African Studies Center (KASC) University of Kansas Interdisciplinary Conference

University of Kansas Lawrence, KS. October 6th, 7th and 8th, 2011

Call for Papers
Theme: “Cultures of Exile: African Globalities in the Age of Transnationalism”

Scholars have been quick to apprehend the ongoing epic outflow of people from the African continent. Among other themes, the literature has been particularly attentive to: the local and /or regional factors which compel the emigration of highly-skilled people; the role of colonial pedigree in determining would-be migrants’ choice of destination; the challenges to new immigrants in their new cultural environments; the contribution of Diasporic communities to politics and community development in the home countries; and the role of religion in the shaping of immigrant identities. A major insight from this literature is that the continent is currently caught in a ‘catch 22’ situation- while lack of development galvanizes skill drain; at the same time, the loss of well-trained professionals only narrows the odds that affected countries will have a tilt at economic prosperity.

We see this paradox as a timely opportunity for a vigorous debate on the long term ramifications of continued emigration for African societies. Against this background, we invite both theoretical and empirically-grounded contributions that thematize, not just transnationalism or the diaspora, but the broader ‘culture of exile’ that arguably underpins both. We define a ‘culture of exile’, pace Piot (2010) as the multiple ways in which an increasing number of people in various African countries in the shadow of the foreign and foreign forces and institutions. These modes of existence have important implications for identities and self-imaginings, for citizenship, national consciousness, nationhood, generational dynamics, youth and youth agency, the state, the economy, and politics. We welcome contributions that engage seriously with the psychological, sociological, cultural and political ramifications of living as if in all its particularities.

The following questions are especially pertinent: what kinds of subjectivities are produced in contexts where a significant number of young adults treat everyday life as preparation for future travel? What sorts of coping strategies- economic, affective, and cultural- do such people resort to, and how do these strategies help us understand the experience of life in transit in affected countries? What are the psychological dimensions and implications of the desires and fantasies that are an inalienable part of aspiration to travel, and what kinds of light do they shed on the social identities of those who harbor them? What kinds of societal, para-state and state forms and agents have arisen in the cleft of the inordinate quest to travel, and how do these forms contribute to our understanding of changing patterns of sociality in Africa? On the other side, what are the socio-psychological dimensions of living abroad when one would rather be living at home? What are the specific forms of alienation produced by exile- economic and political- and how does alienation impact agency both at home and abroad?

Paper abstracts exploring these and related questions should be sent to: gmyers@ku.edu, Garth Myers, Director, Kansas African Studies Center

Abstracts should be no longer than 500 words maximum and should include submitters’ institutional affiliation and contact (email and postal) details.