Using the lens of Critical Race Theory (CRT), this project proposes a fresh engagement with the colonial roots of African Studies in Germany and the absence of race as an analytical category in the field. We intend to identify the underlying problems in African Studies which is arguably a space that privileges whiteness as a harbinger of objective knowledge about Africa. Against this backdrop, we propose to examine canon literature on Africa in German universities through CRT. We will engage with the dominant literature on/about Africa and how the selection is made - who gets omitted and why? In so doing, we intend to interrogate the deep-seated theoretical and methodological issues that underpin the gap between ‘activist’ knowledges and those produced by scholars who claim value neutrality. We argue that the idea of Germany as post-racial society obscures that its politics of knowledge production were and are still deeply racialized. We hope the questions we raise will introduce useful conceptual and theoretical tools that offer vocabularies and spaces for a more rigorous engagement which, beyond the artificial divide, will bring together scholarly and activist knowledge production on Africa.
Serawit Debele is a Junior Research Group Leader at the Africa-Multiple Cluster of Excellence at the University of Bayreuth. Her work focuses on moments of socio-political change in Africa asking what possibilities these moments might open up for non-normative sexualities and genders. Her ongoing project focuses on Ethiopia, Tunisia and Sudan. She is the author of the book Locating Politics in Ethiopia’s Irreecha Ritual and currently working on her second book on sexual pleasure and the politics of freedom. Her articles have appeared on journals such as History of the Present and The Journal of African History. Together with Stephanie and Yusuf, she is working on the VW funded project that examines German African Studies through the lens of CRT.
Stephanie Lämmert is a researcher at the Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. Her current research explores the history of intimacy, motherhood and care work in twentieth-century central African copperbelt society, and its broader implications for histories of feminism, labour and global capitalism. Stephanie is also working on a book manuscript dealing with Tanzanian court room culture under British colonial rule. She has published in journals such as the Journal of Eastern African Studies, the Journal of Modern European History and and L’Homme. Together with Serawit and Yusuf, and funded by the Volkswagen Open Up! New Research Spaces for the Humanities and Cultural Studies, Stephanie explores the absence of race as an analytical category in German knowledge production on Africa.
Yusuf Serunkuma is currently a postdoc fellow at Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg in Germany where he also obtained his PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology. Yusuf is a cultural studies major, and is interested in the ways in which nationalist sentiments are mobilised; the politics of knowledge production; postcolonial theory, and Critical Colonial Studies (CSS), and general popular culture. Yusuf is a playwright, essayist and activist with a column in The Observer newspaper in Uganda. He is author of The Snake Farmers (a play), and the collection of essays, Non-Essential Humans: Essays on Governance, Ruin and Survival in Covid-19 Uganda, and together with Eria Serwajja co-edited Before the First Drop: Oil, Capitalists and the Wretcheds of Western Uganda, both published in Uganda by Editor House Facility. His writing often appears in Review of African Political Economy (Roape.net), The Elephant in Kenya, and Pan-African Review in Rwanda.
Andreas Eckert is Professor of African History at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Chairperson of the Board of the Forum Transregionale Studien, and since 2009 directs the Käte Hamburger Kolleg “Work and Human Life Course in Global History (re:work)”. He currently holds an Einstein Research Fellowship at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (April 2023 to March 2025). Previously he held teaching and visting positions or fellowships at the Universities of Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, Hamburg or the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme in Paris. His research interests include history of work/labour history, comparative history of colonialism, of the state, urbanization, and global history. His most recent book is a history of slavery, Geschichte der Sklaverei. Von den Anfängen bis ins 21. Jahrhundert (2021). Andreas Eckert also writes regularily for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Please note that the Berliner Seminar will take place on-site at the Forum Transregionale Studien. We kindly ask for prior registration via eume(at)trafo-berlin.de. Depending on approval by the speaker(s), the Berliner Seminar will be recorded. All audio recordings of the Berliner Seminar are available on SoundCloud.