• Forum 5

Views of Asia from Africa

Introduction

As part of the A-ASIA – ICAS international conference Asian Studies in Africa: Challenges and Prospects of a New Axis of Intellectual Interaction (University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, 24-26 September 2015), IIAS, co-organizer of the conference, will run two important consecutive and complementary roundtables. The first half-day interactive discussion will focus on Asia through an African Lens: Rethinking the Discourse on Asian Studies. The second will address concrete ways to move Towards a Sustainable Model of Asian Studies in Africa.

The two roundtables are part of a trans-regional research-led network entitled “Rethinking Asian Studies in a Global Context,” for which IIAS received support from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, New York. This exploratory program seeks to link new strands of research and pedagogy on a revisited – “de-centered” - knowledge of Asia by connecting humanities scholars and practitioners from Asia, the Americas, Europe, and Africa.

Background

Since 2010, IIAS and other partners from Asia, Africa, Europe and the U.S., have been working to conceptualize a capacity-building initiative to promote the teaching and study of Asia in African universities and, correspondingly, of African Studies in Asia. The objective is to help establish a humanities-grounded axis of knowledge production about Africa-Asia that can develop on its own intellectual and programmatic terms while in close connection with academic centers in other parts of the world. An initial workshop was organized in Lusaka, Zambia (9-11. November, 2012) to explore ways in which Africa-Asia interactions can be analyzed in a systematic scholarly manner. One outcome of the meeting was the establishment of the Association of Asian Studies in Africa (A-ASIA), whose inaugural conference will be the events of September 24-26, 2015, in Accra. 

The two proposed roundtables under the Rethinking Asian Studies in a Global Context program seek to situate the Asia-Africa academic axis within the larger realm of the study of Asia, including the role of academic institutions in the North and West. The first roundtable addresses the transformation of the study of Asia from a Western-centered model to an Africa-Asia and global initiative; the second discusses the steps necessary to create a sustainable model of Asian Studies within African academic and societal contexts. Invited participants will first discuss what is needed to shape an autonomous intellectual field of Asian studies on the African continent. They will then be asked to recommend specific measures to define a curriculum on and with Asia for development in various African countries.