Conference: African-Asian Encounters III: Afrasian Transformations: Beyond Grand Narratives?

28. September 2016 to 30. September 2016
Goethe University Frankfurt
Across various disciplines, our understanding of African-Asian interactions and their transformative potential has been significantly shaped by grand narratives and theoretical frameworks. The Global South, postcolonialism, the Indian Ocean World or China’s Scramble for Africa are routinely invoked to understand African-Asian encounters, as are different notions of development, area studies or transregionalism. These epistemological lenses have informed our perspectives and generated important insights, but they have also created significant blind spots. For instance, restricting the focus of attention to Chinese agency shifts attention away from other Asian (and African) actors. Many scholars working on the Indian Ocean emphasize connectivity but pay little attention to conflict and boundary making. Concepts such as the Global South or postcolonialism highlight a common past of oppression and resistance, but it is by no means certain whether that past can serve as secure orientation for the present and the future. The intricate small and large Afrasian stories of transformation that we encounter in our research often seem to strain against the limits imposed by the grand narratives we habitually come across in our fields of expertise. Coming to terms with Afrasian transformations in the social world may indeed involve a challenge to revise the theoretical frameworks that inform our own work.
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