Africa in Global Intellectual History

Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut, FU Berlin
Vikram Visana (University of Huddersfield), in cooperation with the Dahlem Humanities Center and the Center for Global History (FU Berlin)
Visana Vikram

From Plato to Zizek, the study of intellectual history is overwhelmingly confined to the on-going conversation within the Western canon. This narrative is arbitrary if not wilfully exclusionary. No region of the world has been so totally marginalized from this history as much as Africa. The aim of this conference, therefore, is to adopt an Afrocentric approach to intellectual history. In so doing, we will insert Africa into the existing history of the global intellectual tradition and challenge the ways intellectual history is conventionally done.

The conference aims to address questions such as: Is there an intellectual history for Africa? How do we reconstruct the African canon? Can Western knowledge be ‘Afrocentric’? Do we need to move beyond textual analysis? Did indigenous knowledge systems transcend the local?

Keynote Lecture:
Emma Hunter (University of Edinburgh): Writing "Vernacular" Histories of Political Thought in Africa

For registration, please contact Vikram Visana:


8:30 to 9:00 – Coffee

9:00 to 9:30 – Welcome and Opening Remarks

9:35 to 11:25 – Panel 1: Vernacular Intellectual Histories from Below.

Henry Mitchell (Edinburgh): ‘Intellectuals do not matter, they are traitors like Judas’: Race, labour and radical black autodidacts in interwar Southern Africa.

Nicki Kindersley (Cambridge): Cieng, Kafka, and Malcolm X: southern Sudanese intellectual community on Khartoum’s fringes, 1992-2005.

Sara Marzagora (SOAS): Ethiopian visions of the “global”: worldmaking in Amharic political thought (1901-1919).

Stephanie Lämmert (Max Planck): Intellectual Histories ‘from below’: languages of litigation in Tanganyika’s colonial courts, c.1920-61.

11:30 to 13:20 – Panel 2: African Literature, Popular Culture and the Production of Knowledge.

Thandeka Cochrane (Cambridge): Oral Literature as intellectual History: a case study from the Tonga speakers of northern Malawi.

Larissa Schulte Nordholt (Leiden University): ‘Recognising a Past of Great Value. Overarching Ideals in African nationalist historiography evident in the General History of Africa (1964-1975)’.

Kate Wallis (Exeter): Brokering popular memory: Kwani Trust, Chimurenga and the location of knowledge production.

Brenda Garvey (Chester): Felwine Sarr’s ‘Ateliers de la pensée’ and new directions towards an Afrotopia.

13:20 to 14:20 – Lunch

14:25 to 16:15 – Panel 3: West African Intellectual Histories

Oliver Coates (Cambridge): Soldier intellectuals in Anglophone West Africa, c.1940 -1950.

Jeremy Dell (Dartmouth): The great beyond: Islamic histories in Greater Senegambia.

Steffi Marung (Leipzig): From Moscow with love: African narratives of socialist modernity.

Robert Burroughs (Leeds Beckett): African contributions to nineteenth-century humanitarian debate: the Congo reform campaign.

16:20 to 18:10 – Panel 4: Global Africa, Diaspora and Exile.

Arun Rasiah (Holy Names University): ‘Global Black Thinking’: Malcolm X, History and Epistemic Decolonization.

Merve Fejzula (Cambridge): When Negritude Was in Vogue: Black Cultural Citizenship between 1956-66.

Harriet Aldrich (Oxford): Ghanaian Exiles 1957-1993: Opposition Externalised.

Lena Dallywater (Leibniz Geography Institute, Leipzig): ‘But we cannot start from being human…’ – Locating Black and African aesthetics in global intellectual histories.

18:10 to 18:30 – Refreshments

18:30 to 18:40 – Introducing the Keynote Speaker

18:40 to 20:10 – Keynote Speech and Discussion

Dr Emma Hunter (Senior Lecturer in African History, University of Edinburgh/Quentin Skinner Fellow, University of Cambridge):

Writing ‘Vernacular’ Histories of Political Thought in Africa.

20:30 – Speakers’ Dinner


Vikram Visana
University of Huddersfield

Africa in Global Intellectual History, 25.11.2018 Berlin, in: Connections. A Journal for Historians and Area Specialists, 27.10.2018, <>.
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