The ASAAP-IPCS seminar series on African Studies has wrapped up in Melbourne with two papers on Somalia presented by Nikola Pijovic and Dr Ali Mumin Ahad. Since the collapse of the Barre regime in 1991, civil war has characterised life in much of Somalia in one way or another. Although the conflict has received much attention from international media, many of the political, historical and cultural complexities of the conflict have been profoundly misunderstood. With a new government in Mogadishu and recent military intervention by neighbouring states, it appears that the war is entering a new phase, making a better understanding of its causes and nature imperative. The recent attack on the Westgate shopping complex in Nairobi has also brought it to the attention of a new international audience.
Prof. Tony Binns, University of Otago, presented the 2013 South Australian AFSAAP Seminar “Africa Rising?” at Flinders University 22 October 2013. The audience of over 30 students and academics was impressed with his positive anecdotes and analaysis of African development, in particular in post-conflict societies. Binns also gave a 2nd AFSAAP seminar to the University of Adelaide on his 40 years of research on Sierra Leone. This has been a great opportunity for students in South Australia to meet one the world’s more experienced Africanists, and highly published academics in the field of African Studies, Development and Geography.
An audio recoding of the seminar can be found at the recent events page.
The long running conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has become known to international audiences for the high rate of sexual violence and rape committed as acts of war. At the penultimate AFSAAP-IPCS seminar in Melbourne on Thursday 10th of October, two papers contextualised this phenomenon and critically appraised the global response.
Sara Meger, a researcher on gender and international relations at the University of Melbourne, presented the first of these papers under the title “The Fetishisation of Sexual Violence in International Security Studies”. The premise of Meger’s argument was that International relations scholarship has erred in treating sexual violence in war as an isolated, if not aberrant, phenomenon. The dominant narrative treats it as an exceptional form of gender-based violence, and the sole form capable of destabilising international peace and security. Conversely, her paper questioned the current fixation in international security studies and in policy on this particular form of gender violence and offered a critique of narrow approaches to understanding wartime sexual violence that ignore the larger social structures in which this violence is taking place. She advocated a structural perspective and situates this form of violence against women within the broader framework of international political economy and argued that violence against women must be understood in relation to material inequalities between genders: that sexual violence in war must be positioned on the continuum of violence used in the maintenance and (re)construction of the global gender hierarchy. Running through the presentation was a trenchant critique current UN framework for responding to sexual violence in war, claiming that it systematically fails to address the gendered social, economic, and political inequalities undergirding gender-based violence.
The second paper, “Rape Claims in the Survival Economy of the Kivus, Democratic Republic of Congo”, was presented by Charlotte Mertens, a PhD candidate also at the University of Melbourne. In harmony with the preceding paper, (more…)
AFSAAP is seriously concerned by the al Shabab terror attack in Nairobi. More innocent lives have been lost as the Somali conflict spills over the border into Kenya.
AFSAAP will be hosting a seminar at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies on Somalia soon, and will continue to provide expert analysis on the causes and consequences of violence in the East African region. Please contact the AFSAAP secretary at email@example.com, or on (+61) 0406 334 620 for further information.
Sekai Nzenza, well known Zimbabwean author and long time friend of AFSAAP, read two of her short stories and convened a long discussion on her country’s politics in the wake of its recent election on the 22td of August at the Institute of Poscolonial Studies (IPCS). The stories were organised under the heading “glimpses of the everyday in Zimbabwe”, and illuminated aspects of the daily struggle in contemporary Zimbabwe. While these ostensibly told the stories of daily occurrences, their deeper message resonated with racial, political and postcolonial notes. The first “Poverty, and the desire for something foreign” told of the search for second hand clothes in a Harare market, and how their European origins carry a sense of foreign panacea to local ills. Her second story, “African Beauty and the shades of blackness” revealed a conversation between the author and her niece about the use of skin lightening creams, and the racial beauty complexes that their use invokes. The stories can both be accessed at the page of the Zimbabwean Herald, where they were originally published.
AFSAAP and one of its former Vice-Presidents have been recognised at the annual “Celebrate African Australians” awards at Parliament House, Canberra. The ceremony aims to highlight the contributions of African Australians to the broader community. AFSAAP received the ‘Friend of Africa’ award, intended to “showcase Australian organisations, businesses and individuals providing wonderful services and assistance to African Australians.” Dr Alec Thornton, current Vice-President of AFSAAP, received the award on behalf of the organisation from SBS news presenter Kathy Novak.
The awards also recognised the personal contribution of former AFSAAP Vice-President Apollo Nsubuga-Kyobe, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame. This follows the “Living Legends Award” that Apollo received from the same organisation in 2012. His contribution was recognised by the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy, who presented him with his award.
AFSAAP’s Treasurer Dr. Graeme Counsel has announced the completion of his incredible work in cataloguing and archiving 9,410 songs which constitute the sound archive of Radio Télévision Guinée (RTG). This project included the digitisation of thousands of reels of audio recorded on magnetic tape. They have now been catalogued in the British Library’s Sound and Moving Image Catalogue and are available for listening to in the reading rooms.
Graeme was asked by The British Library to write a blog at their web site which describes the RTG music archival projects. Here is the link – http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/endangeredarchives/.
Those with an appetite for more can read Graeme’s personal accounts of his archival projects in Guinea at his Radio Africa website. http://www.radioafrica.com.au/EAP_2008.html, http://www.radioafrica.com.au/EAP_2009.html and http://www.radioafrica.com.au/EAP_2012.html.
As part of its continuing mission to expand the scope of African Studies in Australian universities, the AFSAAP executive reminds its members that it is looking to broaden its program of reading groups. In the this scheme, AFSAAP purchases titles related to African studies and shares these with reading groups based at individual universities. Interested parties should see the application form on the reading group homepage, and note that sponsorship is contingent on an annual feedback process. For more information on this program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
AFSAAP sponsored an Africa Day Celebration at Flinders University. The rain held off for over 200 participants who enjoyed a free Aussie style BBQ with African music and a live drumming performance. Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Prof Michael Barber opened the event and announced the university’s commitment to its relationship with the countries of Africa with the news that Finders University will be sending 28 boxes of current academic textbooks to Jimma University in Ethiopia. Flinders University is also a member of the Australia-Africa University Network.
Mr. Stephen Okello, an Australia Awards scholar from Africa talked about his experiences as a student in Australia, and the President of the African Students Association, Mr. Stephen Tongun gave a inspirational speech on the importance of Africa Day. Mr. John Mugabushaka, a PHD student at Flinders university, performed as the master of ceremonies and rallied everyone’s enthusiasm. AFSAAP President Tanya Lyons was encouraged to dance by her students undertaking her topics on African Studies at Flinders University, and the latter did a brilliant job cooking the BBQ with the help of the African Students Association at Flinders University. The celebration carried on into the afternoon, with many friendships developing, and many networking opportunities fulfilled. (more…)