Call for Papers – Writing Workshops: Defiant Scholarship in Africa 2024

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Call for Papers – Writing Workshops: Defiant Scholarship in Africa 2024. Apply below.

When is Application Deadline:

10th March 2024

Tell Me About Award:

We invite early career scholars working on topics connected to and practices grounded in ‘defiant scholarship in Africa’ to apply for writing workshops in Yaoundé, Cameroon and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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During these three-day hybrid workshops we will work to identify and challenge the academic racism(s) and academic imperialism(s) that remain embedded within dominant publication models. We will centre work that pursues decolonial, solidarity, and anti-colonial praxes to break with self-referencing, recursive, and imperial modes of social science research (Ake 1979). Importantly, our collective refuses prevailing models of North/South writing workshops that too often commence from unspoken assumptions that there is a dearth of publishing know-how or skill in African settings that requires ‘correcting’.

We reject as untenable the neoliberal and corporate models of scholarly publication in Western universities that have led to the corporate capture of knowledge. This includes, for example, the implicit or explicit ‘publish or perish’ approaches and their manifestations in African universities as ‘publish and perish’ (Nyamnjoh 2004: 331-335). Such approaches to hiring and retaining academic labour have resulted in excessive competition, exhaustion (Mason & Megoran 2021), desperation, plagiarism, and the theft of ideas—all of which are often unevenly racialised and gendered (Muhs et al. 2012; see also Hengel’s 2022 analysis of discrimination of female-authored articles during peer review; and Assis et al. 2023: 75 on exclusions faced by women authors in HE). Neoliberal publication models have led to the gaming of citations by authors, the manipulation of bibliometric data by journal editors, and interrelated trends like ‘citational erasures’ of contributions from black, brown, and indigenous women scholars (Smith et al. 2021). Neoliberal publication models have given rise to the culture of YouTube tutorials and blog posts guaranteeing recipes for fast scholarship. These kinds of neoliberal and commercial approaches to scholarly writing efface other (uneven) demands on our labour while promising formulas for ‘maximum efficiency’—(‘turn out one academic article per week!’)—in a factory-like system that creates profit for the corporate owners of academic journals and advances individual careers but seldom benefits or even reaches wider collectives and communities.

At these workshops, we begin with a common enthusiasm for experimentation, audaciousness, improvisation, creativity, ‘slow scholarship’ (Mountz et al. 2015), and more. Our workshops aim to provide—for Central African and Horn of Africa scholars already engaging in forms of defiant scholarship—platforms to come together. We seek to nurture and strengthen critical writing collectives in the regions, to learn together as a transnational group, to practice critical politics of coalition building (see Lugones 2003). We want to amplify the work that is unearthing counter-histories and offering imaginaries of empowerment and political transformation rooted in wellbeing, ecological balance, and social relations otherwise. To do so, we will demystify inequalities embedded within corporate publishing models while learning from the powerful body of scholarship exposing the complicities and complacencies of social science logics, methodologies, refrains, and discourses (Smith 1999; Simpson 2011; see also Bouka 2018 on ‘collaborative research as structural violence’). We are particularly interested in exploring the challenges, hurdles, or limitations that Central African and Horn of Africa scholars encounter in their pursuit of decolonial, anticolonial, Pan-African, and/or critical research, writing, and publication.

The availability of AI software like Chat GPT, Google Bard, Grammarly, Copy.ai, and more are changing publication and writing practices; what are the uses and implications of these tools for scholars writing and teaching on the continent and those working in solidarity? We will invite journal editors to reflect on biases in the publishing industry, including when and how peer review can affect forms of gatekeeping and epistemic policing, and how authors might navigate these challenges (how, in the words of Nolas and Varvantakis (2019) ‘another review process is possible’). By sharing experiences, we will consider how African scholars can protect their emergent and developing ideas from theft, appropriation, and misattribution (Buchanan 2019) and reject colonial patterns of the ‘native informant’ (Khan 2005; Aidid 2015; Mwambari 2019). We will consider the latent consequences of the rise of some Open Access (OA) models based on excessive fees, and how policies aimed at challenging readership paywalls to make knowledge more widely available have resulted in a pay-to-publish model that heightens the exclusion of scholarship by those working at less affluent universities (Piron 2018; Nobes 2021; see also minutes 47 – 60 and 1:05 – 1:09 of the LSE Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa dialogue on ‘Decolonising the Global Publishing Industry’).

Background: Defiant Scholarship in Africa

Scholars have brought attention to the persistence of colonial relations, forms, and logics in the foundations of global universities and knowledge production (Ndlovu-Gatsheni 2013, 2017; Mbembe 2016; Bhambra et al. 2018; Adamu 2019; Adebisi 2020). In Social Science as Imperialism (1979), Claude Ake argues that the application of Western social science scholarship in African contexts—except for the Marxist tradition—amounted to epistemic and political imperialism. Western-derived colonial curricula stigmatised indigenous languages (Ndille 2018) while imposing capitalist values, frameworks, and institutions, thus serving the interests of heteropatriarchy (Oyěwùmí 1997), racial capitalism (Chari 2017; Rutazibwa 2020), and imperialism (Rodney 1990; Ndlovu-Gatsheni 2013).

