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Architecture and IR: call for papers for Accra workshop

Architecture in Africa’s International Relations

Workshop organised by the Institute for African Studies, University of Ghana, the African Futures Institute and the African State Architecture project, SOAS, University of London

Accra, 17-20 September 2022

Call for papers

This workshop is aimed at scholars working on architecture and/or international politics in Africa, and interested in exploring the connections between the two. Participants will have opportunities to present draft papers in small-group discussions, and to further develop their thinking through reading others’ work, architectural site visits around Accra and networking with architects and politics scholars.

It follows a highly successful workshop on ‘Politics and Architecture’ held in Johannesburg in 2019. The Accra workshop will see the launch of the book that emerged from that workshop, Architecture and Politics in Africa: making, living and imagining identities through buildings, edited by Joanne Tomkinson, Daniel Mulugeta and Julia Gallagher (Oxford: James Currey).

We hope at the end of this workshop to draw a selection of papers into an edited collection aimed at raising the profile of African Architecture and IR.

We welcome contributions from scholars at any stage of their career.

Travel, accommodation and subsistence costs will be met, and logistics support provided for visa applications where necessary.


Buildings are often associated with domestic politics – as expressions of power or identity – but many also play an important role in international relationships. For example, architecture can be used to project a country abroad – through airports which are the first sight visitors get, in sports stadiums televised in international events, and in embassy buildings which act as state proxies in foreign capitals. There are also more nebulous uses of architecture in the international spread of norms and ideas, seen for example in the ways aesthetics and techniques are taken up and adapted in different contexts, carrying with them ideas of culture and expertise from one part of the world to another.

Many African capital cities seem full of buildings that have been erected by foreign powers – during the colonial period or gifted as part of soft power or development projects – which can make the continent appear particularly susceptible to architectural influences from the outside. But the influence works both ways, with high-profile African architects, styles and techniques impacting the ways architecture works around the world.

Many of us who work on politics, architecture or both deal with one or more of these themes, but rarely are we able to look systematically at the role of architecture in IR. This workshop aims to do this, bringing together scholars working on architecture, politics and international relations within and beyond Africa. It aims for disciplinary and geographical breadth, seeking to put a variety of methodological, empirical and theoretical approaches to African architecture into conversation with each other, to share work and develop new ideas and approaches.

Examples of possible themes:

· Architecture as diplomacy

· Architecture and soft power

· African influences on world architecture

· Colonial architectural legacies

· Architecture in development

· The import/adaptation of architectural aesthetics

· Diaspora influences

· Chinese influences

· African starchitects

· Architecture and existing urbanisms

· Africa’s new cities and Afropolitanism

· Architecture without borders

How to apply

Please send a 200-word abstract and your CV to by the closing date of Tuesday, 15 March 2022.

Successful applicants will be notified in early April.

Draft papers will need to be delivered for circulation by 1 August 2022.

If you have any questions about the workshop, please contact Julia Gallagher at

We look forward to welcoming you to Accra.


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