TOFAC 2013: Conveners unveil theme for planned Ibadan confab

Posted: January 18, 2013 in general
(From left)- Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, with Prof & Prof (Mrs) Toyin Falola and Director General of the Centre for Black and African arts and Culture (CBAAC), a collaborating agency at last year's second edition of TOFAC which held in Lagos at the Excellence Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos

(From left)- Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, with Prof & Prof (Mrs) Toyin Falola and Director General of the Centre for Black and African arts and Culture (CBAAC), a collaborating agency at last year’s second edition of TOFAC which held in Lagos at the Excellence Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos

While ethnicity has long been a staple analytical category of scholarly engagements on Africa and Africa-descended worlds, sparking rich, variegated conversations on its many referents and meanings, scholars of Africa and its vast Diaspora have rarely conceptualized race as a stand-alone unit of Africanist analysis outside the familiar templates of colonial and neo-colonial binaries, and outside of oppressive Euro-American racial formations such as apartheid, plantation slavery, and Jim Crow.

Nor have they seriously considered how the emerging grid of place as a physical, imagined, and aspirational representation of self and the other might complicate notions of ethnic identity and racial awareness.

Against this backdrop therefore, the 3rd Toyin Falola Annual International Conference on Africa and the African Diaspora (TOFAC), which holds from July Monday 1 to Wednesday 3, this year, has chosen the theme of; Ethnicity, Race and Place in Africa and the African Diaspora, ahead of the 2013 edition of its conference

Scheduled for the Conference Centre of the Lead City University, in Ibadan, conveners of the event, while calling for papers, have also sought for submission of abstracts from interested scholars and experts to be submitted before April, this year, which should address one or more of our sub-themes from empirical and theoretical perspectives.

Clearly, ethnicity is an expansive category. It encompasses a plethora of representational practices, textual productions, material cultures, symbols, aspirations, cultural retentions and mixtures, religious belief, and forms of political negotiation. These elements are individually or collectively mobilized to articulate a coherent narrative of identity and solidarity, however transient such a narrative may be. Taken together or unpacked for separate engagement, these constitutive elements of ethnicity offer the space for rich multidisciplinary analyses.

They can foreground, and can be applied to, empirical and conceptual inquiries in many fields in the social sciences and the humanities. Although we welcome papers that address ethnicity and its corollaries from parochial disciplinary methodologies, we encourage authors to imagine a multidisciplinary audience for their papers and to cultivate analytical approaches that would spark cross-disciplinary conversations.

Scholars of Africa and of the African Diaspora spawned by slavery, colonialism, trade, exile, economic hardship, opportunity, adventure, and post-colonial migration, have yet to systematically grapple with the place of race, race consciousness, and constructions of racial communities and attributes in the evolution of African cultures and experiences around the world. Yet racial ideas, not just reactive ideas about racial solidarity, but proactively constructed notions of intra-racial difference have proliferated in the texts and conversations of global black elites, intellectuals, and black communities around the world.

This development has in turn given political and social valence to ideas and debates about black authenticity, race treachery, racial integration and separatism, compromise and resistance, and even the philosophical implications of skin lightening, hair straightening, and other bodily practices among black folk. Differing understandings of racial destiny, black victimhood, black racial purity, and the intertwinement of authenticity and place of origin have become subjects of discussion in global black intellectual circles. Moreover, beyond the familiar analysis of the complex and at times difficult legacies of European-African, Asian-African, and Arab-African encounters and miscegenation in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the New World, recent studies have begun to unearth elaborate racial claims and narratives of racial differentiation within “African” communities and in “African” zones of contact previously narrated homogeneously into an African racial formation.

Some questions are already framing discussions of the role of race and racial constructs in the study of African communities around the world; questions about whether the Sahara, Indian Ocean, and certain sectors of the Red Sea constitute a racial divide that disturb the geographical continuum of Africa; whether Africa is a byword for “black” and if so what “black” means in light of its obvious exclusion of “white” Africans; whether the field of play between race and ethnicity is narrow or wide; whether we can posit intra-black racism as a phenomenon; whether a black racial essence exists that connects Africa to its Diaspora and produces trans-oceanic communities of solidarity; whether continental Africans and Diaspora Africans relate to race and racism differently and/or have different racial imaginations that may engender intra-racial tensions; whether xenophobia and native/immigrant tensions are sustained by popular racial and ethnic stereotypes or are grounded in real differences within black communities; whether immigrant and native-born blacks can work together to pursue agendas specific to their common interests in white-dominated power structures like the United States; whether the fault lines of some conflicts in Africa correspond to a clichéd understanding of racial difference between Africans and Arabs; and whether intra-African racial claims are stand-ins for other aspirations or deserve to be understood on their own racial merits.

“We encourage authors to propose papers that explore race, racial politics, and racial transformation in the context of Africa’s encounter with the world outside, in the context of oppression, in the context of the racialization of ethnic difference, in the context of post-slavery and emancipation, and in the context of identity construction in response to colonial and postcolonial policies of differentiation and privilege.

“Our conception of place ties in with the provocative outlines articulated above on race and ethnicity. We understand place to be a physical, mental, and ideological location or situation in which significant socio-political, economic, and emotional investments have been made. These investments often define the contours of identity, serving as anchors and referents for a variety of identity practices, including racial and ethnic self-representation. We acknowledge, however, that “place,” its connotations, and the semiotic burdens it is often called upon to bear are always changing. We therefore welcome papers that radically redefine “place,” “home,” “location,” “origin,” and related idioms of affiliation and affinity,” said Professor Ademola Dasylva.

According to the conference conveners, participants at the forthcoming TOFAC will be drawn from different parts of the world, as the event will also provide time for scholars from various disciplines and geographical locations to interact, exchange ideas, and receive feedback. Submitted papers will be assigned to particular panels according to similarities in theme, topic, discipline, or geographical location.

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