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Czech Association for African Studies

Call for Papers - Africa of the past, Africa of the future: The dynamics of global conflicts, peace and development

This year the conference will be organized jointly by SOAS and the Philosophy Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, with a two-day conference in London and a two day’s symposium in Prague. The lecture series and the conference will share the same theme: “Africa of the past, Africa of the future”. The London conference will explore the “The dynamics of time in Africanist scholarship and art” while the Prague conference will focus on “The dynamics of global conflicts, peace and development”.

Asixoxe – Let’s Talk! SOAS Conference on African Philosophy

2th-3th May, Centre of Global Studies, Philosophy Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague

5th -6th May, Russell Square Campus, SOAS, University of London

Africa is often portrayed as a continent without a future, a continent of innocent ignorance about time, a place of a blissful, animal-like existence in the present. Such is the basis of Hegel’s dismissal of the continent as an actor in the world’s history: “Africa . . . is the Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature” (Hegel 117). Hegel’s reading of Africa was very influential in Europe’s intellectual and political history, feeding directly into justifications of the colonial enterprise. Alternatively, Africa is depicted as a continent of the past, of perennial traditions that determine the present—and compromise the future. Such visions constitute a vein that goes through much Africanist discourse: from cultural theory, built upon issues of identity and cultural essentialism, via politics, which oftentimes strives to resurrect a putative precolonial past, to philosophy.

African philosophers such as John S. Mbiti have, notoriously, denied Africans the very capacity to conceive of a “distant future” (23) and found evidence of this in a range of African practices, down to the alleged grammatical incapacity of African languages to express the remote future. While Mbiti’s arguments can easily be refuted, the point he made about Africans’ lack of imagining the future is a complex one and it has been reasserted by other scholars. Johanna Offe confirms a glaring absence in Africa of the “modern” concept of a “contingent, and yet controllable future” (56). This concept underlies the notion of development understood as the readiness to alter one’s current practices to change a future situation; for that, the future situation must be imagined first—and it must be seen as determinable by human agency.

If, as Offe suggests in line with Pierre Bourdieu, in Africa the future is conceptualized as an inescapable “unfolding” (Offe 62) of events that are taking place in the present, following on from the present as its logical consequence, and it is “not contingent and open” (63) with “various [possible] outcomes” (62), but rather “expected and certain” (63), then of course the continent is locked in an eternal cyclical return of the same. The future only regurgitates the past and it is meaningless to make it the object of imagination because it is simply an extension of the present and past situation.

In a sharp contrast with this past-oriented outlook, more and more African thinkers and Africanists develop new thinking with regard to Africa’s futures. In counterbalance to the portrayal of Africa as “the zone of the absolute dystopia” in the media and in social sciences, where “African social reality is overdetermined by intimidating global scenarios, doomsday economic projections, weather predictions, medical reports on AIDS, and life-expectancy forecasts, all of which predict decades of immiserization” (Eshun 291-292), they approach to African futures through narratives such as cosmopolitanism, Afropolitanism, Afro-futurism and techno-science fictions.

Our project strives to analyzing the relevance of those new approaches as well as to outlining their interdisciplinarity as they deal with African global future. Can African sci-fi and Afrofuturism, for example, inspire a more future-oriented outlook in African philosophy, political sciences, anthropology, theology, sociology, economy, and vice versa? What effects would such an orientation have in these disciplines? How far do thinkers from these different areas of studies perceive African futures, particularly on account of current global conflicts, peace processes and the aspiration for development that shake this continent ?

We invite papers for the conference, while topics that speak to the outlined focus are preferred, we also welcome papers on other topics related to African philosophy and social sciences. Please confirm your participation and submit the titles of your papers by 1st April 2017 to the below mentioned email addresses. All queries should also be sent to related email address. Each speaker will be given 20 minutes for the presentation, with subsequent 10 minutes for questions and discussion. We envisage a subsequent publication of selected papers from the conference. There is no registration fee for presenters and other participants, but a previous registration is desirable.


Alena Rettová (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

Michelle Clarke (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

SOAS, University of London

WC1H 0XG London

Albert Kasanda (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

Centre of Global Studies

Institute of Philosophy

Czech Academy of Sciences

Jilská 1, 110 00 Prague 1

Czech Republic


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