Conference on Africa will include latest uprisings in North Africa

An upcoming Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS) conference at York – Africa Here; Africa There – will look not only at Africa of the past, but discuss recent and ongoing issues, especially those in North Africa, says conference co-organizer  and York history Professor José Curto.

The conference will take place Thursday, May 5, from 8am to 8pm, and Friday, May 6, from 8am to 8:30pm, in the Assembly Hall, 152 Founders College, Keele campus. On Saturday, May 7, sessions will take place from 9:30am to 3:30pm in 001 Winters College, Dining Hall, Keele campus.

CAAS PosterOne of the round tables will look at revolutions in northern Africa, while another, chaired by Curto, will explore Angola under the Weight of the Slave Trade during the 18th and 19th centuries. “We’re doing the past, but we’re also doing very contemporary issues,” says Curto. The first session of the conference will be a round table via the web with presenters from Brazil looking at the present and future perspectives of African studies in Brazil.

The three plenary speakers will tackle a range of topics. Political science and Islamic studies Professor Khalid Mustafa Medani of McGill University will talk about “Informal Institutions and Identity Politics: The Evolving Political Economy of Transnationalism in North East Africa”, sociology Professor Imed Melliti of the Institut Supérieur des Sciences Humaines at the University of Tunis el-Manar will address “Jeunesses maghrébines: religiosité, enjeux identitaires et enjeux de reconnaissance” and Donald G. Simpson, who leads Innovation Expedition, will speak about “Africa – Here and There in the Sixties: A Canadian Perspective”.

Khalid Mustafa MedaniLeft: Khalid Mustafa Medani

Medani was named a Carnegie Scholar on Islam in 2007 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Melliti is the author of several books, while Simpson is the former director of the International Development Research Centre and the Centre for International Business at the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. For more biographical information on the plenary speakers, visit the conference website.

The conference theme, Africa Here; Africa There, is in recognition of the United Nations General Assembly proclaiming 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent. The meeting will be hosted by York’s Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples and will have sessions in both French and English.

Donald G. SimpsonRight: Donald G. Simpson

“What we are doing is not only focusing on the continent itself, but outside the continent,” says Curto. “Through the conference we are highlighting the bridge we’re making between the diaspora and the homeland.”

The second round table of the conference, Africa Here: Commemorating the Early African Canadian Experience, will be chaired by York Professor Michele Johnson, co-author of the book They Do as They Please: The Jamaican Struggle for Cultural Freedom after Morant Bay (University of West Indies Press), which will launch as part of the conference. Taking part in this round table panel will be York Distinguished Research Professor in African history Paul Lovejoy looking at “Africa Here: Itineraries of African Canadian Memory and the UNESCO Slave Route Project”, Hilary Dawson of the Harriet Tubman Institute discussing “Locating Sites of Memory: Tracing an Itinerary of Memory for the African Canadian Experience” and Karolyn Smardz Frost, a research associate with the Harriet Tubman Institute, talking about “Slavery, Resistance and the Underground Railroad in Toronto”.

There will be presenters from Canada, the United States, Australia and Africa at the conference. York history PhD candidate Jeff Gunn will discuss “Child Soldiers and Modern Slavery in the 21st Century”, while York Professor Emeritus John S. Saul will discuss a “New Counter-Hegemonic Project in Contemporary South Africa: Moeletsi Mbeki, Zwelinzima Vavi and the Democratic Left Forum. Some of the other sessions will examine topics such as: Africa in Canada, Border Security in African Contexts, Governance and Management of Natural Resources in Africa’s Great Lakes Region, Perspectives on Gender in Africa, Urban Unrest in South Africa and Africans on the Move.

Lovejoy, director of the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples, will also chair the sessions examining The Central Sudan in Nineteenth & Early Twentieth Centuries and Aspects of the Slave Trade in the Atlantic World. In addition, there will be screenings of several documentaries, including Behind the Rainbow by Jihan El-Tahri, Sembene! By Jason Silverman and Escape from Luanda by Phil Grabsky.

For more information, including a detailed listing of speakers and sessions, visit the Canadian Association of African Studies conference website or the Harriet Tubman Institute website.