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HomeUrban scenographies of political power in Africa before 1900

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Published on Tuesday, December 06, 2016


This panel focusses on African cities before 1900, examining through an interdisciplinary approach how political power is materially embodied and symbolically staged in the urban space through a variety of architectural interventions, visual representations, discourses and cultural practices.


This is a call for paper for a panel organized for the ECAS 2017 to be held in Basel (29 June – 1 July 2017)


Well before the emergence of contemporary capitals and metropolitan areas, Africa experienced a vast array of urban forms. City-States as well as capitals and other major centres of empires and kingdoms constitute promising fields of inquiry to examine the relations between urban spaces and the exercise of power in earlier periods. Political powers perform regulative functions with regard to social interactions, economic transactions as well as to cultural and religious life. Hence, they contribute to shape cities in both material and symbolic terms. At the same time, political elites tend to use urban spaces to stage themselves and to assert their legitimacy, deploying architectural interventions, visual representations, discourses and ritual/ceremonial practices. Our panel will focus on cities in continental and insular Africa prior to 1900 in order to explore scenographies of political power. By investigating written, oral, archaeological, visual and artistic sources and discussing both interregional and intercontinental exchanges, it will examine the embodiment of political power in places such as royal courts, religious buildings, public squares, markets, etc. Thereby, the panel will tackle the strategies enacted to represent - or to contest - the legitimacy and continuity of social order in urban contexts which are structurally characterized by economic and migratory dynamics fuelling (potentially destabilizing) processes of social change. In this sense, it aims at analysing the stratified semantics of urban landscapes as results of conflicts and negotiations between a multiplicity of social groups and institutional actors.

Submission guidelines

If you are interested in this topic, please submit your abstract via the following link : http://www.nomadit.co.uk/ecas/ecas2017/panels.php5?PanelID=4816

Papers will be presented in English and French. Contributors are expected to cover all expenses related to their participation to the ECAS, including inscription fees.

The deadline for submission is January 18, 2017.


  • Roberto ZAUGG (Université de Lausanne), roberto.zaugg@unil.ch
  • Clélia CORET (Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne / Institut des Mondes Africains), clelia.coret@gmail.com


The Centre for African Studies Basel and the Swiss Society for African Studies welcome you to the 7th European Conference on African Studies ECAS 2017 with the theme: Urban Africa - Urban Africans: New encounters of the rural and the urban, which they organise on behalf of the Research Network of African Studies Centres in Europe AEGIS.

The scholarly community in response to our call published in June 2016 submitted 347 panel proposals out of which the Scientific Committee with the support of the Programme Committee selected 223. The call for papers is now open and scholars in African Studies are invited to propose papers to the panel(s) of their choice. Please refer to the call for papers page.


The Centre for African Studies Basel is a coordinated research network at the University of Basel including further institutions such as the Basler Afrika BibliographienMission 21 or the Swiss Tropic and Public Health Institute. It promotes Africa-related teaching at the university and offers MA and PhD programmes in African Studies as well as an advanced studies Certificate in African Affairs. With its joint research theme Living the City the Centre has been at the forefront of research on urban Africa. Research under this theme is promoted along five axes of research: Public Health and Social Life; Media and Imagination; Knowledge Production and Transfer; Governance and Civil Society; Environment and Development. These axes also inform the teaching activities of the Centre. The Centre today constitutes a solid framework within which numerous post-doc researchers as well as doctoral and MA students have been engaging with urban issues. This has led to the founding of a new Masterprogramme for Critical Urbanism in cooperation with the University of Cape Town.

The Swiss Society for African Studies (SSAS) aims at advancing research on Africa, including the organization of conferences to discuss questions of African lifestyles and other aspects of African societies and cultures. Contributing to the circulation of relevant information, the SSAS understands itself as platform for synergies and collaboration between universities and research institutions. It strives to enhance the visibility and the institutionalization of African Studies in Switzerland. Founded in 1974, the SSAS is based on the model of Area Studies. With this view it offers opportunities to connect researchers and the interested public in a theme-oriented and multidisciplinary exchange. Alternating with thematic conferences, the biannual Swiss Researching Africa Days promote the exchange among researchers at different stages of their careers. The SSAS is a member of the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Conference Committee

The organising committee is led by Till FoersterElisio Macamo and Veit Arlt of the Centre for African Studies Basel.

Conference Office

  • Veit Arlt (lead, logistics)
  • Julia Büchele (administration)
  • Pascal Schmid (fundraising, communication)

Scientific Committee

  • Till Förster (University of Basel, Switzerland)
  • Dominique Malaquais (CNRS/IMAF, Paris, France)
  • Elísio Macamo (University of Basel, Switzerland)
  • Julia Tischler (University of Basel, Switzerland)
  • Anne Mayor (University of Geneva, Switzerland)
  • Daniel Küenzler (University of Fribourg, Switzerland)
  • Gregor Dobler (University of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany)


  • Basel, Switzerland


  • Wednesday, January 18, 2017


  • city, urban space, political power, discourse, cultural practice, precolonial

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Clélia Coret
    courriel : clelia [dot] coret [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Urban scenographies of political power in Africa before 1900 », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, December 06, 2016, https://doi.org/10.58079/wem

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