Call for papers GAPSYM6 Africa: (post-)development?

Call for papers GAPSYM6 Africa: (post-)development?


For the past decades, the bottom ranks of international indices on
human wellbeing and economic
development have been almost exclusively reserved for sub-Saharan
African countries. By these
standards, Africa remains indeed the most disadvantaged continent in
the current global

To lift Africa out of its ‘underdeveloped’ state, a whole range of
paradigms and approaches have
been developed and put in place, from the modernization model in the
50’s to the current neoliberal
vision of development, spawning a full fledged aid-industry composed
of a diverse range of
international and African public and private actors.

Over the past years, an important shift seems to have taken place in
the dominant paradigm: the
move from a development discourse to a poverty reduction discourse.
This shift is reflected in today’s
dominant approaches: from the PRSP’s (poverty reduction strategy
papers) to the more widely
known MDGs (millennium development goals)

The MDGs have -at least on paper- become the blueprint for most aid
interventions in Africa. They
are hailed for their concrete, indicator-based approach that benefits
planning and monitoring of
interventions and increases accountability of donors and policymakers,
for their multi-dimensional
view on human wellbeing with a focus on social issues as health,
education and gender, and also for
their sensitizing and mobilizing potential to increase political
action to end poverty.
But at the same time the MDG approach has been criticized for
‘depoliticizing’ development in favor
of a more technical, donor driven agenda relying on
results-based-management, with an emphasis of
quantity over quality and, more fundamentally, neglecting complex
structural causes of poverty,
deprivation and inequality. What is more, they seem to have been
misinterpreted as national targets
instead of global targets, which has further reinforced the global
perception of Africa hopelessly
lagging behind. In particular, countries or areas with slow economic
growth, limited economic
opportunities, unequal asset ownership, economic dependency on
small-scale agriculture, high food
insecurity, and proneness to conflict score badly in MDG progress
reports. Furthermore, globalization
of world markets, increased energy prices and food price volatility
make progress even more difficult
to achieve in economic quantitative terms if local agriculture and
industries are not (cap)able to

A parallel evolution, complementing the focus on social sectors of the
MDGs with a more outspoken
economic approach, has been the increased focus on providing access to
financial means as a quick
fix for poverty. Making the poor ‘bankable’ through microfinance
opportunities but also the provision
of direct cash transfers have now become part of the poverty reduction
toolbox in Africa.
During the past decade, both the concepts of development and poverty
reduction seem to face –
alleged?- competition from ‘new challenges’ such as climate change and
ecological degradation.
Climate change mitigation (addressing the causes of climate change)
and adaptation (adjusting to the
impacts of climate change) have rapidly become key issues in
development policies.
Increasingly, the climate adaptation discourse addresses underlying
social vulnerabilities instead of
focusing only on climate impact responses. Enhancing societal
resilience to shocks, and building
adaptive capacity are seen as common objectives of development and
climate adaptation. Yet the
financial resources that will be made available for climate change
adaptation and mitigation, and the
ethical and political discussions about the right to develop and the
recognized need to respect the
boundaries of climate stability, complicate the search for synergies
between development and
climate actions.

At the UN level, discussions on sustainable development goals (SDGs)
as successor for the MDGs in
the framework of the UN’s Rio+20 Conference, can facilitate the search
for common ground.
While in the last years a lively and provocative public debate on the
appropriateness and
effectiveness of aid to Africa has emerged, the discussion on the
concept of development itself in
relation to Africa has been somewhat less prolific, at least outside
the academic world.
Although ownership and participation have become emblematic buzzwords
of the aid industries’
newspeak, concepts as development (and also human rights and good
governance) seem still
informed by universalist assumptions based on Western historic
evolutions and values. Scholars have
however pointed out that African societies have adapted and
transformed these concepts,
developed alternative or hybrid visions and versions of modernity,
more entrenched in local cultural
practices and values. The ways in which African societies are
currently being organized, the ways in
which states are operating, economies function and markets are being
globalised, often seem almost
an anti-thesis of Western standards of development and modernity.
These ‘alternative modernities’ –
-as Africanists have described them- are reflected though alternative
developments characterized by
profound informalisation, parallel economies and hybrid forms of
governance. It remains a serious
challenge to adjust development initiatives to these African realities
occurring along very different
political economic and cultural standards and different notions as
well as practices of development.
Not only economic and social development is at stake here, as the
modernization paradigm was also
applied to the development of African cities. Town planners have
always presupposed that African
cities would develop according to western standards, as a result of
which the city planning was not
adapted to the local context and the needs of the local population. In
many African towns large-scale
projects of urban development were implemented, while disregarding the
fact that urban centres in
Africa might have to serve different purposes. The United Nations
agency UN-HABITAT is now trying
to promote sustainable development by advising urban policy makers,
but also in this regard it is
appropriate to question what kind of development African cities need.

Africa researchers at Ghent University Association are constantly
confronted with these questions
regarding the role of Africa in the debate on development, and this
from a wide range of different

How relevant is an MDG-style approach in order to tackle poverty and
development problems in
Africa? Are quantitative socio-economic indicators justified and/or
useful for indicating (the lack of)
progress? What is the true role of social issues, such as human
rights, health and education in the
development of Africa? Is monetization of the poor making sense? How
relevant are the current
approaches of the development business in the light of the emerging
challenge of adaption to and
mitigation of climate change? Is the prevailing afro-pessimism
justified? Are African societies, cities
or communities undergoing development based on universalist claims or
can we speak of alternative
By organizing an international conference around these themes, we hope
to critically reflect on the
concept of development in Africa, to consider alternatives to the
current discourse on African
development and thus to contribute to the scholarly and public debate.

