CFP: Liberation beyond the Nation: Comparisons, Interactions and Methodologies

Call for Papers Liberation beyond the Nation: Comparisons, Interactions and Methodologies

Conference supported by the Journal of Southern African Studies and organized by the
University of Oxford and the University of the Western Cape 12-13 April 2019
University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

We invite the submission of papers for this conference to be held in Cape Town in April 2019.

The conference will build on recent scholarship that has problematized both the ‘national’ and ‘liberation’ aspects ofnational liberation histories. The conference seeks to develop a comparative, transnational approach to the inter-connected histories and legacies of southern African liberation movements. The approach is consciously inter-disciplinary and calls for scholarship that draws on new sources and innovative methodologies. Accelerating the shift away from approaches that tend to take the ‘national’ and the ‘liberation’ in national liberation for granted, the conference will develop and bring into comparison recent frames of analysis that have focused on day-to-day interactions, culture and narrative (songs, films, fiction, photography, memoir), and in-depth studies of movements,
states and institutions. The conference will encompass comparison across liberation histories and movements, studies of interactions and exchanges among movements and other actors, histories of movements that did not gain state power, explorations of cultural productions and the senses, and neglected aspects of the legacies of liberation struggles for contemporary Southern Africa.

Paper proposals are invited that address one or more of the following sub-themes:
1) Comparative analyses. Scholars have rarely systematically compared liberation movements in or out of power: the national frame remains dominant. We call for papers that use comparison to raise new questions about the practices, institutions and cultures of liberation movements past and present, especially across Anglophone-Lusophone boundaries, but also encompassing Francophone (e.g. DRC) perspectives.

2) Interactions among liberation movements. Liberation movements in and out of power regularly hosted each other, trained with each other, and shared sponsors in locations within and outside southern Africa. Papers may focus on quotidian and cultural exchanges or more elite and political interactions, from the mixing of liberation movement soldiers in exile camps, to the role of host governments in political transitions or in building economic and business connections. 

3) The significance of ‘losers’. The histories of movements that split from successful movements, and/or did not assume power played key roles in shaping struggle histories, as have state forces ousted from power as a result of liberation. Papers in this group may also focus on institutional changes after transitions shaped by ‘losers’, and the uses of ‘loser’ histories in current political contests. 

4) Cultural production and the senses. Work on liberation struggles has moved beyond empiricist uses of texts and oral history to encompass music, photography, film, sound, performance and other media. Often neglected in mainstream history writing, these media require revised methodologies and allow the telling of new stories as well enabling the study of the affective dynamics of liberation struggles. 

5) Temporalities and legacies. Current political upheavals across southern Africa offer new opportunities for revisiting the periodization of ‘struggle history’ and for assessing the legacies of liberation movements in the present and for the future. We call for papers that assess under-researched aspects of liberation movement temporalities and legacies, from raising questions about their origins and their endings to exploring the influence of struggle histories on political practices and economic relations today.

The conference organisers specifically encourage participation from scholars based in southern Africa and from young and early career scholars everywhere. Local accommodation, transportation and meals will be provided to all speakers, and limited international travel funding is available for invited speakers.

Please send details of your paper proposal (your name and affiliation, the title of your paper and a max 250 word abstract) by the deadline of 1 September 2018 by email to:

Conference convened by Jocelyn Alexander, Paolo Israel, Miles Larmer and Ricardo Soares
de Oliveira



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