7th European Conference on African Studies
Basel, 29 June
1 July 2017

The Centre for African Studies Basel and the Swiss Society for African Studies welcome you to the 7th European Conference on African Studies ECAS 2017 with the theme Urban Africa - Urban Africans: New encounters of the rural and the urban.


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Conference office:
Centre for African Studies Basel
ECAS 2017
Petersgraben 11
CH-4051 Basel

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News: Panel submission closed

Please note that the slot for the submission of panel proposals closed on 30 September 2016. 340 propositions were received and are now undergoing the review process. The call for papers will be published mid November 2016.

Urban Africa - Urban Africans: New encounters of the rural and the urban

At 3.5% Africa has the highest urbanization rate in the whole world. The potential effects of these staggering growth rates are relevant for all Africans, both in the urban as well as in the rural areas. By 2040 the continent’s cities are expected to have to accommodate 79 Million additional inhabitants. Between 2040 and 2050 the figure will rise to a staggering 84 Million. The latest UN-Habitat report forecasts that by 2025 Africa’s urban population will outstrip that of Europe and Latin America together. No wonder that a growing number of researchers, institutions and governments are paying more and more attention to urbanization in Africa. This growing interest focuses on whether rapid urbanization will overwhelm African governments and societies or whether it reflects the increasing importance of the middle classes, a factor which is held by many to account for Africa’s positive economic performance of late.

African urbanization trends raise several issues that are of interest to scholars. These range from politics (what does the growing importance of city dwellers mean to the character of politics?), through economics (will urbanization undermine or foster efforts at overcoming inequalities?), all the way to social (e.g. are African social relations changing in any significant way as a result of these trends? How do Africans live their cities?) and cultural issues (e.g. will urban life styles dominate the rural? How will the rural and the urban relate to each other in the future?).

The key issue, however, is how urbanization processes in Africa transform conventional objects of African Studies and how do scholars of Africa gear up to face such changes? This is the question which the Centre for African Studies at the University of Basel (CASB) in Switzerland wishes to invite scholars of Africa to engage with in a more conscious and systematic manner. While the urban will be prominent, the proposed conference theme will also look into the entanglements of the rural with the urban, especially with a view to addressing an implicit assumption underlying the study of Africa and which concerns the supposed rural ‘nature’ of the continent as well as the constitutive nature of the tension between tradition and modernity.

While over the past few decades a self-critical attitude within many disciplines has led to a weakening of these assumptions, the urban continues arguably to be seen as the exception or, at any rate, as analytically less consequential than the rural. ECAS 2017 “Urban Africa – Urban Africans” will, therefore, be an occasion for rethinking African Studies, but also for exploring and deepening research avenues that many researchers working on urban and rural issues have taken up over recent years. There is a critical mass to be harnessed in the effort to push the frontiers of critical European knowledge production on Africa.

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Call for papers

The Call for papers will circulate from mid November 2016.

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The Centre for African Studies Basel is a coordinated research network at the University of Basel including further institutions such as the Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Mission 21 or the Swiss Tropic and Public Health Institute. It promotes Africa-related teaching at the university and offers MA and PhD programmes in African Studies as well as an advanced studies Certificate in African Affairs. With its joint research theme Living the City the Centre has been at the forefront of research on urban Africa. Research under this theme is promoted along five axes of research: Public Health and Social Life; Media and Imagination; Knowledge Production and Transfer; Governance and Civil Society; Environment and Development. These axes also inform the teaching activities of the Centre. The Centre today constitutes a solid framework within which numerous post-doc researchers as well as doctoral and MA students have been engaging with urban issues. This has led to the founding of a new Masterprogramme for Critical Urbanism in cooperation with the University of Cape Town.

The Swiss Society for African Studies (SSAS) aims at advancing research on Africa, including the organization of conferences to discuss questions of African lifestyles and other aspects of African societies and cultures. Contributing to the circulation of relevant information, the SSAS understands itself as platform for synergies and collaboration between universities and research institutions. It strives to enhance the visibility and the institutionalization of African Studies in Switzerland. Founded in 1974, the SSAS is based on the model of Area Studies. With this view it offers opportunities to connect researchers and the interested public in a theme-oriented and multidisciplinary exchange. Alternating with thematic conferences, the biannual „Swiss Researching Africa Days” promote the exchange among researchers at different stages of their careers. The SSAS is a member of the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The organising committee is led by Till Förster, Elísio Macamo and Veit Arlt of the Centre for African Studies Basel.

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Location and venue

The town of Basel is centrally located and boasts very good connections by air and rail.

Getting there by air

The trinational Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse (BSL) has a convenient size and offers short check-in times. A direct bus shuttle leaving every ten minutes takes you in 20 minutes to the city centre. The airport boasts more than 90 direct flights within Europe and beyond and is one of the hubs of the low cost carrier EasyJet. It is well connected to the large international hubs (Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, Vienna). However, a direct rail service (75 minutes travel time) leaving every hour connects Basel to Switzerland's main international airport in Zurich (ZRH).

Getting there by train

Basel is an important railway hub and offers excellent connections to many important European cities (including hi-speed and night trains). The two stations are conveniently located in the heart of the city (10 minutes to the conference venue).


The Kollegienhaus built in 1939 is the main building of the University of Basel and is situated in the heart of the town. It can be reached within ten minutes from the train stations or within 25 minutes from the airport. Dozens of restaurants can be found in the immediate vicinity.


An early booking arrangement will be provided via the Basel Tourism Office.

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Centre for African Studies Basel
Last update 24 October 2016
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