Call for papers

Decolonizing the Academy

University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Deadline: 31 January 2016

Decolonizing the Academy

‘Decolonizing the Academy’ is a convergence of critical and creative scholarship, theory, conversation, and empirical research committed to questioning and undoing the foundations of inequality in Africa and African Studies. Hosted by the University of Edinburgh Centre of African Studies and the Global Development Academy, this international conference calls for a collective examination of how knowledge and power are defined, distributed, and denied through the Academy, broadly defined.

For whom do we research Africa and for what purpose? How do our institutions – be they universities, professional networks, or publishing forums – reinforce unequal access to power, opportunities, and knowledge? What are our responsibilities as scholars and teachers to decolonize our work, on individual and collective levels—and how do we do it? How do we connect critical theoretical debates around decolonization with applied best practices and new practices? What future for African Studies does this envisage?

These questions are not new. Rather, they remain at the forefront of our academic and professional enterprise, posing challenges and opportunities to the very legitimacy and quality of our diverse endeavours.

Protests throughout South Africa in the wake of #RhodesMustFall and, now, #FeesMustFall have focused attention on the structural inequalities built into higher education systems, both in Africa and in the West. Somali twitter questioned the prominence and dominance of white ‘experts’ in #CadaanStudies. More than mere hashtags, these movements and moments reflect long-standing contestations over power, agency, and influence in the study of African issues, politics, and people. These debates attend to questions of access and opportunity routinely left out of formal academic discourse. They demand that scholars of Africa confront issues of representation, legitimacy, and accountability in our classrooms and in our research.

In convening the conference, the Centre of African Studies seeks to affirm the urgency of these debates and to generate accountable, creative, and critical dialogue within our disciplines. ‘Decolonizing the Academy’ calls for a brave conversation about how their institutional policies, ethics, and classroom practices disrupt or perpetuate existing patterns and power structures. They aim to bring these critiques to bear on our research agendas, methodologies, analysis, and dissemination.

The Centre of African Studies of the University of Edinburgh hopes calls for revisiting these key debates in African Studies (and beyond) as they seek to blaze new trails and engage old struggles. The 21st century generation of scholars is technologically savvy, increasingly interconnected, and yet, faced with persistently rigid political and institutional structures. Panels will address a range of thematic topics and active approaches to decolonizing the academy. They are soliciting papers that engage with issues of agency, legitimacy, and representation; empirical and analytical findings, research methods, and academic practice; and structural and institutional opportunities and obstacles.

If you would like to present a paper, please send the following:

•Your paper title

•Abstract (400-500 words)

•Author bio (200 words)

•Indicate to which panel/theme you are submitting, and any technical equipment your presentation may require

In addition to traditional academic papers presented in panels, they will also consider proposals for other forms of academic ‘speech’/representation/engagement, including but not limited to: poetry; music; theatre and performance art; photography and visual art. These proposals should speak directly to the conference theme and its focus on Africa and the Diaspora. Rather than submitting an abstract, please provide a detailed summary of your proposal and a web link or electronic file of the work itself or a similar portfolio. By bringing alternative academic expression into dialogue with conventional discursive forms, we hope to newly examine and inform our quest for and production of knowledge in the humanities and social sciences. Further enquiries about non-conventional submissions can be directed to Zoe Marks ( or via

Panel Themes: Decolonizing__

•__African Studies*

•__Art and Representation

•__The City

•__Gender and Sexuality

•__Language and Literature

•__Media and Technology

•__Race and Citizenship

•__Political Economy

•__The State

•Academia and Activism*

* ‘Decolonizing African Studies’ and ‘Academia and Activism’ will both be roundtables curated by the conference organizers; however, non-solicited contributions may be considered if they bring a unique perspective, or, exceptionally high interest may generate additional sessions being added.

Registration: Presenters will be required to register for the conference in order to have their place confirmed. Registration costs have been subsidized at the following rates by the University of Edinburgh to maximize access: £60 non-student (£50 early-bird); £30 student (£20 early-bird). Registration will open in early January. The conference fee includes access to all events and performances, as well as a wine reception, coffee and tea, and some meals over the two days. We will endeavour to make some funding available for scholars from Africa; details will be provided via the conference website.

For further information, please visit the website:

The Centre of African Studies:

All applications should be submitted to and to by 31 January 2016.


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