Cfp: ABORNE Conference on ‘How is Africa Transforming Border Studies?’

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Both ‘border theory’ and border studies as a field owe much of their cross-disciplinary origins and development to scholars of the American Southwest. By the late 1990s, spurred by the rapid development of the European Union, Europeanist scholars had contributed not only a wealth of empirical studies but also significant theoretical insights and concepts to border studies. What then of Africa, the peripheral poor relation of the area studies’ family? African borders have often been seen as incomplete or exceptional in relation to mainstream border theory – due to their supposed porosity, negotiability, arbitrariness, and lack of impact on popularly rooted social identities. Increasingly, however, Africanist scholars are making two arguments concerning the supposed exceptionalism of African borders. Firstly, many African borders are not indeed as irrelevant, porous and arbitrary as widely assumed. Secondly, many of the characteristics of African borders, in their diversity, are also present elsewhere. With increasingly global theorising, the US-Mexico and European borders may well turn out to be the exceptions to the global norm. African borders will contribute to helping us illuminate the functioning and meaning of borders in the global context. It is this process of bringing theory into Africa and
Africa into theory which guides the present conference.

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