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Prof. Rita Abrahamsen to deliver keynote address at May conference

Prof. Rita Abrahamsen, from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa, will deliver a keynote address at our CAS Annual International Conference 'New Political Topographies: Trans-boundary Flows, Power and Legitimation in Africa and Beyond', to be held 28-29 May in Edinburgh.

Accruing an in-depth expertise in African politics, security and development, security privatization and postcolonial theory, prof. Abrahamsen is the author of acclaimed works such as Disciplining Democracy: Development Discourse and the Good Governance Agenda in Africa (2000) and, more recently, Security Beyond the State: Private Security in International Politics (co-authored, 2011). Other publications have appeared in leading journals including African Affairs, Alternatives, International Political Sociology, Journal of Modern African Studies, Political Studies, Third World Quarterly and Review of African Political Economy. She was joint-editor of African Affairs from 2009 to 2014.

For full details on the conference programme, click here.


Professor Andrew Barry to deliver keynote address at May conference

Prof. Andrew Barry, University College London, will deliver one of the keynote addresses at our CAS Annual International Conference 'New Political Topographies: Trans-boundary Flows, Power and Legitimation in Africa and Beyond', to be held 28-29 May in Edinburgh.

Prof. Barry has published on the relevance of materials and technologies in political and economic life. His recent ‘Material Politics: Disputes along the Pipeline’ (2013), interrogates the way in which the production of information about materials enables the activity of materials to be managed and monitored, while also generating the conditions within which controversies can proliferate over the quality and sources of the information produced. Prof. Barry has developed the idea of the ‘political situation’, central to his book Material Politics (2012, 2013) and nurtures a keen interest in the practice of geopolitics. He is also researching on the manner in which energy has been theorised in human geography, developing from Isabelle Stengers’ analysis of cosmopolitics, and in the politics of the idea of the Anthropocene and, more broadly, the geopolitics of the carbon economy.

Download the full programme here.

Our speakers for the New Political Topographies conference

(Adapted from a post on the Edinburgh Politics & IR Blog, by Kathy Dodworth)

We have set up an excellent panel of speakers for our New Political Topographies conference, to be held 28-29 May.

The conference’s two keynotes will speak directly to the theme of the shifting political landscape. Rita Abrahamsen’s extensive work on conflict and security actors in Africa demonstrates not how ‘public’ governance has been rendered irrelevant, but rather reconstituted with new players. Andrew Barry, a political geographer with a background in natural sciences, has ‘interrogated’ at length where the social, material and political meet and what repercussions this has for scientific enquiry more broadly. His most recent book explores the shifting constellation of political actors around the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. Such research sets the scene for the conference, welcoming contributions that interrogate new and contested forms of ‘public’ authority, as well as how state and non-state actors legitimate such authority in the changing global landscape.

Speakers from a range of disciplinary backgrounds will develop these themes further in presenting recent empirical research from Africa and beyond. Finn Stepputat will present new research on transboundary Somali trade networks, in line with his ‘Global Political Ethnography’ on how new actors and technologies are changing policy regimes. Jana Hönke with Iván Cuesta Fernandez will present some early findings from their new project on emerging political geographies around large-scale economic infrastructures, particularly mines and ports. On a slightly different theme, looking at the conditions of non-state political authority, Kathy Dodworh will present on the material, discursive and political components of the legitimacy of NGOs in the increasingly crowded marketplace in Tanzania. Other eminent scholars from Edinburgh’s Centre for African Studies and Politics and IR will confirm their contribution on related themes in due course. 

P.S. We are happy to confirm that Brenda Chalfin will also present in the conference. Dr. Chalfin is well known for her ethnographical work on the neoliberal frontier in Ghana, that looks at changes in state sovereignty from the vantage point of borders, checkpoints and custom offices.

New Political Topographies? No rest for the curious

Chambishi Copper Mine via Zambia Reports

Chambishi Copper Mine via Zambia Reports

(Originally posted on the Edinburgh Politics and IR Blog, by Kathy Dodworth)

The contours of economic and political power don’t sit still.

Burgeoning levels of Foreign Direct Investment in sub-Saharan Africa’s  large scale infrastructural works reveal the shifting constellations of actors across the continent. New roads, ports and pipelines are in development from the Guinean coast to the (once) sleepy towns of Mtwara and Bagamoyo in Tanzania.

Rising BRIC powers are particularly identified with such developments, with China alone involved in projects in over 30 African countries, notably Angola, South Sudan, Zambia and the DRC. The proliferation of foreign business and investment within these economic zones has inevitably altered the configuration of power and authority. Some commentators go so far as to deem the Chambishi copper region in Zambia a Chinese ‘enclave’. These dynamics, however, are not solely externally driven nor purely extractive.

Intra-African trade and investment continues to rise and the investment portfolio continues to diversify. Indeed, transboundary flows in Africa are as likely to be found in informal, localized networks of exchange as in the formal economy.

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