The Africa Institute announces multi-disciplinary meet covering Indian Ocean region

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The Africa Institute based in Sharjah has announced the Indian Ocean region to be the third edition of its ‘country-focused season’ — an annual initiative exploring one African country or African diaspora community through a range of scholarly and public programs.

Following two successful seasons focused on Ethiopia and Ghana, the 2022-2023 season is titled “Thinking the Archipelago: Africa’s Indian Ocean Islands.”

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The multi-disciplinary conference series is organized by The Africa Institute in collaboration with leading scholars Jeremy Prestholdt, Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego; Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf, Professor of Anthropology, Georgetown University in Qatar; and Uday Chandra, Assistant Professor of Government, Georgetown University in Qatar.

Building Terrain II (2012) Digital C-type print by Naiza Khan. (Courtesy: The Africa Institute)
Building Terrain II (2012) Digital C-type print by Naiza Khan. (Courtesy: The Africa Institute)

The four-part conference will explore core themes that willexamine and reimagine circulation, mobility, race and slavery, ecological change, and cultural production through the lens of Africa’s Islands by organizing panel discussions, film screenings, music performances, theatre, and more.

“These themes deserve consideration not only in comparison with other world regions but also because, unlike its Atlantic and Mediterranean counterparts, the Indian Ocean’s unique nexus of translocal relationships has never received the attention it merits,” said Professor Prestholdt.

“The Islands have always been integral spaces of exchange. As crucial points of contact with societies within and beyond Africa, they have been the primary conduits through which people, goods, and ideas move especially in the context of the monsoon and maritime worlds,” said Professor Abusharaf.

Professor Chandra adds, “From Madagascar’s immense scale and ecological diversity to Mozambique Island’s compact, urban environment, and Mombasa’s centrality to the East African economy, islands have profoundly shaped African history. Social environments of islands such as Zanzibar, Lamu, Seychelles, Mauritius, and the Comoros have contributed to unique forms of literary production, music, dance, film, aesthetics and art forms in dialogue with continental and more distant societies. Islands have also faced a range of environmental challenges, from cyclones and tsunamis to rising sea levels and the devastation of marine ecologies due to climate change.”

Ghanaian hip-hop artist M.anifest performs at The Africa Institute’s second country-focused season, Global Ghana, in March 2022. (Supplied)
Ghanaian hip-hop artist M.anifest performs at The Africa Institute’s second country-focused season, Global Ghana, in March 2022. (Supplied)

To resonate with the country-focused season, The Africa Institute has collaborated with Pakistani artist Naiza Khan to use her images to visually depict the monsoonal circularities of the Indian Ocean and what it represents as a heterogeneous assemblage of power, colonial history, and collective memory.

The inaugural event themed “Reimagining Mobilities/Immobilities in the Indian Ocean”' is set to take place in Sharjah at The Africa Institute between December 15-17, 2022, and the subsequent three renditions will be hosted in 2023 in select island locations of the Indian Ocean and in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

Interdisciplinary research institute

Established in 2018, The Africa Institute in Sharjah, UAE, is an interdisciplinary academic research institute dedicated to the study, research, and documentation of Africa and the African diaspora.

As the only institution of its kind located in the Gulf — the historical nexus of African-Arab cultural exchange — The Africa Institute is uniquely positioned to expand its understanding of African and African diaspora studies as a global enterprise. The Institute is conceived as a research-based think-tank, and a postgraduate studies institution, which aims to train a new generation of critical thinkers in African and African diaspora studies.

Read more: Sharjah to host workshop on Western Sudan Community Museums project

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