Addis 2019 African Humanities Workshop Program

Addis Ababa - Jan. 3-17, 2019

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Last updated: December 23, 2018.

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Thursday, January 3

Welcoming Program

  • 4:00 pm – 7:00pm | Alle School of Fine Art and Design

Dinner and cultural show

7:00 pm – 10:00 pm | Yod Abyssinia Restaurant

Friday, January 4

Film Screenings

  • 9:00 am – 12:30 pm | Goethe Institute

    • Bamako
    • Timbuktu

Seminar: "Foregrounding African Interiority"

  • 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Goethe Institute

Abderrahmane Sissako has produced an incomparable body of work. Films like Life on Earth, Waiting for Happiness, Bamako, Timbuktu, among others, stand out for their exquisite painterly eye as well as their unflinching political vision. Sissako’s films are as much concerned with the quotidian African experience as they are with the continent’s political reality, and beautifully interweave scenes of everyday life with charged political sequences. In this seminar, we will consider two of Sissako’s most critically acclaimed films—Bamako and Timbuktu—to examine closely both his aesthetics (particularly, the way he foregrounds African interiority) and the urgent cultural and political questions these films raise. Along with Sissako’s films, we will discuss two shorty essays (by Toni Morrison and Binyavanga Wainaina) that offer a critical perspective on the dominant western tropes of representing Africa, and how these tropes thwart African interiority from coming into full view.

Saturday, January 5

Tours of exhibitions on urbanism on three sites

  • 9:30 am – 12:30 pm
    • The Gebre Kristos Desta Center
    • Gallery of the School of Fine Art and Design
    • Addis Ababa Museum

Performance: "Wreckage: An Ethiopian Mother Courage"

  • 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm | The Ethiopian National Theater
    • Actors: Tesfaye Gebrehana, Azeb Worku, Girum Zenebe, and Surafel Wondimu

Sunday, January 6

Lecture & Workshop: Art and Urbanism

  • 9:00 am – 12:30 pm | 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Alle School of Fine art and Design

For artists, the question of cultural identity is more than a matter of being who we are because we are makers of culture. When we create art, we make critical choices about the shape and direction of our culture. How do we as artists work with and against our experiences in the world? How can we understand the difference between being rooted in a particular cultural background and treating cultural references and histories as artistic resources?

For this workshop, Julie Mehretu will offer an in-depth analysis of her recent paintings to shed light on these questions. She will focus on her research process, on how she works with archival materials, historical references and aesthetic techniques to transform cultural identity into a plastic, malleable resource. Workshop participants will be invited to discuss their own work and to consider a range of artistic strategies for broadening their approaches to art making.

Monday, January 7

Ethiopian Christmas - No workshop

Tuesday, January 8

Seminar: "Performing Africa: Past, Present and Future" (Day 1)

  • 9:00 am – 12:30 pm | 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Alle School of Fine art and Design)

Wednesday, January 9

Seminar: "Performing Africa: Past, Present and Future" (Day 2)

  • 9:00 am – 12:30 pm | 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Alle School of Fine art and Design

Thursday, January 10

Workshop: "Creating Emancipatory Spaces in the African Academy: the Place of the Scholar-Activist"

  • 9:00 am – 12:30 pm | 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Alle School of Fine art and Design)

What theories, methodologies, concepts, analytical frameworks guide the research that we do? At the University of Ghana we teach a compulsory introductory course on African Studies that includes a module where we discuss development. I ask my students what would happen to our thinking about the hierarchies of development, what might be important for peoples’ quality of life, if we changed some of the indicators. What if we added frequency of school shootings and the killing of civilians by armed police? What if we added suicide rates and incidence of depression and other mental health disorders? What if we included numbers of elderly people in nursing homes who do not get visited by any relatives? What if we added the number of interactions with another human being in a 24-hour period? What does development, or peace, or failed state or dictator or democracy or quality of life really mean? We, the privileged inhabitants of the academy, are the ones who should determine these concepts in ways that speak to our realities, enhance national planning, and make our lives more productive and wholesome. To discuss a “colonial archive”, or “decolonizing knowledge” has become almost fashionable today. However, this “decolonising” work can be dangerous since it is radical, confronts, and often threatens to dismantle a status quo upon which institutional bureaucracies, individual careers and a lot of money is being made. In this seminar we will discuss how can we more intentionally and strategically create safe and emancipatory spaces to research and teach on the issues related to the survival of African people and the African continent. We will examine examples of strategies or practices that are associated with transformations, be they syllabi/course content, pedagogies, epistemologies or university praxis/policies.

Friday, January 11

Workshop: "Knowing as possessing? The university’s possible objects and impossible subjects"

  • 9:00 am – 12:30 pm | 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Alle School of Fine art and Design

« Every investigation implies the idea of a nudity which one brings out into the open by clearing away the obstacles which cover it, just as Actaeon clears away the branches so that he can have a better view of Diana at her bath. More than this, knowledge is a hunt. (…) The scientist is the hunter who surprises a white nudity and who violates by looking at it. (...) To know is to devour with the eyes. (...)» (1984: 738-739). Hence, «There is a movement of dissolution which passes from the object to the knowing subject. The known is transformed into me, it becomes my thought and thereby consents to receive its existence from me alone» (1984: 739). For this reason, «the desire to know, no matter how disinterested it may appear, is a relation of appropriation. To know is one of the forms which can be assumed by to have» (Sartre, 1984: 740). If epistemology has been historically conceived as a mode of possession, how is it possible to conceive different epistemological frameworks and what is the difference that these can introduce or signal? Perhaps, it is useful to reflect upon the conditions under which a given epistemology is not asserted as a possession that leads to assimilation or annihilation. A quest for being in its own terms has always underpinned African discourses and practices, either clearly subscribing postcolonial approaches, either in intellectual traditions, either in popular productions, either adopting universalistic or relativistic stances, as Barry Hallen (2002) pointed out. In our contemporary world, this goal can be formulated in the following manner: given the historical dominance of Eurocentrism, which is currently reproduced via capitalist globalization, seen, amongst other issues, in the predominance of the ‘colonial library’ 5 (Mudimbe 1988 , 1994 , 1997 , 2013 ) as a concrete architecture of a will to knowledge, a will to power and a will to truth, and given the refusal for pastoralist notions of an original non-contaminated purity, is there truly a way out from alienation? Are we all mutes or condemned to utter alien words? How can be move on from possible objects to impossible subjects?

Saturday, January 12

Workshop: "Journal Work Academy"

  • 9:00 am – 12:30 pm | 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Alle School of Fine art and Design

The Journal Work Academy seminar will simulate a journal’s editorial processes. The goal of the session is to demystify publishing models and to provide information about international journals and their protocols. The most important aim is to train the next generation of peer reviewers, editorial advisors and journal editors. In the Journal Work Academy we shall discuss the intellectual and political questions around bibliographies, peer review processes, the location of peer reviewers, choosing a journal, journal work as invisible labour, networks and networking, and what we mean by “Africa” and “African studies”. In the Journal Work Academy, we shall work on a fictitious special issue centred on the intellectual project of the CHCI’s “Africa as Concept and Method” rubric. Each participant must submit two abstracts ahead of the workshop. The first is an abstract drawn from their own research project, for a paper that is near ready for submission to a journal; this may well be a paper they are submitting to another seminar leader at the CHCI. The second is a commissioned abstract for the special issue we shall put through our virtual Journal Work Academy machinery.

Sunday, January 13

Excursion to Ankober

  • All Day

Monday, January 14

Public Panel Discussions

  • Morning | Alle School of Fine Art and Design

Chair: Elizabeth Giorgis, Associate Professor of Art History, Criticism and Theory in the College of Performing and Visual Art and the Center for African Studies at Addis Ababa University

  • Panelists:

    • Dr. Abdiwwassa Abdilahi, Professor of Political Science at Addis Ababa University and State Minister of Science and Higher Education
    • Dr. Serawit B. Debele, Post-doctoral Fellow at the Max Plank Institute
    • Rosi Braidotti, Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University and founding Director of the Centre for the Humanities
    • Netsanet Gebremichael, Doctoral student at the Makerere Institute of Social Research
    • Ranjana Khanna, Professor of English, Literature, and Women's Studies at Duke University and Director of the John Hope Franklin Institute
    • Premesh Lalu University of the Western Cape
  • Afternoon | Panels with Workshop Participants and CHCI Board Members | Alle School of Fine Art and Design

