Anthropology in Southern Africa, and beyond: Connections & Transformations

Hosted by University of the Western Cape, South Africa

31 August – 3 September 2008


 The 2008 annual conference of Anthropology Southern Africa called on scholars and graduate students of Anthropology to rethink the relationships between anthropological practices within the Southern African sub-region, the wider African context, and globally. The organisers were particularly interested in contributions that explored relations among and between anthropologists and "anthropologies of the South", with reference to the 1997 debate in Critique of Anthropology, and more recently, to the World Anthropologies Network (WAN) (Ribeiro & Escobar 2006).

Within the Southern African sub-region, at the beginning of the 21st century Anthropology faces wide-ranging challenges as a discipline which has a long history of grappling with the sub-region's social and political issues, including, among others, social anthropology's critical engagement with segregation and apartheid in South Africa, or the urbanization studies carried out in South Africa and on the Zambian copperbelt from the 1930s onwards.

Central challenges of postcolonial transformation, and anthropological research in the region include the re-negotiation of culture and social relations in the aftermath of large-scale political violence and war in several countries, public culture, and the postcolonial state. We note that postcolonial social, cultural and political transformations have taken distinct shape and routes in the sub-region's various countries, as is evident from the diverse approaches their political and social actors have taken to addressing contemporary issues such as HIV & Aids, land restitution and redistribution, human rights, poverty, the politics of indigeneity and Africanization, chiefs and democracy, public memory, reconciliation and truth commissions, gender and sexuality, globalization, cities in transition, translocal and transnational migration, ethnicity, race, and nationalism.

The Keynote was given by James Ferguson, Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. Professor Ferguson has conducted extensive research and published works on several countries in the Southern African region, including Lesotho, Zambia, and most recently South Africa.