Researching Africa Day: Studying Africa, Studying Anywhere: Area Studies for an Interconnected World

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Conveners: Yuzhou Sun, Eleanor Beevor and Dan Paget

Researching Africa Day is an annual one-day conference held by the African Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. At Researching Africa Day, the best graduate students from all over the United Kingdom and beyond come to present their research within the domain of African studies, research from every part of the social sciences and humanities. This graduate conference not only presents new research, but connects young researchers to each other. Researching Africa Day 2017 also offers an optional workshop on post-graduate careers. A selection of academics and practitioners across government and the civil service will offer their advice to small groups in a participatory workshop.

The title for the Researching Africa Day 2017 is held on the theme of Studying Africa, Studying Anywhere: Area Studies for an Interconnected World.


To attend the Researching Africay Day 2017, please register on Eventbrite The deadline to register is 21 February.


Africanists study subjects that are not just African. Some examine phenomena that by their very nature cross continents, or transcend them. Most study phenomena that occur at multiple sites, some in Africa, some elsewhere. Students of these subjects often find that their research has several possible homes. Their work at once belongs to one or more schools of area studies, and to one or more disciplines that are delineated by subject matter, not regional boundaries. This conference is dedicated to the challenges of doing research that crosses these academic domains.

Researchers on subjects that straddle area studies and global disciplines must choose how to frame their research to the academy. One approach is to choose to present one’s work as part of one discipline above others. Another is to address one’s research to several disciplines at once. Yet another still is to defy disciplinary boundaries altogether. Whichever path a researcher takes, she chooses not only how she presents her work, but how she presents herself as an academic. These choices of framing have ramifications for every part of the researcher’s work: the concepts she develops, the methods she employs, the distance she travels from particular to general, the cases that she studies, and the routes to publication that she takes. In an interconnected world in which so many phenomena cross borders, and become alike across contexts, these challenges of orientation are ever more pressing for the researcher.

However the researcher navigates these challenges, she grapples with convention and the unconventional. Conventions in academic disciplines are restrictive; they limit the realm of possibilities to the researcher. They are also malleable; the skilled researcher can bend and shape convention to their purpose. Disciplinary conventions provide a point of comparison against which researchers can define themselves in accordance or contradiction. These questions of convention also provide a lens into the virtue of areas studies, the potential of pitfalls of studying ‘Africa’ and questions of African uniqueness.

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