ECAS: 7th European Conference on African Studies (Basel, 29 June-1 July 2017)

The 7th European Conference on African Studies (ECAS) will be taking place at the University of Basel (Switzerland) from 29th June to 1 July 2017. The theme for this year is “Urban Africa – Urban Africans: New encounters of the rural and the urban,” and I am aware from the preliminary call for panels that there is considerable interest in discussing and addressing issues about how current urbanization trends are impacting societies and individuals in terms of artistic, aesthetic and cultural responses, just as much as the more widely discussed dynamics and precarities of socio-economic, political and environmental change.

Two sartorially elegant men from Congo Brazzaville involved in the lifestyle and performance of “La Sape” / “Sapeur aestheitcs.” Image source: c/o The Telegraph.

This conference is a gift for contemporary cultural geographers from continental Africa and the global African diasporas who wish to actively challenge and push back against the highly contentious and problematic pedagogies associated with so-called “African Studies” within the European academy. Indeed, the conference conveners at the University of Basel (CASB)  have stated the following in their recently issued call for papers, presentations and other contributions:

“The key issue… is how urbanization processes in Africa transform conventional objects of African Studies and how [you/me/we] gear up to face such changes … While the urban will be prominent, the proposed conference theme will also look into the entanglements of the rural with the urban, especially with a view to addressing an implicit assumption underlying the study of Africa and which concerns the supposed rural ‘nature’ of the continent as well as the constitutive nature of the tension between tradition and modernity.”

CASB conference conveners, University of Basel (Switzerland)

Anyone interested in submitting a panel proposal should contact CASB via this web form by 30th September 2016 – giving details about your institutional affiliation and current position, the title of your panel, and then a short introductory overview of no more than 300 characters (including spaces), followed by a long abstract of no more than 250 words. The main language for conference correspondence is English. However this information about proposals and abstracts can be submitted in either English or French.

Revue Noire publicity poster for the Pume Bylex exhibition, « Pourquoi pas Bylex? » PUME (2012).
Revue Noire publicity poster for the Pume Bylex exhibition, « Pourquoi pas Bylex? » PUME (2012).
Photograph from Daniele Tamagni's book, 'Gentlemen of Bacongo' (2009). © Daniele Tamagni.
Photograph from Daniele Tamagni’s book, ‘Gentlemen of Bacongo’ (2009). © Daniele Tamagni.

I certainly think that there are tremendous opportunities for those of us researching, writing and creating artistic portfolios via contemporary visual arts, fashion and graphic design, curated assemblages and installation work in museums and galleries, etc. to utilise this conference as a platform for articulating arts activism and scholar-activism against “the ‘othering’ of Africa” within the project of the West.

My earlier blog posts about  “Return of the Rudeboy: Ska, Swagger, and Sapologie at Somerset House”  and also Steve Bandoma – contemporary Congolese visual artist from Kinshasa might encourage a diversity of creative professionals and arts scholars working in the fields of fashion, photography, curation and art history to submit stimulating, audio-visual presentations for consideration.


The venue for the conference – which takes place between 29 June and 1 July 2017 – is the main Kollegienhaus of the University of Basel (see here).

Members of the CASB organising committee include: Till Förster, Elísio Macamo and Veit Arlt – contactable via email c/o

To find out more about the conference, please visit the web page for ECAS 2017


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