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EIB (Prof. Dr. Ralph Weber) organizes International Workshop in Cameroon

“European Concepts for African Realities – Problem or Not?” was the topic of a conference organised by the EIB in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The event took place from November 19 to 23 at the Faculty of Arts, Letters and Social Sciences of the Université de Yaoundé I in Cameroon.

The workshop sought to discuss the use of concepts and preconceived ideas in the context of research on the African continent. The first two days featured lectures by a distinguished group of scholars: Charles Romain Mbele (Yaoundé), Nkolo Foé (Yaoundé), Helen Ntonifor (Yaoundé), Anatole Fogou (Maroua) and Ralph Weber (Basel). The highlight was a keynote delivered by Paulin J. Hountondji from the Université Nationale du Bénin in Cotonou on the topic: “Whom are you addressing? Reshuffling Concepts in View of one's Public”. The last two days were then entirely devoted to the doctoral and post-doctoral researchers, who not only presented short papers on the workshop topic, but also chaired and managed the various sessions. Elisio Macamo (Basel) concluded the workshop with a webinar on the topic “Translating Black-Boxes: The Social Sciences and Africa”.

The workshop provided participants with the opportunity to seek ways of overcoming persistent issues and perceptions in the social sciences and humanities that privilege radical alterity. As a conversation on the use of concepts in an African context, the project explored the merits and challenges of straddling disciplinary frontiers. It also analysed ways of foregrounding the intersubjective and the co-productive in the representations of social reality. While rigid prescriptive gazes in the study of the African continent have been critiqued, such critique has not always resulted in new more accommodating modes of knowledge production. The workshop encouraged participants to move beyond critique by pointing to creative and innovative alternatives on how to think, practice and teach the issue of conceptual research in anthropology, sociology and philosophy in and of the African continent.

From the EIB, Xu Zhenxu and Martin Beckstein participated in the workshop. Ralph Weber was responsible for the overall organization (together with Nkolo Foé from the Université de Yaoundé I). The workshop was financially supported by the Swiss-African Research Cooperation (SARECO).

Impressions from the workshop: