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
In the same section

Canonical Works and Continuing Innovation in African Arts and Humanities

Special 30th Anniversary Humanities Conference

Since 1996, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA),
University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, and the Programme of African Studies (PAS) of Northwestern
University, Evanston, have collaborated in undertaking a major project entitled Transcending
Boundaries: The Humanities and Socio-economic Transformation in the African World. The project
was conceived as a multi-year, multi-disciplinary exercise involving the establishment of a CODESRIA
African Humanities Institute Programme at University of Ghana, Legon, Accra. The project aims at
promoting significant new directions in research and creative excellence in the African Humanities,
especially in its overlap with the Social Sciences in critical issues of fundamental importance to cultural
production. Themes so far explored under the project include “Film/Video/Television and Socio-
Economic Transformation in the African World”; “Slavery and the African Diaspora”; “National Cultures
and Identities: Philosophy Interrogates Contemporary Africa”; “The Composition and Transmission of
Musical Forms in Africa”; and “Cultural Repositories, Repertories and Commentaries”.

To mark the end of the current phase of the Transcending Boundaries project and the launching of the
next phase, an international symposium is being convened on the theme of Canonical Works and
Continuing Innovation in African Arts and Humanities. The symposium will be held at University of
Ghana, Legon, Accra, from 17–19 September, 2003 under the auspices of the CODESRIA African
Humanities Institute Programme. The symposium is designed to permit scholars to examine the areas
of overlap between the social sciences and the study of cultural production as a new frontier in African
Studies. Much scholarship remains oriented towards the formation, study, and transmission of canons.

The first generation of post-independence African scholars faced the challenge of building such
canons from African material for African students and other users; this vast task is far from completed.
But while scholars and artists are still working to consolidate a corpus of "classics" that would serve as
a springboard for new intellectual and artistic work and to contribute to African cultural training and
debate, the frontiers of cultural production are moving rapidly forward, eliciting a fluorescent set of
commentaries on a changing social world from generations of younger Africans who no longer have
any first-hand experience of "traditional society" or "colonialism." Due to the interweaving of rapid
social and cultural changes, the issues can be addressed only by adequately combining social,
scientific and cultural analyses that integrate the techniques of multiple disciplines and diversify the
analytical toolkit.

African arts and humanities are both very old and very young. This long history and the new
experiments being undertaken have been fed into world arts and culture at almost the same moment
as recording and communication technologies allowed the circulation of images, ideas and sounds on
an unprecedented scale. Political transformation on the continent and elsewhere gave intense
salience to every new work. Out of that maelstrom have emerged canonical works: works to which
reference is made again and again. Questions and issues arising from all this would be explored in
various sessions: How are those intellectual benchmarks established? How does intellectual
referencing work? How do education and exposure shape receptivity? Do the Arts and Humanities
compete with other tropes, such as those of effervescent religious fervour or messages of the global
media? Are the academic centres archiving a fading tradition or inspiring emergent new forms and
canons? Is Africa’s complex historical and cultural experience fully represented in the current corpus
of canonical works? In what ways are the historical heritages of Africa reproduced in, and refracted
into contemporary artistic and cultural practices? What viable options are there for the current and
future global reality?

It is proposed that the symposium be organised in special plenary and parallel sessions. The subthemes
to be explored include the following:

Rediscovering and Explaining the African Cultural

- Senghor and Negritude beyond the Arts & Humanities
- Diop, Egyptology and New Directions for an African Intellectual Tradition
- Peter Eke, "The Two Publics" and Beyond

Arts, Culture and the African Alternative Political Project:

- Cabral, Neto and the Cultural Foundations of Decolonization
- Fanon and the African Revolution
- Padmore/Nkrumah/CLR James and the Ideology of Pan African Struggle

Seminal Thoughts in the African Intellectual Tradition:

- Foundation Works in African Literatures
- Foundation Works in African Musicology
- Foundation Works in African Philosophy
- Foundation Works in African Religions
- Foundation Works in African Dance
- Foundation Works in African Cinematography
- Foundation Works in African History
- Foundation Works in African Fine Art

Recurrent Themes and Perspectives in African Canon

- Language and Intellectual Production in Africa
- Ideology and Technique in Canon Formation
- Gender in Canon Formation
- Slavery and Colonialism in African Artistic and
Cultural Productions
- The Diaspora, Diaspora Linkages and the African Heritage
- Pan-Africanism in the face of a Predatory Globalization
- Recovering Africa’s Plundered Artistic Heritage and Promoting an African Renaissance

March 30 2010