Thinking the human through Africa: Epistemological debates

Which ideas and/or concepts are vital for thinking the human through Africa? If modern histories of colonialism exposed the contradictions at the core of Enlightenment affirmations of a shared human nature, late (post)modernity have also blighted efforts to establish peaceful, dignified and mutually respectful modes of living. What does it mean to be human in Africa and/or African in the world? What alternatives remain to imagine the human from Africa, and how can African epistemologies contribute to thinking the human globally?

This HUMA-ASAA series of debates leading up to the ASAA 2022 Biennial Conference aims to provoke pertinent questions and stir ideological debates about the ethics of being human in Africa and being African in the world today. The discussions are organised around key pillars that allow us to move from everyday ideas to analytical concepts.

Format: The seminars are being held once a month, convening two scholars in conversation around an epistemological question, followed by a Q&A session.

Coming up


Tue, 28 Sep 2021

19:00 – 20:30 SAST (GMT + 2:00)
Zoom Webinar

Meeting ID: 974 2879 9006
Passcode: 117117

Postcolonial African feminisms

Speakers: Sylvia Bawa and Yolande Bouka

Sylvia Bawa

Sylvia Bawa is Associate Professor of Sociology at York University, Canada. Her research examines discourses of empowerment, decolonization, human rights, culture and critical development. With a specific focus on women’s rights and empowerment in Africa, her work examines the ways in which historical forces and events shape orthodox conceptions of empowerment, resulting in the production of distorted images and identities of African women in development discourse. Among others, her publications on these topics have been published in journals such as Third World QuarterlyAfrican IdentitiesQualitative Report, Development in PracticeJournal of African LawCanadian Journal of African Studies, chapters in the International Human Rights of Women, and The Palgrave Handbook of African Women’s Studies (Springer Major Reference Works Series).

With a PhD from Queen’s University, Dr Bawa is currently the principal investigator or co-investigator on the following Partnership development projects, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)Research/Dissemination Network on Canada’s Human Rights Role in Sub-Saharan Africa (CARRISSA)Confronting Atrocity: Truth Commissions, National Reconciliation and the Politics of Memory; and the GMO 2.0 Partnership

Yolande Bouka

Yolande Bouka is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Studies at Queen’s University, Canada. She is a scholar-practitioner of peace and conflict whose research and teaching focus on state-society relations, political violence, gender, and field research ethics in sub-Saharan Africa. She holds a PhD in International Relations from American University. Her current research is a multi-sited historical and political analysis of female combatants in Southern Africa; she is also a co-investigator on a project exploring the micro-dynamics of political protests in Africa. Her research has received support from the Fulbright Scholar Program, the American Association of University Women, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). She currently serves on the advisory board of the Diaspora Program of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and the editorial advisory boards of Africa Development and the Canadian Journal of African Studies.

Past sessions


Tue, 29 Jun 2021

19:00 – 20:30 SAST (GMT + 2:00)
Zoom Webinar

Feminism, modernity and being human in contemporary Africa

Speakers: Desiree Lewis and S.N. Nyeck

Desiree Lewis is a professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. She has published numerous articles, essays and book chapters in the fields of African feminist politics and scholarship, South African cultural studies, black women’s writing and, more recently, food as material culture. She has held fellowships and visiting professor positions in Germany, the US and Sweden. Currently the lead PI of an intra-institutional Mellon Programme titled “Critical Food Studies: Transdisciplinary Humanities Approaches to Food”, she is the author of Living on a Horizon: Bessie Head and the Politics of Imagining (Africa World Press, 2007) and, more recently, Surfacing: On Being Black and Feminist in South Africa (Wits University Press, 2021), co-edited with Gabeba Baderoon.

S.N. Nyeck is visiting scholar at the Vulnerability and Human Condition Initiative at Emory University, United States and a Research Associate with the Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation (CriSHET) at the Nelson Mandela University, South Africa. Her upcoming book, African(a) Queer Presence: Ethics and Politics of Negotiation (Palgrave, 2021), develops a grounded ethics for negotiating queerness in Africa and Diaspora. Her other books in this line of research are Routledge Handbook of Queer African Studies (Routledge, 2019) and, with Marc Epprecht, Sexual Diversity in Africa: Politics, Theory and Citizenship (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013).