Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

Regional Workshop on African Integration

CODESRIA and the University of Cape Town are pleased to announce the holding, in Dakar, Senegal of a two day workshop on “Culture, History and Ideas: Re-evaluating Pan-Africanism”.

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THEME: Culture, History and Ideas: Re-evaluating Pan-Africanism
Dakar, Senegal
Date: 16th - 17th October 2015

Co-hosted with CODESRIA, this meeting forms part of a series of discussions on the theme of African economic integration, facilitated by the Building Bridges programme at UCT’s Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice.

The workshop aims to go beyond purely economic thinking about regional integration, to discuss broader ideas and interests, including history and culture. Much writing about nationalism builds on what Benedict Anderson referred to as “Imagined Communities”, making the moral case for solidarity based on cultural affinities and historical roots. Pan-Africanism - which has always paid attention to its historical roots and cultural dimensions in the project of African unification - provides the ideological underpinnings of African integration. Indeed culture and history have provided the most persistent reminders of the pan-Africanist project.

“Africa” is probably the most emotionally evoked continent. Its people sing about it, paint it, and sculpt it, producing hundreds of icons of this much “beloved continent”. Even national anthems often evoke Africa more than their country names, saluting Africa the mother and motherland and calling on god to bless the continent. These everyday expressions of pan-Africanism, like Michael Billig’s “banal nationalism” (those unnoticed, routine practices and ideological habits which enable the daily reproduction of nationhood), matter and need to be better understood.

Pan-Africanism has left a deep imprint on African political thinking and sensitivities in the cultural, political and economic dimensions. Like all ideologies, pan-Africanism set up a vision of what is desirable; it set norms by which adherents were judged; it gave a semblance of cohesion to disparate interests. But – again like all ideologies – it has had its blind spots, some of which have threatened to torpedo its central projects. It also runs the dangers of essentialism and “othering” others.

If it is to maintain its relevance and vitality, Pan-Africanism must be subjected to constant critical re-evaluation and refurbishing. It must be seen to speak to contemporary issues. The role of intellectuals is not simply to give coherence to a shared ideology but to permanently critique the project, revealing its myths, falsifications and lacunae, reinforcing its strong points and identifying new sources of energy and new challenges.

This workshop is a contribution to such critical reflections on the cultural and historical underpinning of regional integration in Africa.

October 14 2015