17 Jul

Edinburgh Africanists at the ECAS Conference in Paris

By Dr. Wolfgang Zeller, Senior Research Fellow, Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh

Every other year at the height of summer, the planet’s largest gathering of academics studying Africa – the European Conference on African Studies (ECAS) – takes place somewhere in Europe. This year’s event in Paris, from 8-10 July, attracted some 2,000 delegates, and the University of Edinburgh ‘tribe’ was well represented.

Paul Nugent and Wolfgang Zeller lead the sing-song!

Paul Nugent and Wolfgang Zeller lead the sing-song!


More than 20 staff members, PhD, and MSc students from the Centre of African Studies, Politics & International Relations, Social Anthropology and from other departments were there to discuss a wide range of topics: From borders as sites of memory (Dr Wolfgang Zeller & Prof Paul Nugent, both CAS), local state-making (Kathy Dodworth, P & IR) and African port cities (Dr Jana Hönke, P & IR), to rebel governance (Dr Zoe Marks, CAS), military mutinies (Dr Maggie Dwyer, CAS), ICT in youth revolts (Dr Tom Molony, CAS), material cultures of resistance and contestation of urban space (Dr Sara Dorman, P & IR), and contestations of justice (Dr Gerhard Anders, CAS). The Edinburgh crowd also participated in numerous round table discussions, meetings with academic publishers, and gatherings of the countless specialist research associations and networks that make the international African studies scene such a lively and exciting place to work in.

Not wishing to waste any time, on the first evening of ECAS 2015 the Centre of African Studies held a reception for present and past Edinburgh colleagues and invited guests, among them various leading Africanist scholars from across Europe, Africa and North America. Prof Paul Nugent, never a man to miss an opportunity for a good glass of wine and a song, was the host of the evening. As proceedings became less academic and more joyous, Paul eventually joined his colleagues as they serenaded him to mark the end of his eight year presidency of the African Studies in Europe Group. During this period, Paul has overseen a substantial growth of the AEGIS network of centres of excellence; the organisation of no less than 4 ECAS conferences and numerous PhD summer schools; as well as countless other activities and initiatives. Through his involvement, Paul put Edinburgh firmly on the map as one of the hotspots of African studies, not just in Europe but worldwide. And he did it his way!

Dr Wolfgang Zeller’s latest publication is entitled “What Makes Border Real – In the Namibia-Zambia and Uganda-South Sudan Borderlands”