2014 Annual Conference of the Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS)


Conference Theme 2014

The Social Sciences and African Studies: The Fluidity of Disciplinary Boundaries in the Postcolonial Age

Date: May 28-30, 2014
Place: Brock University, 500 Glenridge Avenue, St. Catharines, ON L2S 3A1

Convened under the auspices of the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

African Studies emerged in the 1950s and 1960s as the academic outcome of continental liberation. Social science research broke free of the political chains of colonialism without totally disengaging itself from colonialism’s legacy, but African Studies entered the picture under the general rubric of Area Studies, whereby African countries moved from being the “object” to the “subject” of academic discourse. Other regional specializations were the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the commonalities of the ex-colonial world’s experience saw the Canadian Association of African Studies link up with the others as the Canadian Council of Area Studies Learned Societies, a now defunct organization which started in the early 1990s with the advent of globalization.

If political decolonization gave birth to a new scholarship, the late 1970s and 1980s witnessed another sea change associated with the term postcoloniality, most associated with Edward Said’s attack on Oriental scholarship which demonized “the other”. A positive impact of what is sometimes known as the postmodern, linguistic, or cultural turn, has been a switch of focus from political economy and social structure to culture, discourse, gender and race. A negative impact has been the continuing hegemony of Eurocentrism in scholarship, publishing and institutional development. Some would argue that Africanist scholarship is as “underdeveloped” in the post-Cold war globalized world as African economies were under colonialism and structural adjustment. African Studies is inclusive of many disciplines but is dominated by the social sciences; however, since the cultural turn it has incorporated philosophy, religion, literature and literary criticism, while the borders among history, politics, anthropology and sociology, while not transcended, has been partly broached. African Studies now incorporates the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds, transnational and comparative Studies, histoire croisée, migration patterns and diasporas.
The conference welcomes reflections on the past, present and future trajectories of the social sciences and humanities under the banner African Studies. How have the discrete disciplines developed; what have been the theoretical and methodological changes that have accompanied postcolonial studies; how can the disciplines be better integrated without sacrificing their rigour and epistemological foundations; should we be multidisciplinary or antidisciplinary; how relevant is the academy to the condition of Africa?

While we welcome papers specifically addressed to these broad questions, the conference will be organized so that most panels are multidisciplinary, giving scholars a chance to enter a dialogue with their colleagues in other disciplines. Hence, the themes of the conference will be divided up into segments of “African Studies” to incorporate several disciplinary and multidisciplinary subjects.

Sample Themes:

  • Slave Studies
  • War, Conflict and Resistance
  • Human Rights and Social Justice
  • Religious Studies
  • Race, Ethnicity and Gender
  • Migration and Diasporas
  • African Studies: Theoretical and Methodological Overviews
  • Land and Labour
  • Customs and Culture

At the Congress, CAAS and the Canadian Historical Association (CHA) will be sponsoring joint panels to address the themes of the Congress and CAAS on the fluidity/rigidity of boundaries. The focus of CAAS will be the Social Sciences and the meaning of “African Studies”.  We welcome, therefore, papers that deal with theoretical and methodological aspects of multidisciplinarity. Our sponsored panels will be on:

  • History and Other Disciplines
  • Customs and Culture