Public Panel: Visual Culture, Popular Culture, and Sound Studies

  • Chair: Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Professor of African and Gender Studies at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana
  • Panelists:
    • Christelle Amina Djouldé, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Ngaoundéré-Cameroon
    • Valmont Layne, National Research Foundation Early Career Fellow and PhD Candidate at the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa
    • Joseph Oduro-Frimpong, Founding Director of the Center for African Popular Culture at Ashesi University

Public Panel: Urban Humanities

  • Chair: Catarina Gomes, Social Sciences and Humanities Lab at the Catholic University of Angola
  • Panelists:

    • Eugene Arnaud Yombo Sembe, Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Yaoundé II
    • Kim Gurney, writer, artist and researcher based in Cape Town, South Africa
    • Pfunzo Sidogi, Lecturer of Fine and Applied Arts at the Tshwane University of Technology

Tuesday, January 15

Workshop: "Disrupting research silos: Reflections on the value and challenges of collaborative research"

  • 9:00 am – 12:30 pm | 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Alle School of Fine art and Design

“The world is like a mask dancing, if you want to see it you must move with it”.
Chinua Achebe
Although recent scholarship has witnessed an increase in collaborative research in the Humanities, it remains an underdeveloped area since collaborative research has traditionally been associated with the natural sciences. This workshop sets out to examine the value of collaborative research in disciplines closely associated with Humanities, focussing on intra-and transdisciplinary collaboration. It will start by looking at what can be gained from a collaborative research project and the challenges associated with it, especially in the Humanities. It will also look at those processes of developing a collaborative research topic by looking at a few examples / models of collaborative research the facilitator has initiated over the last few years. The participants will be required to do practical work in small groups to produce their own collaborative mini-research proposal / outline. We seek to ask a range of questions:
1. What is the value of multiple positionality and location that collaborative research implies?
2. How does collaborative research lead to transcendence of disciplinary and theoretical boundaries?
3. How do we overcome challenges of hierarchy, intellectual, gender, class and location, among others, in collaborative research? Indeed, how do we deal with the “native informer” syndrome?
4. What methodological and theoretical questions inform collaborative research?
These, and many more, will underpin the workshop session.

Wednesday, January 16

Seminar: "After Fanon: Decolonization and African Knowledge" (Day 1)

  • 9:00 am – 12:30 pm | 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Alle School of Fine art and Design

In 1958, at the height of the Algerian War of independence, the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre defined decolonization as “the most significant event of the second half of the century.” Unknown to most European intellectuals, Sartre argued, decolonization was part of a large moment for human freedom that was calling into question all established European theories of history, freedom, the idea of the human. Furthermore, decolonization constituted the space in which a philosophical critique of colonialism could be undertaken and its institutions, practices and mentalities would be confronted by their conditions of possibility and failure. In spite of Sartre’s claims, the discourse of decolonization has not fared well in our poststructuralist or postcolonial moment. It has often been dismissed as essentialist, imprisoned in old myths of liberation and a metaphysics of being at odds with the claims of the present. The discourse of decolonization has also tended to be judged by what are assumed to be its practical outcomes, namely the crisis of nationalism after independence and the lived experience of a postcolonial moment defined by “the collapse of the social and political hopes that went into the anticolonial imagining and postcolonial making of national sovereignty” (David Scott). In this seminar, we will explore the possibilities and limits of the discourse of decolonization by examining it as a theoretical problem. In other words, we will seek to isolate this discourse from its practical manifestations and focus instead on its systematic thinking on core concepts such as freedom, equality, sovereignty, land and law. Each colonial situation was unique, but a core set of texts, ideas, and positions emerged from the colonial intellectuals’ critique of the European idea of Enlightenment, their reflections on the utopian possibilities of revolution, and the necessity for universal emancipation. Rather than avoid the problematic of decolonization, we will approach it as a theoretical threshold, an end and a beginning that points to the task of decolonizing African knowledge.

Thursday, January 17

Seminar: "After Fanon: Decolonization and African Knowledge" (Day 2)

  • 9:00 am – 12:30 pm | 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm | Alle School of Fine art and Design