Professor Dr. Ulf Engel’s Expectations

Development Policy29 May 2009Ulf Engel

Two things are important for me when it comes to ECAS 3.

Firstly, when we revived AEGIS around 2000 we considered a number of activities, to improve networking and to enhance international visibility. Among other things, the biennial AEGIS Summer Schools for doctoral researchers from AEGIS member centres were introduced (always held in the nice town of Cortona, Italy) – and the biennial European Conference on African Studies. The first one was held in 2005 in London, the second one two years later in Leiden. We thought that Europe was ripe for this format. Many colleagues shared the experience that they met once a year, or every now and then, at the annual US African Studies Association meeting. Yet there was, and as registration numbers clearly demonstrate, still is, a critical mass of researchers in African Studies which would like to meet and exchange in Europe. As we were not totally convinced of how well this idea would fly, and also because some national African Studies associations of European origin have their conventions every second year, we decided to have ECAS only every two years. Again, looking at the number of panels and people registering – not only established researchers, but also many young academics -, I guess we were right. In addition, it seems that it is also easier and more attractive for colleagues from Africa to make it to Europe rather than to the US.

Secondly, and of course this was not considered at the time when we decided to organise ECAS 3 in Leipzig, this conference is a great chance to take stock of one particular development in the humanities and social sciences – the so-called spatial turn which has made great inroads into many disciplines. The response to the call for panels has resulted in a respectable number of panels which, one way or the other, discuss space as an analytical category. So in our programme we look at various forms of contesting different forms of space; Borderland Studies as well as new urban sociology and migration sociology are prominently represented; some panels take a particular theoretical interest in the production of space, while other privilege – what I would call – a perspective of “reflexive space”. And, interestingly, many more panels and papers who don’t talk about space as an analytical concept clearly work with important notions of space.

So, I am really looking forward to next week. And I am also looking forward to what will be discussed at ECAS 4 in Uppsala in June 2011.