We welcome contributions which address these issues from various
disciplines and fields, such as
anthropology, urban planning, economics, health studies, education,
history, geography, sociology,
sustainability science etc. from both theoretical as well as more
practical perspectives.

Paper proposals
Paper proposals (max. 300 words, in English or French) should be
submitted before 1 August 2012 to
the GAP secretariat (, mentioning “GAPSYM6 – proposal”.
By 1 October the scientific
committee will notify which papers have been accepted.

Poster presentations
GAPSYM6 offers doctoral students and other researchers the opportunity
to present their research
projects by means of a poster. Posters do NOT have to refer to the
theme of the symposium.
Through these poster presentations GAP seeks to give an overview of
all current, Africa-related
projects and doctoral research at the Ghent University Association.
Researchers who would like to
submit a poster should also send in an abstract of this poster (before
1 August 2012).
The posters (A0 format) should be delivered to the GAP secretariat
(Dominique Godfroid, Ghent
University – ICRH – K4 – 6th Floor – De Pintelaan 185 – 9000 Gent), by
Monday, 26 November 2012.

The 2013 autumn edition of our international and double-blind
peer-reviewed journal Afrika Focus
will largely be devoted to the theme of GAPSYM6. Regular speakers as
well as guest speakers are
invited to submit their papers for publication in this special issue
of Afrika Focus. The deadline for
submitting the manuscript is 20 December 2012. If, after peer-review,
the paper is accepted, it will
be published by December 2013. For submission guidelines, see

Keynote speakers/panellists
Raymond Bush (School of Politics and International Studies, University
of Leeds, UK)
Miriam Were (National AIDS Control Council (NACC) Kenya)
Tanya Cox (Beyond2015 campaign) – to be confirmed
Veronique Jacobs (World Bank, Belgium) – to be confirmed
Joseph Vyankandondera (Ghent University) – to be confirmed

Scientific Committee — GAPSYM6
Koenraad Bogaert, Kristien Michielsen, Tomas Van Acker, Karen Buscher,
Gillian Mathys, Jean Hugé,
Patrick Van Damme, Annelies Verdoolaege.
GAP secretariat
Dominique Godfroid
Ghent University
ICRH – K4 – 6th Floor
De Pintelaan 185
B-9000 Ghent

Kim De Raedt

PhD student
Department of Architecture & Urban Planning
Faculty of Engineering & Architecture
Ghent University

Jozef Plateaustraat 22, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
tel. +32[0]9 264 39 25 – gsm. +32[0]498 04 99 78


About African Interdisciplinary Studies Association Website

Prof. Maurice Nyamanga Amutabi is President of African Interdisciplinary Studies Association (AISA), a pioneer professional associaiton bringing together members from all disciplines in Africa and abroad. He is a former Fulbright Scholar who previously worked as Deputy Vice Chancellor at Kisii University and also Director of Research and Professor in Peace and Strategic Studies at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), 2010-2013. He has previously taught at Central Washington University, USA (2005-2010) in African Studies Programme and Moi University (1992-2000) in the Department of Development Studies and other public universities in Kenya. Prof. Amutabi holds a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA in History and African Studies. He received his B.A (Hons) in 1989 in Political Science and History and M.A in 1991 from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Maurice Amutabi is co-editor of Regime Change and Succession Politics in Africa: Five Decades of Misrule (with Shadrack Wanjala Nasong’o) – in 2013. Amutabi also co-edited Africa after Fifty Years: Retrospections and Reflections (with Toyin Falola and Sylvester Gundona) in 2012. Amutabi is the author of The NGO Factor in Africa: The Case of Arrested Development in Kenya (New York: Routledge, 2006). Amutabi is co-author of Nationalism and Democracy for People-Centered Development in Africa (Moi University Press, 2000). He has also co-authored Foundations of Adult Education in Africa (Cape Town/Hamburg: Pearson/UNESCO, 2005). He has written two novels, Because of Honor (a novel on Islam in Africa) and These Good People (a novel on corruption in Africa). Amutabi is also the author of Nakhamuma Stories (a collection of short stories from the Abaluyia community of western Kenya). His chapters have appeared in over thirty books. His articles have appeared in several refereed and reputable journals such as African Studies Review, African Contemporary Cultural Studies, Canadian Journal of African Studies, International Journal of Educational Development; and Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. Amutabi has made presentations at over one hundred national and international conferences. Amutabi is the Vice-President of the Kenya Studies and Scholars’ Association (KESSA), Kenya’s premier research and academic organization. He is the editor-in-chief of Kenya Studies Review and Eastern Africa Journal of Humanities and Sciences. Prof. Amutabi has conducted extensive research on many issues of development. He has taught courses on peace and conflict and gender and development. He teaches in the PhD and Masters Programme in the Institute of Peace and Security Studies at Kisii University. He enjoys blogging and writing and is an avid sports fan, but does not support any of team, preferring to support the team that plays well.
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