Conferences & Events

For events from 2017, please see the NEWS section.

Presentation at States of Circulation workshop

November 3, 2016

Workhop on infrastructure and politics of circulation at the Danish Institute of International Studies, 3-4 November 2016. With Brenda Chalfin, Michael Watts, Luis Lobo-Guerrero, AFRIGOS and many others. Organised by Peer Schouten, Finn Stepputat (both DIIS) and Jan Bachmann (Global Studies, University of Gotenburg).


7 June 2016

Presentation at Political Geography chairgroup, Department of Geography, University of Zuerich

7 May 2016

Workshop: “The Politics of the Corporation”

School of African and Oriental Studies, SOAS (London)

For several decades, it has been widely assumed in both policy and scholarship that private forms of social ordering are better than public ones, which has almost always translated into an increased corporate presence in diverse economic, social, cultural and political domains. Despite ample evidence of their importance and centrality to world politics across a wide range of policy domains and issue areas, corporations are often naturalised in scholarship, as in policy debate, as simply an efficient form of economic organisation. A 'folk theory' of the corporation, derived from common sense liberal assumptions about the nature of the economy and its elements, typically substitutes for an explicit theory of the corporation and its behaviour.

Scholars have been invited from sociology, economics, politics and law working on both conceptual and theoretical aspects of the corporation as well as particular issue areas and policy domains. Through collective engagement we hope to develop a vocabulary for talking about and analysing the corporate form as well as a shared picture of its practices and effects. The longer term goal of the workshop is to establish the basis for sustained collaborative research and engagement across disciplines.

Dr. Jana Hönke will present at the workshop.

Organizers: Mark Laffey, Suthaharan Nadarajah and Vinothini Kanapathipillai, Department of Politics and International Studies/Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS, University of London


27 April 2016

Seminar: "Natural resources and infrastructure investments in Africa"

Danish Institute for International Studies, DIIS



Despite falling commodity prices, investments into the extraction of natural resources in Africa continue, albeit at a slower pace. Not only are new mining and oil/gas projects potential sources of revenues for governments. Across the continent they are also linked to large-scale infrastructure projects, often providing the funding for these projects, with important implications for landscapes and livelihoods. By activating and connecting political actors in new ways, from the local to the global, these infrastructural investments reshape existing political orderings.

Through presentations of analytical perspectives and empirical case studies this seminar aims to shed light on an emerging research field.


Jana Hoenke, Assistant Professor, University of Groningen (currently, at the University of Edinburgh)

Joshua Kirshner, Lecturer in Human Geography, University of York

Lars Buur, Associate professor, Roskilde University

Morten Blomqvist, Senior Governance Adviser, Oxfam Ibis

Rasmus Hundsbæk Pedersen, Postdoc, DIIS


28 April 2016

Presentation: "Protecting infrastructure: The global making of hybrid security in Africa"

Roskilde Universitet

Speaker: Jana Hönke, Assistant Professor & Rosalind Franklin Fellow. IRIO/Faculty of Arts/University of Groningen. The author of (2013), Transnational Companies and Security Governance. Hybrid Practices in a Postcolonial World, London: Routledge.


The recent international investment boom in ports, roads, mines and pipelines in Africa poses seemingly old questions anew: How is infrastructure secured and what are the implications of the related security practices? Direct delegation of rule over territory to multinational companies, as in the past, is rare today. However, the prerogative to secure transnational transport hubs and business operations still significantly shapes security governance on the continent. Transnational assemblages of security professionals, standards and technologies shape what is considered a security issue, how security is practiced and to what effect. At the same time, norm entrepreneurs promote companies as agents of peace arguing that they spread liberal global governance to the global peripheries. Despite these normative assumptions, however, large-scale infrastructure projects remain entangled with violent practices. Some is highly visible, such as clashes over rights of access to resources, mobility, or resettlement; other violence is hidden, such as with surveillance technology or electronic border controls which influence how people’s potential is actualised. Against binary conceptions according to which local African disorder hybridizes global orderly practices it will be argued that violent security practices are truly globally made: agents of capitalism – including site managers and private security professionals – co-constitute violent practices regardless of, even legitimized by, norms of corporate (security) responsibility that give rise to new forms of social control. Research on mining MNCs in the DRC and on the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania will be used to support this argument.


27 January and 10 February 2016

Mini-Workshop-Series "New political geographies: transnational actors, conflict and resistance"

University of Marburg

October 2015

New Centre for Security Research (CeSeR) launched at the University of Edinburgh

CeSeR is an interdisciplinary centre that aims to promote and link diverse forms of security research across disciplines. It connects the increasing number of University of Edinburgh researchers who work on security, from Social and Political Science, Law, Business, Psychology, Informatics, Divinity, History, Geoscience, Engineering, and elsewhere. CeSeR is based in Politics and International Relations in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh and was established in 2015.

