Borderlands and Frontiers in Africa

Borderlands and Frontiers in Africa

Belgian Association of Africanists
Royal Museum for Central Africa, Leuven
From - Until
23.11.2007 -
Paulus, Valerie

On Friday November 23 the Belgian Association of Africanists organizes its biannual colloquium, this time under the title “borderlands and frontiers in Africa”. The event is sponsored by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO-Vlaanderen), the Royal Museum for Central Africa, and by the project “beyond the border” of the Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa (IARA, K.U.Leuven). We are very pleased that professor Vigdis Broch-Due (University of Bergen, head of the Poverty Politics Program) accepted to deliver the colloquium’s keynote address, but also that the program brings together a choice selection of national and international scholars, in a challenging mix of established and upcoming researchers, all this from a wide variety of disciplines. One of the major considerations in choosing this year’s theme, was the thought that many national and, of course, international conflicts were and are being fought in Africa’s borderlands; think in this regard of eastern Congo or Darfur, or remember the conflicts in Angola or Eritrea. In these borderzones, too, one finds most refugees and displaced persons: border zones are often considered as buffer zones, where the most marginalized on the continent are massed together, at a considerable, ‘safe’ distance from the political and economical centre.

But borders offer more than just the sight of hungry refugees or stilled corpses; borders are about more than conflicts between central authorities and rebel movements. Whether or not shaped by the need to access vital resources, borders are about the extent and influence of the state, about citizenship and identity, or, ultimately, about the often violent encounter of different subjectivities. Hence, a thematic focus on boundaries and margins – which, it follows, are by no means restricted to geographical borders – might provide us with a handy prism to look at the tensions and paradoxes that are tearing apart the African continent.

Yet, not everything is as grim as suggested in the above. How awkward it may sometimes sound, borders and margins also provide people with economic or political opportunities. Barbed wire can be cut, border patrols fooled, and import taxes evaded. The notions of borders and frontiers hence point towards a reality-in-the-making, even if this reality often is violent. The point is that margins and borders cannot be reduced to a few symbolic lines on a coloured sheet of paper. Borders are everywhere, and in everyone of us. Finally, borders are also imagined, and this frontier imaginary plays an important role in thinking Self and Other.

Practical Information:
The conference takes place in the Okapi-room of the Royal Museam for Central Africa, on Friday November 23.
To attend, you must register, since places are limited. This you can do by filling out a form (Dutch or French), which is available on the website, and sending it to Valerie Paulus Université de Liège, Faculté de Philisophie et Lettres, Dép. d'arts et Sciences de la Communication, Place du 20 Août 7 (bât. A1), Be-4000 Liège or mailing it to

Registration costs 15 euro (10 for members and students). This amount should be transfered the the BAA's account (979-0788488-77), mentioning "borderlands" and the name(s) of the registrant(s).


8.45 - 9.15 Welcome and registration

9.15 - 9.30 Welcome: G. Gryseels (Director, RMCA, Tervuren); A. Mélice (BVA /ABA)

9.30 - 10.00 Keynote address: Vigdis Broch-Due (Bergen Univ., Norw)

Exploring boundaries: Chair: Filip De Boeck (Univ. K.U.Leuven - BVA/ABA)
10.15 - 10.30 The frontier as governance: a case study from the Rwenzori: Timothy Raeymaekers (Univ. Ghent, Be)

10.30 - 10.45 Shaping new territories: the discursive construction of multiple boundaries in suburban Dakar: Eline Versluys (Univ. Antwerp, Be)

10.45 - 11.00 The black body in Europe: exploration of borders, margins and centres: Wangui Wa Goro (fellow, Human Rights and Social Justice Institute, London Metropolitan University, UK)

Drawing boundaries: Chair: Michaël Meeuwis (Univ. Ghent - BVA/ABA)
11.15 - 11.30 Tracer des frontières en situation coloniale. Connaissances, enjeux et choix de l’administration coloniale française pour le dessin des frontières du Niger: Camille Lefebvre (CEMAf, Fr)

11.30 - 11.45 Sources for the history of the southern border of Mozambique: the archives of the Portuguese commission of cartography: Ana Cristina Roque (Univ. Lisbon, Port)

11.45 - 12.00 Ethnic boundaries and borderlands in Rwanda during colonialism
Petra Vervust (Univ. Ghent, Be)

12.00 - 12.15 On the borders of race, mission, and state: African Americans and the American Presbyterian Congo Mission Ira Dworkin (Gettysburg Coll, PA, USA)

12.15 - 12.30 Mossi-Fulbe borderlands: towards a history of interconnectedness
Mark Breusers (Univ. K.U.Leuven, Be)


Exploiting boundaries: Chair: Geert Castryck (Vlaams Vredesinstituut – BVA/ABA)
14.00 - 14.15 Level crossings: institutional regionalism, borderland micro-regions, and the possibility of their reconciliation Sarah Whiteford (Univ. St.-Andrews, UK)

14.15 - 14.30 Danger and opportunity in Katima Mulilo: reconfiguring sovereignty in a Namibian border boomtown Wolfgang Zeller (Univ. Helsinki, Fin)

14.30 - 14.45 From the road towards war to the path towards riches: living with the border with Angola in North West Zambia Oliver Bakewell (Univ. Oxford, UK)

Discussion & Coffee break

Crossing boundaries: Chair: Danielle de Lame (RMCA, Tervuren – BVA/ABA)
15.30 - 15.45 Negotiating the border: planned migration and border-attitudes at the Kivu-Rwandan frontier during the colonial period Gillian Mathys (Univ. Ghent, Be)

15.45 - 16.00 Armed insurgency in the Ruwenzori Borderland: the cases of NALU and ADF: Kristof Titeca, Koen Vlassenroot (Univ. Ghent, Be)

16.00 - 16.15 The sea as borderland: Véronique Bragard (U.C. Louvain, Be)

16.15 - 16.30 Mémoire de l’or, territorialité et perception de la “périphérie”. La Vallée du Sankarani (Mali, Guinée): Cristiana Panella (RMCA, Tervuren, Be)

16.30 - 16.45 Many boundaries, one border: villagers and states in the Mali-Guinean landscape of the Manding Hills: Clemens Zobel (Univ. Coimbra, Port)

Closing discussion
16.45 - 18.00 Mod.: Danielle de Lame and Filip De Boeck

Contact (announcement)

Valerie Paulus
Université de Liège
Faculté de Philisophie et Lettres
Dép. d'arts et Sciences de la Communication
Place du 20 Août 7 (bât. A1)
Be-4000 Liège
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