CFP: "Memories that Move: Pasts and Presents of Colonial Infrastructure", African Studies Association of Africa Biennial Conference (Nairobi, 24–26 October 2019)

Norman Aselmeyer's picture
Call for Papers
May 12, 2019
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Anthropology, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology

Open Panel Proposal:

Memories that Move: Pasts and Presents of Colonial Infrastructure

Remnants of colonial infrastructure are plainly visible all over Africa. Urban centres are marked by colonial architecture; old railway lines have become heritage sites and are now preserved in museums; schools and universities still bear the stamp of European education systems; and colonial borders continue to matter on the continent to this day. While legacies of colonial town planning, such as statues and residential segregation, are highly controversial, other aspects of colonial infrastructure are remembered with appreciation. Still others appear so mundane and quotidian that their pasts have hardly received any attention. Decades after independence, the memory of colonialism and its tangible and intangible manifestations remain deeply ambivalent and often reveal perplexing contradictions.
By addressing the politics and cultures of (dis)remembrance of colonial infrastructure, this panel seeks to explore the conscious and unconscious ‘memory work’ of individuals, groups and societies in contemporary Africa. How are the forms and pasts of colonial infrastructure preserved, remembered or forgotten? Who are the actors engaged in framing and contesting specific memories? How do (counter)memories of infrastructure shape knowledges and representations of the colonial past? Colonial infrastructures were the most recognisable features of colonial rule, originally designed to strengthen the grip over African territories. After independence, most countries furnished the inherited infrastructures with new meanings, often driven by a specific nation-building logic. The renewed boom in infrastructure spending across the continent in the last two decades have again had an impact on the ways in which colonial infrastructure is remembered. Their long lifespan allows for a longue-durée perspective on the changing practices, agendas, and challenges of memory work.
The contributions to this panel will be a follow-up to the recent dialogue between memory studies and postcolonial studies. While studies have so far focused primarily on violence, genocide, techniques of colonial rule, and slavery and slave trade (Jennifer Cole, Kenda Mutongi, Meera Venkatachalam), aspects like colonial infrastructure have not been adequately investigated and are deserving of further studies. As pivotal institutions of colonial rule, infrastructures and their respective memories promise new insights into how the colonial past and its legacies have been negotiated, remembered and contested to this day. Proposals are invited from all fields and may cover any period, topic or region. Special consideration will be given to papers taking a comparative, transnational or interdisciplinary perspective. Please send an abstract of no more than 250 words along with a short CV to Norman Aselmeyer ( by 12 May 2019.

Contact Info: 

Norman Aselmeyer, European University Institute

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