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ASA team to present work at BISA conference

Julia Gallagher, Daniel Mulugeta and Innocent Batsani-Ncube will present work at the next British International Studies Association conference in Newcastle in June.

Their papers are part of an ASA-organised panel on ‘Finding and making power in unusual places: postcolonial institution and identity-building in Africa’.

Gallagher looks at how South African citizens experience the state through buildings. Batsani-Ncube and Daniel explores the AU’s instrumentalisation of sport to build institutional power. The third paper will be given by Laura Routley from the University of Newcastle, and explores prison ruins in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

The full panel programme is below. Full details of the BISA conference are here.

Finding and making power in unusual places

postcolonial institution and identity-building in Africa

Colonial structures are physically built-in parts of life across the African continent. But this doesn’t mean it is impossible to carve out spaces of postcolonial power within, around, from and through them. This panel explores some of the unusual spaces where political power is created – through imagination, political instrumentalism and physical encounter.

Reckoning with Ruins: Colonial Carceral Debris in Africa

Laura Routley, Senior Lecturer Newcastle University

What are the politics of the debris (Stoler 2013) of colonialism? This paper examines sites of colonial incarceration in Africa and their afterlives. Prisons and carceral practices were central to colonialism globally and to colonial control in Africa. Whilst many if not most colonial era prisons endure as prisons, the functions of others have altered. This paper explores a number of these re-purposed sites and the memory politics that is entangled with the afterlives of these sites and indeed with the processes of repurposing.

The paper examines several sites from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. It explores the role of the built infrastructure of the site in the memory politics which surround these carceral histories. Drawing on work from memory studies, architecture and carceral geography it interrogates how the materiality of the sites can and should be incorporated into the analysis of the role these sites play in the production of identities, the creation of a senses of place in the world and the narration of imagined futures. In so doing the paper highlights the ways in which colonial debris shapes contemporary struggles.

The politics of sport governance architecture in Africa: the case of the Supreme Council of Sport in Africa (SCSA)

Innocent Batsani-Ncube, Post Doctoral Researcher, SOAS, University of London

Daniel Mulugeta, Lecturer African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham,

This paper explores how the OAU/AU has deliberately used sport as a political instrument to give institutional power to itself and shape to the idea of the continent. In 1966 the OAU established the Supreme Council of Sport in Africa (SCSA) as a specialised agency tasked with coordinating the African Sport Movement and leveraging sport in the decolonisation struggles. The AU continues to provide political leadership to the sport movement through the department of sport and the African Union Sport Council. However, there is limited academic research that documents this aspect of the OAU and AU work, in particular to explain the nature and impact of these organisations’ influence on the African sport movement. Drawing on archival records obtained from the Olympic studies centre in Lausanne, OAU and AU official documents, this paper explores the historical development of the sport governance architecture in Africa through the case study of the SCSA. We also analyse the SCSA’s direct and indirect contribution to nation-making and wider pan-African solidarity and African diplomacy. We trace genesis of the SCSA, its work, key actors, recognition battles with the International Olympic Committee, role in the formation of the Association of National Olympic Committee of Africa (ANOCA) in 1983, eventual dissolution in 2013 and its legacy challenges in the contemporary African sport governance architecture.

Making sense of the state: citizens and state buildings in South Africa

Julia Gallagher, Professor of African Politics SOAS, University of London

Drawing on the example of postcolonial South Africa, this paper explores how the state, an incoherent and opaque set of ideas, discourses and relationships, is made into a ‘thing’ by its citizens. It describes how citizens encounter the state physically when they see, hear, touch and smell its buildings and how these different sensory engagements generate thoughts and impressions that help them make and unmake the state-thing. The argument is made first theoretically, drawing on work from architecture, cultural geography and urban studies on sensory engagements with buildings; and then empirically through an analysis of South African citizens’ accounts of their engagements with state buildings, drawing on focus group discussions in urban centres and observations of state buildings in action. It finds that the state is reified through citizens’ ability to think and feel their way from material form to idea, using sight to produce abstractions and metaphors, and the haptic senses to connect to personal memory and fantasy. This layered account of the state, described in South Africa through the analogy of the face-brick, constitutes the making and unmaking of the state-thing that illustrates a deep but ambivalent involvement in it.


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