Southern African Anthropological Futures: Opportunities and Constraints 

2012 Annual Conference
University of Cape Town
Friday 31 August – Monday 3 September 2012

Southern Africa was, in many ways, a significant crucible for the early twentieth century construction of especially British Social Anthropology; and it remains a research area of significant concern for some leading contemporary anthropologists based in the USA and in various parts of Europe, whilst others from elsewhere are now beginning also to undertake research here.  Within the region, the early disciplinary leaders’ global presence gave way to a longish period during which the few who were most active in the discipline tended not to publish extensively with the result that that presence declined – other that is than amongst those who left the region.  Yet that is no longer the case and, despite the still relatively small cohort of anthropologists in the region at present, there is an ever increasing range of work being produced with much of it having a global reach, and there are ever larger numbers of postgraduate students completing dissertations and theses within the discipline at local universities.

The conference aims primarily to provide an opportunity for students, recent ex-students and staff to showcase their work and provide indication as to the future directions of the discipline.  It also aims to identify and consider the constraints that protagonists in the discipline are likely to face as local academic institutions restructure, as disciplinary boundaries are rethought and as the local socio-political context in which much research is conducted increasingly creates potential for social upheaval and conflict – even while there is an ever increasing presence of anthropologists from elsewhere treating parts or the whole of the region as an ethnographic fieldwork site. 

Questions that the conference intends to answer: 

  • What are the most important themes that anthropologists in the region are likely to address over the next two decades, and how will addressing them relate to present-day disciplinary concerns in the region?
  • To what extent do the major contemporary contributions to the discipline in the region provide a useful springboard for future work, and to what extent might the kinds of analysis they offer impede the possibilities for new disciplinary perspectives to be developed?
  • Might development of such new perspectives provide a springboard for anthropology coming out of the region to demonstrate the global value of ‘theory from the south’, and how might that occur?
  • What opportunities are open to contemporary and especially to newly emerging anthropologists in southern Africa to enable them to develop such new perspectives and thereby to make a global impact?
  • How should local anthropologists and anthropology students attempt to relate to their peers from abroad as some of the latter locate themselves in the region to do their fieldwork?
  • In what respects and how might development of anthropology as practised in southern Africa be constrained by academic institutional restructuring and in what respects might that process provide previously unimagined opportunities?
  • How might we make Anthropology a better known discipline among prospective university students?


Start and End of Conference:

Although the schedule is subject to change, registration will likely take place between 11am and 1:30 pm on Friday 31 August and the conference will likely finish at 12:30 followed by lunch and departures.

Call for Paper Proposals:

The conference organisers call for paper proposals that address the broad theme of the conference and that take particular cognisance of the above series of questions. While there is no restriction on either conceptual/theoretical or ethnographic focus, proposals should explicitly address the issue of anthropology’s future in southern Africa.

PANEL SUBMISSIONS: The deadline for panel submission has now closed.

PAPER PROPOSALS: Deadline for submission of paper proposals is 15 July 2012

Paper proposals should comprise a title and an abstract (up to 100 words) and, if intended for a panel, they should indicate the panel title.


Conference Information and Resources on Vula:

Information and news about the conference will be posted on Vula, UCT’s online collaboration and learning site. This is great space for conference participants to interact and access useful resources! 

All ASnA members will be automatically added to VULA. 

If you are not an ASnA member and wish to join Vula to receive conference information and useful resources, email: Please provide your name and affiliation.

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Additional Information:

Paula Hay (Conference Organizer)