Africa Days 2013 - Conclusion remarks

 

The total number of participants reached 24. The majority of these came from abroad, among them being well-known personalities in this research field. We were delighted to receive 24 guests from 13 countries spanning 3 continents. Their amazing contributions involved a huge complexity of African history, politics and society. The two-day programme was divided into 6 thematic panels.  

The conference opened with an introductory speech by its main organiser, Jan Záhořík, who presented his overview of the past, present and future of the Centre of African Studies, emphasizing the necessity of creating permanent and intensive cooperation between all associated centres, worldwide. The second introductory speech was made by Ahmed Hassen, director of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa University.  A. Hassen highlighted the newly established cooperation between Addis Ababa University and the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen, which will be based on both teaching and student exchange programmes and will lead to some fruitful scientific results in the near future.

Because of the interdisciplinary approach and a great diversity of topics, contributions were divided into six panel discussions. The first panel, chaired by A. Hassen, focused on Ethiopia and consisted of four papers: Alexander Meckelburg from the University of Hamburg dealt with minorities and peripheries, presenting his preliminary reflections on the interrelationship between regional and state building in Ethiopia; the contribution of Alemayehu Kumsa from Charles University in Prague was devoted to the contemporary political history of Ethiopia (Ethiopia under the TPLF government from 1991 to 2012); Jean-Nicolas Bach, from the University of Bordeaux, provided some preliminary notes on  a study of party splits in contemporary Ethiopia, while Jan Dvořáček, from the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen, raised the question of decolonisation in the Horn and its consequences for Franco-Ethiopian relations.

The second panel was devoted to Lusophone and South Africa. It was opened by Kirsten Rüther (the University of Vienna), who presented her paper entitled Family and Diplomacy in South Africa: The Story of an Unusual Rapprochement (1880-1890). The following contribution by Kalle Kananoja (the European University of Firenze) dealt with religion and politics in early 20th century Angola. Joanna Mormul (the Jagellonian University of Cracow) discussed the phenomenon of Chinese engagement with Lusophone Africa by providing a case study on the Republic of Mozambique.

The third part was opened by Baz Lecocq (the University of Ghent) and his paper explaining the contemporary situation in Mali as a case study of political developments in a former poster-child democracy. The next presentation, by Matthew Park (Michigan State University) introduced the politics of debt in a colonial city under the title Vicious Cycles and Revolving Doors. Filip Strych (the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen) concluded this panel with his contribution on trade in the Senegambia in the first half of the 19th century.

The fourth panel was devoted to the continental issues. Stig Jensen (University of Copenhagen) discussed the impact of global environmental governance on sustainable development in Africa, Elsa Gonzales (Autonomous University of Madrid) gave an account on the encounter between Ethiopia and the European international society using some explications from the international relations theory. Jakub Kydlíček (University of West Bohemia in Pilsen) introduced his rigorous research of Berber society in Southern Tunisia as a case of current Berber studies and Christian Vandersee (Basler Afrika Bibliografien) presented contemporary Africa Research in Basel. 

The second day of Africa Days started with a keynote speech by Ahmed Hassen on the role of Ethiopia in Pan-Africanism. The introductory panel was devoted to East Africa with three interesting contributions. Geert Castryck (the University of Leipzig) spoke about world heritage as a resource in contemporary Kigoma. Karin Pallaver (the University of Bologna discussed the monetization of Uganda in the early colonial period (1890-1905) under the title “Africans have no pockets” and Massimo Zaccaria (the University of Pavia) presented his amazing work in Eritrean archives, where he has contributed to the rescue of the printed past of Africa.     

The last panel focused on various topics related to modern African history, as well as to African spiritual influence on the West. Michael Zach (the University of Vienna) used data from his research on the life and personality of Ignaz Pallme and his concept of the conquest of Ethiopia in the first half of the 19th century, launching the issue of Austrian colonial activities in Africa. Jaromír Matějíček (the University of West Bohemia) shared his knowledge of Indians and interwar Kenya. The last contribution, by Ivo Budil (the University of West Bohemia), raised the question of Africa and its impact on Western racial imagination.

The reason for organizing the conference was to increase opportunities for networking, i.e. within the various international cooperation schemes such as Erasmus or through bilateral partnership agreements that can help to build the capacity for high quality international research and develop the planned MA programme in African Studies. The conference also supported the launching of the Journal of African History, Politics, and Society, which has a broad international advisory board and editorial board and whose members were able to meet in Pilsen during Africa Days. The Centre of African Studies in Pilsen is now applying for membership of AEGIS and Africa Days was able to provide a good opportunity for extending the potential for cooperation in Europe.