'Business, Security and large-scale economic infrastructures' is one of the research themes in the centre.

Visit the CeSeR website for updates and events.

23-26 September 2015

Conference paper - "Of ports, mines and pipelines. The contested political geographies of large-scale economic infrastructures"

9th Pan-European Conference, European International Studies Association

SC21: Sites and Spaces of Violent Order-making

Chair: Jan Bachmann, University of Gothenburg

Discussant: Jan Bachmann, University of Gothenburg

  • Buffer areas as spaces of connections and identification: the centrality of regional borderlands in the Sahara and the Caucasus - Luca Raineri, Alessandra Russo Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Italy
  • Of ports, mines and pipelines. The contested political geographies of large-scale economic infrastructures -Jana Hoenke University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Organisation without organisations - criminality, coping & resistance in the Sahel periphery -Morten Bøås NUPI, Norway
  • Reshaping landscapes of violence: the role of forests in conflict and peacebuilding processes in Colombia - Markus Lederer , Linda Wallbott, University of Muenster, Germany

More info: Conference website

16-19 June 2015, London

Workshop - "Beyond the Gatekeeper state? IR perspectives on African states in the 21st century"

BISA 2015 Conference, London

This workshop will bring together scholars to explore if the concept of ‘gatekeeper states’ (Cooper, 2002) – i.e. states where politics and economics remain focused about the logic of ‘extraversion’ (Bayart, 2000) – remains salient in today’s African state system. It aims to initiate the production of analytical frameworks for exploring current transformations in African states and state system, and their position within the wider international system. Through drawing together a range of empirical studies and theoretical approaches, we seek to stimulate debate and learning between IR scholars to discuss the implications of recent changes to state forms and resource flows for our understanding of states and state systems in Africa.

Beyond the gatekeeper state?

Fred Cooper’s identification of colonial and post-colonial states as ‘gate-keeper’ states remains an influential paradigm for thinking about African states, their relationships with external forces as well as domestic interests (Cooper, 2002). Cooper emphasized the extent to which colonial states had been designed to maximize and control resource flows in and out of ports and capital cities. The colonial revenue imperative (Young, 1994, 2012) profoundly shaped the infrastructure and institutions of Africa's states, and was rarely transformed after independence. The ‘gatekeeper’ model has proved particularly useful because it identifies the distinctive linkages between politics and economics in African states. Perhaps most usefully, it identifies structural and historical features of states which lead to similar outcomes in African states, while avoiding overly personalised or cultural interpretations that focuses on 'extraversion' sometimes generate (Bayart, 2000; Clapham, 1996). By focusing on the intersection between the ‘internal’ and ‘external’, Cooper’s characterization of the Gatekeeper state also enables an analysis of the ways in which African states particular insertion into the international political and economic system shaped the formation of the state itself. However, IR scholarship has been documenting change in both internal and external aspects of statehood in Africa. Most obvious in the media have been reports of new external revenue streams, such as investments from China, India and Brazil, as well as renewed and increased aid flows in certain sectors. Coupled with the effects of cell-phones and social media, old political strategies for maintaining control are losing traction. Since the end of the Cold War states have also experienced pressures on them to reform in terms of liberalization and transparency, especially with a focus on government income (taxation) and expenditure. Does the #AfricaRising paradigm and the claimed growth of an African middle class further challenge the assumptions of the gatekeeper state model? At the same time, we are also seeing the transformation of governance on the continent with shifts in power and monopolies of violence away from the state. Our fundamental question is: Are African states developing new state forms in response to a changing mode of insertion into the international system? Or does the gatekeeper state model remain dominant despite these shifts? And if so, what are the implications for theoretical innovation and model-building within IR approaches to the African state. What also are the implications for politics and policy within Africa and for outside actors?


  • Jana Hoenke (Edinburgh) ‘Sites of experimentation: Renegotiating political topographies around FDI and nodes of global transport in Africa.’
  • Carl Death (Manchester): ‘Green States in Africa: Explaining similarities and differences’
  • Stefan Andreasson (QUB): ‘New energy producers in sub-Saharan Africa: beyond the “gatekeeper” state’
  • Elizabeth Cobbett (UEA): ‘Gateway economies and state control on global capital investments’
  • Respondent: Tim Shaw (UMB) or Sara Rich Dorman (Edinburgh)

9 July 2015

Panel - "New political topographies? Economic Infrastructures and the Transnational Politics of Scale"

ECAS 2015 Conference, Paris

  • Convenors: Jana Hönke and Brenda Chalfin

This panel investigates the political topographies of large-scale economic infrastructures such as oil and mining installations, free trade and transit zones such as ports, communication hubs and private security networks in Africa. Around the ports of Luanda and Djibouti, or oil and mining operations in the Niger Delta and Katanga, multifaceted transnational assemblages of governance and resistance have emerged. Similarly, special economic zones decentralize command and control of rules, revenue and commodities, and inscribe these new relations in space, such as at Chambishi or Mombasa. Across the continent, satellite and digital relays foster commerce as well as surveillance. Such political topographies are at once physical and virtual, backed by force and cultural codes. Exploring them, the panel addresses what we gain from studying political order, sovereignty, and transnational regulatory reconfigurations through looking at their inscription in specific economic infrastructures. Our propositions are that economic infrastructures allow us to better understand political orders beyond the state. Second, these specific material installations catalyze transnational constellations of governance that simultaneously transcend and prop-up national regimes. Third, they also inspire forms of resistance and critique that complicate their expansion and shape political topographies. The papers approach this topic from various (inter)disciplinary angles.

