The state is a central concept for the study of power, domination, and socio-political change across the social sciences. Its usefulness is however contested (Abrams 1988), especially in African contexts where the Eurocentric ideal-type of the state stands in marked contrast to political realities on the ground. This raises a number of crucial questions: Through what concepts can one grasp the prominent role of trans- and international connections, networks, and NGOs that influence what statehood stands for? What is the territoriality of the state in view of the importance of transnational social spaces? How are the physical and/or discursive boundaries of states contested, changed, and reenforced in the context of migration? How can general concepts like boundaries and networks advance an understanding of politics that goes beyond both Eurocentric universalism and Africanist exceptionalism? And what are the implications of such theoretical considerations for development and peacebuilding practitioners working in Africa?
To address these timely questions among young researchers working on Africa, an international consortium of research institutes in Basel, Freiburg im Breisgau, and Strasbourg is organising three consecutive one-day workshops dealing with particular topics in this debate. In each workshop, leading scholars of international standing will present their research and discuss workshop participants’ papers and presentations. The workshops will provide doctoral candidates and postdoctoral researchers, as well as outstanding MA students, with an opportunity for a thematically focused exchange across the fields of political science, sociology, history, African studies, anthropology, international relations, and peace and conflict studies. The goal is to advance fresh analytical perspectives and methodological reflection, making links to concrete cases, and to provide one another with constructive feedback on ongoing research projects.