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61st Annual Meeting of the ASA

Energies: Power, Creativity and Afro-Futures

November 29 - December 1, 2018
Atlanta Marriott Marquis




The ASA Annual Meeting is the largest gathering of Africanist scholars in the world. With an attendance of about 2,000 scholars and professionals, the conference offers the following:

• More than 300 panels and roundtables
• Plenary events featuring keynote speakers
• Awards ceremony and dance party
• Institutional and organizational receptions and meetings
• An international exhibit hall
• Screenings of award-winning movies from Africa, and/or by African producers



2018 Theme Statement

2018 Program Chairs:
Nana Akua Anyidoho, University of Ghana
Mark Auslander, Michigan State University


For the annual meeting of the ASA in Atlanta (2018), we reflect on ‘energy’—its production, extraction, distribution and exchangeas a heuristic to understand Africas past and to imagine its futures. Energy has rich literal and metaphorical resonances in reference to extractive and entrepreneurial economic activities; the production of knowledge; human mobility and labor; performance, ritual and spirituality; and crime and social unrest. We call on scholars to explore the theme of energy, in both material and symbolic terms, and to reconceptualize dynamic fields of action in the economy, politics, culture, arts, and environmentacross time and space, within the African continent and across its diasporas.

Regional and trans-national energy industries and other extractive undertakings have profoundly refashioned modern African landscapes. Petro-chemical industries, often allied with military and national security formations, have at times deepened economic inequality, posed threats to civil society and democratic institutions, and challenged environmental and human ecologies. At other moments, hydrocarbon-based systems have stimulated sociopolitical movements, catalyzed local entrepreneurship and even artistic creativity.

The notion of energy is also salient to historical explorations of contestations over human energies in African societies. Conference papers can explore attempts in both the colonial and post-independence contexts to contain the power of ordinary people and the ways that local energies--intellectual, entrepreneurial and creative--have broken bounds. How have hierarchical systems along axes of age, gender or social class been reproduced or contested in reference to the management of mobilities and labor? And how should we approach the political and developmental discourses about social and economic energy in varied African contexts? What, for example, is at stake in calls from state and non-state actors to mobilize or “harness” the energies of youth, women, and subaltern communities?

In todays global environment, it is especially important to consider religion and associated restiveness, violence and insurgencies through contributions to the study of faith-based resistance groups and radicals, their support structures, and the ways they affect bodies, lives, economies and polities. We also encourage historical and contemporary perspectives on spiritual energies in African cosmologies. How, for example, might lineage formations, masquerade societies, or sacred kingships be understood as elaborate rituals for transforming or redirecting the generative energies of the invisible worlds or ancestral forces?  How, in turn, might rites of healing, prophecy, divination, or initiation be understood as efforts to restore or reorganize productive flows of energy within human bodies or within the body politic?

Related scholarship on visual arts, poetics, literature, music, dance, and other performance genres might explore ways in which local metaphors of energy and flow are drawn upon. And how is energy literally used as a medium, from bullroarers to neon art?

Proposals are also welcome on the dynamics of intellectual energies within the continent and across continental borders.  In what respects should we conceive of coerced or voluntary migration as draining away intellectual energies, and when should we understand individual or collective translocal movement as productive of new knowledge flows? In what respects have new information technologies, including social media platforms, created alternative sites of intellectual creativity? One might explore, for example, the mediating roles of handheld mobile devices and wireless networks in energizing local entrepreneurship or in configuring young people as active producers of knowledge instead of passive vessels into which knowledge is poured.

We are interested in the idea of youthful energy as a positive force for social change, but also in the attempts to constrain or co-opt the energies of young people. Can we think of crime and social unrest as expressions of the restless or unbounded energies of this and other social groups?

Resilience is an important theme in African lifeworlds. It constitutes the creativity of everyday life, evident in everything from the use of humor to make sense of the world to the development of appro-tech (appropriate technologies) and bricolages as innovative responses to the vagaries of life.

Finally, we welcome explorations of, and reflections upon, energy and its metaphorical elaborations in domains not explicitly articulated in this call for proposals.  What are the strengths and limitations of exploring African histories and fields of cultural production through the heuristic of energy extraction, distribution, and exchange?


 2018 Call for Proposals

 2018 Submission Guidelines




Member Aid For Africa
African Studies Association is a participating member of Aid for Africa, a unique partnership of nonprofit organizations serving families and communities throughout Africa.
African Studies Association
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