example, by the use of social networking during the Arab Spring uprisings). Africa has also in some cases been at the forefront of new technological developments, such as mobile phone banking, and the use of mobile internet technologies in agriculture to access market prices and weather patterns. The impact of mobile technology in Africa is huge and it has been claimed that Africa is on the cusp of new ways of understanding user experience and user interface design. A more sober view of the impact of new technologies and ICT in Africa would recognise that technological advancement is still inaccessible in vast areas of the continent, and that economic and political failures prevent many Africans access to its potential benefits.

This panel will explore the use and application of new technologies in Africa, and the economic, creative and social potential that the digital revolution has opened up on the continent.

Contact: Lizelle Bisschoff

Panel: (Re)Materializing dystopia/utopia in contemporary Rwanda

2014 will mark twenty years of ‘remembering’ the Rwandan Genocide. In the historical narratives of the Rwandan government, the international community, and scholarly literature, the Genocide has often been cast as the spilling into reality of an ultimate dystopian nightmare. In those twenty years of reflection, the issue of what is ‘truth’ and what is ‘fiction’ in the historiography of Rwandan pasts has merged with broader debates around the nature of memory and its re-imaginations. Concurrently, these visualisations of the ultimate societal disorder have fed an unavoidable birthing of dystopia’s surreal alter-ego, by provoking the re-imagination and re-forging of Rwanda as the ultimate utopian state. Bodies and bodily materials inevitably inhabit these spaces of the imagined and the real, past and present. The memorialised corpses of Genocide victims, the living, breathing bodies of genocide ‘survivors’, and the broadly defined ‘other’ or genocide perpetrator are called upon to populate Rwanda’s dystopian pasts. At the same time, visions of Rwanda’s utopian futures also play out in bodily ways; for example in the on-going envisioning of the idealised ‘de-ethnicised’ and ‘modern’ Rwandan citizen, which brings particular bodies into being and determines the absence or illegitimacy of others.

This panel engages with the implicit and yet under-theorised population of Rwanda’s dystopian pasts, and reforged futures through the materialities of Rwandan bodies. Drawing upon current debates in the academic study of materials and materialities, papers will examine the role of bodies and bodily substances in generating and contesting Rwanda’s dystopian pasts and utopian futures.

Contact: Laura Major

Panel: Secessionism in Africa

50 years since the OAU’s decision to adopt the principle of uti possidetis juris, the territorial boundaries of African states have remained largely unchanged. Englebert and Hummel in 2005 claimed that Africa had a “secessionist deficit” and that consequently, across the continent, feeble states continued to exist that were dysfunctional territorial containers created during colonialism but not filled with sufficient state power to administer these territories since then. Nevertheless, in all parts of Africa secessionist movements have in the past, and presently continue to use the imagination of a future territorial reconfiguration to reinforce (sometimes more, sometimes less credible) arguments to overcome their perceived marginalisation and achieve political and economic emancipation. While in the cases of Eritrea and South Sudan, this vision has ultimately been successful, other unsuccessful cases like Biafra and Katanga have left a deep fear among policy-makers in Africa and elsewhere that the secessionist utopia can lead to a dystopian nightmare. But by whose standards do we measure “success”? Is secession always the only and ultimate utopia of secessionist movements?

This panel will present and invite discussion of the results of an ongoing book project, which examines and compares all major cases of secessionism in Africa since independence. It emerges from the work of the African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE) and is expected to reach publication stage during 2014.

Contact: Wolfgang Zeller