By Funmi Vogt
The fifth European Conference on African Studies (ECAS) was held in Lisbon, Portugal on June 26th to 29th, 2013 and the theme was "African Dynamics in a Multipolar World." The conference was organised and hosted by the Centro de Estudos Africanos (CEA), at ISCTE-Instituto Universitario de Lisboa (Centre for African Studies, ISCTE- University Institute of Lisbon).
The ECAS conferences are held bi-annually, and convened by Aegis - a research network of African Studies institutions across 30 countries in Europe - which “aims to improve understanding about contemporary African Studies." The previous four conferences were:
2005: June 29 – July 2- School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
2007: July 11 – 14- African Studies Centre, Leiden
2009: June 4 – 7- University of Leipzig
2011: June 15 – 18- Nordic Africa Institute, University of Uppsala
The 2015 conference will be held in Paris.
ECAS 2013 was an important opportunity to meet and network with Africanist colleagues from Europe and Africa, and to experience the city of Lisbon. Highlights from the conference included ECAScreening, which comprised of screenings of select documentaries and a roundtable entitled "The State of the Art- African Contemporary Cinema in Focus." Also of interest was the ECAS roundtable entitled Pan-Africanism in the Making of Social Science Research in Africa. The keynote address entitled The African Moment: Who is to be Ready? was given by Dr. Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa. The Lugard Plenary Lecture entitled "Youth, Waithood, and Protest Movements in Africa" was given by Professor Alcinda Honwana from the Open University in the United Kingdom. There was also music night on June 27th, featuring the music of Guinea-Bissau artist Braima Galissa.
Several US based Africanists many of whom are ASA members, attended and participated in the conference. This included Professor Dorothy Hodgson from Rutgers University, and current Board member Professor Sheryl McCurdy from the University of Texas-Houston. Professor Hodgson who presented on a panel entitled African Women's Commitments to Internationalisation and Transnational Movements remarked that this was her first time attending an ECAS conference. She was struck by the number of African scholars who were able to attend, due to the venue's proximity to the African continent. Professor Hodgson also liked that the conference was so accessible to graduate students and junior scholars, due to the fact that the event was held in a university facility. Professor Sheryl McCurdy commented that it was nice to meet European colleagues in the field of drug research (one of her research focus areas). She also said that it was nice having a chance to catch up with ASA members at the event, many of whom she would not normally have had a chance to speak with.
1.1. Dorothy Hodgson and Sheryl McCurdy in Lisbon
The city of Lisbon provided a nice venue for the conference. Apart from being beautiful (and hot!), Portugal's long history of contact with the African continent has resulted in a significant and diverse African presence in the country. CEA-IUL paid homage to this presence during the conference, including showcasing a temporary exhibit of rare historical books on Africa. The venue also provided an opportunity for Lusophone Africanists to establish more of a presence, in a field so often dominated by Anglophone and Francophone scholars.
Additional photos and videos from the conference can be viewed at- https://www.facebook.com/ecas2013/photos_albums.