Read more about the papers presented in this panel...

10 July 2015, Paris

Roundtable - "Spatial Readings of Violent Conflict in Africa: Discussion on the Pertinence of the 'Spatial Turn' in African Conflict Studies" / "Lectures spatiales des conflits en Afrique : de la pertinence du « tournant spatial » dans les études sur les conflits en Afrique" [CRG Conflict]

ECAS 2015 Conference, Paris

  • Convenor/Organisateur : Georg Klute (Bayreuth University)
  • Speakers/Intervenants: Jon Abbink (ASC, Leiden) ; Till Forster (Basel University) ; Jana Hoenke (University of Edinburgh) ; Silke Oldenburg (Basel University) ; Clionadh Raleigh (University of Sussex) ; Mareike Schomerus (London School of Economics) 

During this round table, a number of conflict researchers working on African violent conflict dynamics will engage in a discussion on the importance and usefulness of spatial perspectives in their analyses. Studying violent conflict from a spatial perspective has steadily entered into critical conflict studies. This round table aims to critically examine this development and the scope of spatial analytical categories to make sense of violent conflict in Africa. In this discussion, we aim at moving beyond the classical spatial perspectives on conflict dynamics, such as that of political geography focusing on issues such as struggles over resources, sovereignty, land, territorial identity, borders, etc. Focusing on the spatialities of violent conflict, we would like to broaden these perspectives and also look into the dialectical relationship between spatial productions (how space is constructed, contested, etc.) and political agency in settings of violent conflict. Participants will be asked, from their own research experience, to comment on the central question: What can a spatial reading of violent conflict dynamics learn us in terms of an academic analysis of practices of governance, political agency and violent struggle over authority and control?

Au cours de cette table ronde, plusieurs chercheurs spécialisés dans le domaine des conflits armés en Afrique s’engageront dans une discussion sur l’importance et l’utilité des perspectives spatiales dans leurs analyses. Étudier les conflits armes à partir d’une perspective spatiale a été intégré dans les études critiques sur les conflits. Dans cette table ronde nous souhaitons aller au-delà des perspectives classiques sur les dynamiques des conflits, comme celui de la géographie politique qui se focalise sur les luttes pour les ressources naturelles, la souveraineté, la terre, l’identité territoriale, les frontières, etc. En se focalisant sur les spatialités des conflits armés, nous aimerions élargir les perspectives et se pencher sur la relation dialectique entre l’action politique et la ≪ production spatiale ≫ (comment l’espace est construit, conteste etc.) des conflits. Les participants seront invites, à partir de leur propre expérience de recherche, à commenter la question suivante : qu’est-ce qu’une lecture spatiale des conflits armes peut nous apprendre sur l’analyse des pratiques de gouvernance, de l’action politique et des luttes violentes pour l’autorité?

28-29 May 2015, University of Edinburgh

Conference - "New Political Topographies: Trans-boundary Flows, Power and Legitimation in Africa and Beyond"

Centre of African Studies & New Political Topographies Project/Politics and International Relations Conference

  • Keynotes: Rita Abrahamsen (University of Ottawa), Andrew Barry (UCL)
  • Organiser: Jana Hönke, with Kathy Dodworth (University of Edinburgh)

This conference examines how the proliferation of new political actors and/or new modes of political action have affected political order in Africa and beyond. It explores how new trans-boundary connections, particularly those related to transnational, corporate, non-governmental (NGOs) and para-statal actors, shape political topographies: What new topographies of power and authority have they cultivated at local, national and transnational levels? How ‘new’ are these developments in practice? How is legitimacy constructed and contested under these conditions? How do these developments shape our understanding about statehood in ‘most of the world’ (Chatterjee 2004)?

The vibrant debates that surround new political topographies in Africa are the springboard for this workshop. We will be building on explorations of re-spacing, authority and governance beyond the state in Africa and relate it to cutting-edge work on transnationalised sites in a range of other regional contexts. We will also engage with new work in international political sociology and geography tackling method(ologies) for mapping emerging political topographies. Together, these various strands provide the basis for thinking through new political topographies from Africa/'most of the world’ and the implications of such thinking for a better understanding to the future of global politics.

Find the detailed programme here.