Africa Chapter of the Memory Studies Association Inaugural Conference Memory in Africa: Transcultural Dimensions

Call for Papers

Africa Chapter of the Memory Studies Association Inaugural Conference
Memory in Africa: Transcultural Dimensions
17-19 October 2019, Pretoria

Within Memory Studies, a rapidly growing, interdisciplinary field of research internationally, the African continent, its people, diaspora and global linkages constitute neglected areas of research. This is despite the efforts of selected individual scholars and the International Memory Studies Association’s explicit mission to move beyond the Euro/Anglo centrism that has defined the early development of the field. This conference aims to provide a platform for academic researchers in Africa and international scholars interested in Africa to network, share their research and begin developing an Afrocentric approach to memory studies.

The memory of discrimination, suffering, violence and loss features prominently in extant scholarly studies on African history and society. This conference encourages researchers to avoid binary conceptualizations of traumatic versus happy memories and rather discuss a broader ‘emotional range and vocabulary’, how these emotions are remembered, forgotten or silenced. This may include exploring how experiences of suffering and pain relate to empowering memories of resistance; nostalgia for old times, values and social relations; or restorative memories of healing, recovering agency and constructive processes. Memory-distortion, ‘false memory’ and forgetting, both at the personal and collective level, are equally important subjects of research.

Memory studies scholars (e.g. Erll, Rigney) have advocated a shift from cultural to transcultural memory; from national memories to transnational and global memories and from sites of memory (lieux de mémoires in Pierre Nora’s words) to ‘dynamics of memory’. Some of these concepts are particular pertinent in an African context, where most national borders have artificially been drawn by colonial powers and where orality and performance has often been prioritized over symbolic sites and objects. However, as it is important to avoid essentializing African culture, memory and epistemologies, a focus on transcultural memory will explore the complex interweaving of memory strands across cultures on the continent and beyond.

We invite participation from established researchers and postgraduate students in a wide range of disciplines from anthropology, cultural studies, diaspora studies, geography, health, history, mobility studies, political science, psychology, religion, sociology and other relevant fields. Practitioners in museums, memorial institutions, archives, the arts and performance fields, as well as researchers working for NGOs and government organizations are also welcome to contribute insights from their field of expertise. While the majority of contributions will be formal academic papers, alternative forms of presenting research, e.g. in videos, visual art or performances will be possible in specially arranged sessions.

We invite papers focused on the African continent, society and diaspora, as well as Africa’s relationship with the global arena. African scholarly perspectives on theories of memory and methodologies of memory-based research are particularly encouraged. The following presents some themes that may be explored, but this is not a comprehensive list. It is important to emphasize that we seek contributions not only on collective, cultural or social memory, but also personal, episodic and autobiographical remembrance and forgetting.

  • the role of political memory in international relations and local, national and transnational politics
  • memory in law and transitional justice processes
  • multidirectional travel of memories between Africa and the world
  • memory in the age of digital media and networked communication technology
  • memory in the context of religion and spirituality
  • the role of memory in health and sickness (including HIV/Aids, Ebola, etc.)
  • commemoration of persons, events and places in African societies
  • how are local memories affected by global narratives and discourses
  • memory in the context of travel, mobility, migration and displacement
  • gendered memories and memories of gender relations
  • testing of established concepts in memory studies (e.g. Hirsch’s notion of postmemory) in African case studies
  • memory, inequality and poverty
  • methodologies of memory studies in an African context and in relation to oral history studies

This conference is hosted Atabongwoung Gallous (University of Pretoria) and Sabine Marschall (University of KwaZulul-Natal) and will be hosted on the campus of the University of Pretoria. Send an abstract of 150 words for a 20 minute presentation, including affiliation and full contact details by 31 January 2019 to  Notification of acceptance by 15 March 2019.

Africa Chapter of the Memory Studies Association

Mission Statement

The Africa Chapter of the Memory Studies Association is a regional branch of the international Memory Studies Association (MSA), which originated from a proposal to bring the annual MSA conference to South Africa in 2020. While the MSA committee strongly supported the idea, it was felt that the association’s membership on the African continent first needs to grow and local scholarly interest in the field must be stimulated. This led to plans for hosting a regional Memory Studies conference in Pretoria in the second half of 2019 and establishing an Africa Chapter of the MSA as a local organizing body.

Established by Atabongwoung Gallous (University of Pretoria) and Sabine Marschall (University of KwaZulu-Natal), the Africa Chapter shares all general aims of the MSA (see and is bound by all general decisions made by the MSA, but it has its own governance structure and advisory board, which will ensure that regionally specific conditions and priorities are more adequately taken into consideration. Most notably, the Africa Chapter aims to promote the field of memory studies locally and encourage critical scholarship by organizing conferences and other scholarly events in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent. In support of the MSA’s mission to diversify the Anglo/Euro focus that characterized the early development of memory studies, the Africa Chapter places strong emphasis on Africa – the geographical entity of the continent, its multi-racial and multi-ethnic inhabitants, its diaspora and the multifarious linkages between Africa and the global arena. While the short-term focus is on local development of the field, the Africa Chapter ultimately aims to build theory in memory studies inspired by Afro-centric research; test extant conceptualizations in African contexts and bring African epistemologies and Indigenous Knowledge Systems to bear on the field of memory studies. Establishing a relevant journal and other suitable publication outlets would be another long-term goal.

Governance structure

The governance structure of the Africa Chapter is modelled on that of the MSA, but due to the small scale of the scholarly field locally, the executive committee of the Africa Chapter will initially consist of two co-presidents (the  above-mentioned founders) and an Advisory board. Mirroring the MSA, the office bearers will be in place for two years, after which elections will be held among members at a general meeting. Presidents can be re-elected twice for a maximum consecutive term of six years. As the organization grows and as the need arises, additional office bearers can be appointed to form an Executive Committee in consultation with the Advisory board.

Membership and fees

All members of the Africa Charter will become members of the MSA, i.e. register on the MSA website, establish a profile and pay membership fees according to their respective level. The MSA offers sponsored (i.e. free) membership upon request and personal motivation. Members will enjoy a discounted registration fee for attendance of Africa Chapter conferences as well as the general MSA annual conference.

Inaugural conference

17-19 October 2019, Pretoria – see Call For Papers


Keynote Speaker

Professor John Sutton

Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia


John Sutton is Professor of Cognitive Science at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, where he was previously Head of the Department of Philosophy. After a BA in Classics (Oxford) and PhD in Philosophy (Sydney), his book Philosophy and Memory Traces: Descartes to connectionism (Cambridge UP, 1998) developed a new history of embodied cognition. While he continues to work in the interdisciplinary cognitive humanities in collaboration with early modern literary and cultural historians, his research now focusses on memory and skill in the contemporary cognitive and social sciences. Sutton was a founding editor of the Sage journal Memory Studies, and co-edits Palgrave Macmillan’s Memory Studies book series with Andrew Hoskins. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities, and president of the Australasian Society for Philosophy and Psychology. His current collaborative research aims to integrate conceptual, ethnographic, and experimental methods, and addresses personal and social memory, embodied memory and skilled movement, distributed cognition, and cognitive history.

When & Where?

17-19 October 2019 University of Pretoria
Pretoria, South Africa

Meet the Organizers

Atabongwoung Gallous

University of Pretoria

Prof. Sabine Marschall

University of KwaZulu-Natal