The African Studies Association of Africa (ASAA) held its 5th biennial conference in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo in October 2023. The conference was organized and hosted by CARF (Centre Arrupe pour la Recherche et Formation) and UNH (Universite Nouveaux Horizons) from 25th to 28th October 2023. The conference, themed “Repatriating Africa: Ancient Challenges and Critical Insights”, attracted approximately 400 participants, who participated in the conference proceedings both physically and virtually.
Before the conference, the CIHA (Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa) blogs, organized a day workshop to assess its activities. At the core of CIHA’s workshop was a critical examination of ‘Reversing the Lens on Aid in Africa,’ conducted in collaboration with the African Studies Association of Africa (ASAA). During this session, CIHA explored significant figures such as the great African novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o on the African continent. The focus was on critically analyzing humanitarianism concerning Africa, prompting questions about the predominant discourse on aid to Africa. CIHA challenged this perspective by asking why there is inequality in the attention given to the aid that Africa has historically provided to the North, West, and the rest of the world. The discussion delved into the implications of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s work and what changes are necessary in the realms of aid, humanitarianism, and development globally. Furthermore, CIHA Luce Fellows shared insights into class structures, teaching methods, specific issues for debate, and the individuals involved, including co-editors. The workshop concluded with discussions on how to build upon the reflections, suggestions, and advice gathered from the participants, emphasizing the importance of ongoing dialogue and action.
The workshop was a rich engagement and collaboration with some members of the African Studies Association of Africa (ASAA) and academicians from ISPL (Institut Superieur Pedagogique de Lubumbashi) as well as other participants from across the world. The discussions were moderated by CIHA blog co-editors Professors Akosua Adomako AMPOFO (Ghana), Cecelia LYNCH (USA) and Cilas KEMEDJIO (USA). Translation, minute-taking and photography was done by CIHA Luce Fellows Eben BOSOMPRAH (Ghana), Amy GILMORE (USA), Modeste AGRAMAKO (Kenya) and Jeni FRANCISCO (USA).
The first day of the conference started with International Congress of African and African Diaspora Studies (ICAADS) debate and discussion. At the same time, the conference participants were celebrating three anniversaries that is commemorating 10 years of ASAA, 60 years of ICAADS and 60 years of the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union). On that occasion, two panels were organized: the first one was a discussion themed ‘‘Looking Back and Building Community’’ as a framework through which to think of humanities; the second one focused on the question of ‘‘Pan-African and Black Encounters’’ as a way to talk about what it means to be an African.
The 5th Biennial Conference of African Studies Association of Africa (ASAA) officially started on Wednesday 25 October, 2023 at the Bâtiment du 30 Juin. It covered conference programming and introductory speeches from the President of the ASAA and associates, UNH administration and local authorities of Lubumbashi. Fr. Toussaint Kafarhire SJ set the stage by welcoming participants and presenting the central theme of the conference. The questions revolved around the progress of the pan-African project for restoring Africanness. Africa’s approach to repatriation, strategies to restore lost heritage, challenges and perspectives in this process, considerations when looted heritage returns, and the role of research, cultural heritage, archives, and knowledge in the project to restore African dignity. To close the first day of the conference, the ASAA 2023 Presidential Lecture was presented by Professor Shose Kessi, focused on “Towards a Decolonial Feminist Psychology of Repatriation.” The lecture, held during the AKOSUA ADOMAKO AMPOFO session, included a comprehensive exploration of the subject matter. Professor Shose Kessi, who serves as the Dean of the Humanities at the University of Cape Town, provided valuable insights and perspectives during this enlightening presentation.
Days two, three, and four of the conference were organized with thematic roundtable sessions at the CARF (Centre Arrupe de Recherché et de Formation) and UNH (Université Nouveaux Horizons). CIHA convened one roundtable during the conference. The CIHA Blog panel, chaired by Akosua Adomako Ampofo from the University of Ghana, explored the theme “Humanitarianism and State (Un) Building: Repatriating Humanitarian Practices.” To elaborate on this, presentations were made as follows: Ebenezer Kwesi Bosomprah presented on “Unveiling Linguistic Chains: Language, Education, and Neo-colonialism in Ghana.” Professor Cecelia Lynch discussed “Gendered Layers of Reparation and Restoration in Cameroon.” Professor Cilas Kemedjio presented on “The Humanitarian Presidency: The Anglophone Crisis, Boko Haram, and the Dilution of the Social Contract in Cameroon.” Amy Gilmore addressed “Aid in Crisis: Navigating (Im) mobility and COVID-19.” The panel offered diverse perspectives on the intersection of humanitarian practices, state building, and challenges in various contexts. Discussions were robust, covering linguistic influences, gender dynamics in reparation efforts, the impact of crises on humanitarian aid, and broader implications for social contracts in regions facing significant challenges. As the discussant, Dr Divine Fuh from the University of Cape Town provided valuable insights to conclude the session.
The ASAA2023 conference featured a distinguished keynote speaker, Professor Evelyn Mayanja from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Her presentation, titled “Decolonizing and Decapitalizing Knowledge Production: Research and Its Benefits to Africa’s Communities,” delved into the crucial discourse surrounding the transformation of knowledge production processes. Professor Mayanja provided insightful perspectives on the significance of research in contributing to the well-being and advancement of African communities. The keynote address underscored the importance of moving towards decolonized and decapitalized approaches in knowledge production, emphasizing the potential positive impacts on the African continent. At the end, the ASAA awarded Ms Robtel Neajai Pailey the Pius Adesanmi Memorial Book Prize.
Report by: Modeste AGRAMAKO, CIHA Luce Fellow – HIPSIR/CRTP 2023