Colonial influences continue to shape and inform scholarship in and from African societies. Eurocentric epistemological orders relegated African countries to ‘deficit’ positions (Zeleza and Adebayo 2004; Pailey 2019). Colonial persistence is apparent in the marginalisation of Africa in global knowledge creation and circulation (Nyamnjoh 2015a, 2015b, 2021); institutional pressures to conform to and reproduce positivist studies in neo-imperialist contexts (Mamdani 2018; Nyamnjoh 2021); and dominant interpretations of the continent by Western institutions as places for data extraction (Gani and Marshall 2022) principally by white fieldworkers (Hagan 2020), ‘mere’ empiricism within ‘area studies’ paradigms (Ramutsindela 2007; Macharia 2016; Daley and Kamata 2017; also Serunkuma 2024), ‘problem-solving’ research grants (Mama 2007; Branch 2018), and superficial collaborations imposed by external priorities and funders (Mawere and van Stam 2019; Musila 2019; Mwambari 2019). Colonial persistence is evident in the ongoing erasure of the functions of race and racial difference in scholarship on African societies (Pierre 2012; Pailey 2019; Hagan 2020; Harper-Shipman 2021).

Defiant scholarship is exemplified in the work of Mongo Beti, whose Main basse sur le Cameroun: autopsie d’une décolonisation (1972) denounced French neo-colonial economic and material violence in Cameroon and asserted the significance of global visions and practices of Pan-Africanism. Beti’s teaching and scholarship demonstrated a commitment to exposing political and economic injustice and fostering a shared consciousness of solidarity and anticolonial resistance. Scholars have worked to centre diverse forms of knowledge, creativity, and strategies of survival and resistance in response to historical injustices (see also the panel on Decolonization/Decoloniality in Africa organised by Toyin Falola).

As a critical concept, ‘defiant scholarship in Africa’ (Daley and Murrey 2022a; Daley 2023) brings attention to the determined and insurgent body of intellectual work that has long called out, deciphered, and rendered legible shifting and discordant colonial logics and articulated alternative approaches to knowledge creation founded upon anti-colonial solidarity (Beti 1972; Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Al-Bulushi 2022), Black, African, and decolonial feminisms (Endeley and Ngaling 2007; Tsikata 2007; McFadden 2018; Okech 2020; Dieng 2021; Vergès 202; Mohammed 2023), rebellion (McKittrick 2021), indigenous worldmaking and the sacred (Nkwi 2017), conviviality and incompleteness (Nyamnjoh 2015b, 2021; Fokwang 2021), humility and ‘companionable connection’ (Gibson-Graham 2006), and more. Defiant scholarship ‘also valorizes the albeit often ragged, tremulous attempts to stand aside, to risk all kinds of distortions in efforts to shift the terms of the hegemonic academic game’ (Simone 2022: 192). Our understanding of defiance is not prescriptive, as Stefan Ouma (2022) reminds us, ‘even among African scholars, it is contested what credible, effective and comprehensive… defiance is about’.

In the spirit of defiant scholarship, we invite papers that challenge prevailing narratives, seek out silenced or untold stories, foster contemporary Pan-African and transnational solidarities, and offer novel and innovative perspectives through life-affirming epistemes, humour, experimentation, and more.

The workshops will offer opportunities to engage in thoughtful interrogation, fostering a community of researchers committed to reshaping practices in the social sciences. Sessions will include hands-on and interactive activities, fieldtrips, peer meetings and mentoring, roundtables, and keynote addresses, writing prompts and writing feedback, discussion of core readings, and more. In Yaoundé, group activities will include a visit to the national museum and a launch of the book, Learning disobedience: Decolonising Development Studies, at Librairie des Peuples Noirs (The Black People’s Bookstore) founded by Mongo Beti in Tsinga, Yaoundé.

Type:

Call for Applications

Who can Apply?

  • Early-career researchers pursuing their PhD or within three years of completion of the PhD. Scholars should be affiliated with a university or research institute in the Central Africa or Horn of Africa regions.
  • Language: Papers must be submitted in English or French. There will be live English/French translation at Workshop 1 in Yaoundé.
  • Workshop 1 will be held in Yaoundé from 18 – 20 June 2024. Workshop 2 will be held in Addis Ababa from 7-9 October 2024. Accepted participants should be available to attend one workshop in-person and will attend select sessions of the other workshop online.

How Many Awards?

Not specified

What is the Benefit of Award?

  • Travel, lodging, and meals for accepted participants will be covered by funds from a British Academy Writing Workshop Grant.
  • Stipends for childcare and/or internet data are available. If you would like to apply for this funding, please specify the need in your cover letter and include a brief budget.

How Long will Award Last?

Yaoundé, Cameroon
Workshop Dates: 18 – 20 June 2024

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Workshop Dates: 7-9 October 2024

How to Apply:

Please submit: (1) a 300-word abstract of an advanced research paper that speaks to themes of ‘defiant scholarship in Africa’ and (2) a cover letter of no more than 2-pages that details your interest in defiant scholarship as well as 2-3 issues that you consider to be the most urgent for scholars working in your region.

For accepted participants, your advanced research paper must be submitted by 1 June 2024 (for Yaoundé) and 20 September 2024 (for Addis) to enable response, feedback, and peer reflection during the workshops.

Submit your application online at https://forms.gle/QRBr7tQ6T3KkPR7i8 by 10 March 2024.

We look forward to your submissions.

Visit Award Webpage for Details