CfP: Art and Diplomacy in Africa (ACASA 2020)

Ashley Miller's picture
Call for Papers
January 14, 2020
Illinois, United States
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Black History / Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Diplomacy and International Relations


Seeking presenters for the panel, "Art and Diplomacy in Africa," for the ACASA Triennial Symposium in Chicago, IL, 16-21 June 2020.


This panel critically examines the entanglement of art and diplomacy in Africa.  Papers will consider the ethical, political, and practical issues surrounding the mobilization of art and expressive cultures--as well as artists and art institutions--in projects of cultural diplomacy initiated both within and outside of the continent.  We also ask, what has been or might be the impact of diplomatic projects on the production of art and expressive culture in Africa; and what are the consequences or unexpected opportunitites that arise when arts diplomacy fails?


The topic presents an important counterpoint to current debates regarding the repatriation of Africa's arts and cultural works as a strategy for "decolonizing" European and American museums.  In recent years, Africa's historical and contemporary visual arts have taken center stage in global heritage politics and shifting museum practices, as most notoriously exemplified by the French president Emmanuel Macron's pledge to return Africa's cultural patrimony to the continent during his tour of West Africa in 2017 and the impassioned responses sparked by this promise.

We might ask, what happens when demands for a recognition of and active response to histories of colonial violence intersect or become entangled with gestures of cultural diplomacy?  Furthermore, what are some of the practical challenges entailed in cross-national institutional collaborations--such as those between African and European museums--and how might frameworks of diplomacy either help or hinder the process?


We also invite contributors to explore the history and current problems of arts diplomacy oriented and initiated within Africa.  Over the last sixty years, African nations and their leaders have supported a range of cultural festivals, museum projects, and arts-related programs aimed not only at consolidating national identities but also at forging new international relationships and/or positioning their nations at the center of Africa's arts landscape.  Examples range from the pan-African festivals of the mid-twentieth century to very recent museum projects, including the establishment of the Museum of Black Civilizations in Senegal and museums dedicated to contemporary African art in Morocco and South Africa.  How have these projects entailed diplomatic strategies or relationships?  Might they support new forms of neocolonialism within Africa or do they belong to processes of reorienting Africa's arts through new material pathways, political relationships, or systems of value centered in the Globla South or within alternate geopolitical constellations?


Proposals and related questions should be sent directly to Ashley Miller ( (University of Michigan) by 14 January 2020.


Your proposal should include: 1) your name and title; 2) your affiliation (if any); 3) your email; 4) the title of your proposed paper; and 5) an abstract of no more than 100 words.


Further information about registering for the conference and ACASA membership can be found at:


Contact Info: 

Ashley Miller, Ph.D.

Forsyth Post-Doctoral Fellow

History of Art Department, University of Michigan

Contact Email: