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Call for papers: Power, Silence and the Production of History in Africa

On 24 May 2018 the workshop 'Power, Silence and the Production of History in Africa' will take place at Leiden University.

The production of history is a process of power. This is particularly relevant in Africa, where
during both the colonial and the post-colonial era history has been written by hegemonic
regimes. This historiography has in turn (re-)produced structures of domination, social
exclusion and division. Moreover, it has obscured the diversity of histories, narratives, spatial
geographies that are at play. This in turn raises questions about how we can understand
enduring and recurring cycles of conflict on the African continent not only as a result of
historic contingency, but also as an outcome of the politics of writing African histories. The
African continent is therefore a particular rich context in which to examine the production of
history and its relation to power.

To grasp the workings of the structures of power that are created through historic production
we’re interested in what history means for people themselves in Africa – both the rulers and
the ruled, the hegemonic and marginalised, elites and subalterns – and how they act and have
acted upon it. As Trouillot (1995) has argued, in the production of history people are
simultaneously involved as agents that produce historical narratives and as actors of the events
they narrate. History is therefore purposeful, and connects imaginaries about the past, present
and future. It thus produces “truths”, but silences unwanted or unimaginable alternatives to
hegemonic narratives in the service of the practices of power and domination. Herzfeld (2010)
has argued that minority histories are a reminder that multiple truths exist, and that they can
challenge hegemonic historic narratives. As such, minority histories may offer unexplored
avenues to explore structures of power and domination in Africa.

In this workshop we aim to explore the interface between power and the production of history
in Africa. We invite participants to track power and silencing in the production of history in
Africa and the workings thereof in social and political processes in contemporary Africa – e.g.
social and political exclusion and marginalisation, the creation of divisions, conflict
dynamics, practices of resistance, creation of alternative (discursive) spaces and communities,
etc. What does history mean for people, how do they engage with their (silenced) histories to
give meaning to their present and future? And are there alternative histories possible, in the
form of for example minority histories, subaltern histories or even micro-histories that may
offer a deeper and more inclusive understanding of current practices of power and domination
in the region? In what ways can such insights enable (community level) peacebuilding, aimed
at societal trust and social cohesion?

For this one-day event we invite scholars and PhD candidates working on African history and
related themes to exchange ideas and insights. We are particularly interested in papers that
offer multi-disciplinary approaches, including History, Literature, Arts and Culture,
Anthropology, Political Science, International Relations, Peace and Conflict Studies.


Deadline for abstracts (max 500 words): 1 March 2018. Abstracts can be sent to

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