ECAS annual Conference: 12 & 13, june 2019 in Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh’s Centre of African Studies is hosting the 8th European Conference on African Studies, Europe’s largest and most international conference with an African focus. It takes place in the University’s central campus from June 11-14 and is organised on behalf of the Research Network of African Studies Centres in Europe AEGIS.
The conference brings together 1,500 leading researchers, policymakers, and leaders from across the world. There is a complementary series of artistic and cultural events, as well as various networking and capacity building events, including some particularly aimed at the next generation of African researchers.
Several communications will be given in relation to Western Sahara.
Thursday 13th June 13:00-13:45: Book launch for Silenced Resistance: Women, Dictatorships, and Genderwashing in Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea 50 GS, G.05
Joanna Allan will discuss her new book, Silenced Resistance (University of Wisconsin Press, 2019), with fellow specialist in Western Sahara Studies, Sébastien Boulay (Paris Descartes University). Using the little-known cases of Equatorial Guinea and Western Sahara, both of which were once ruled by Spain’s late dictator, Silenced Resistance explores the centrality of gender norms in determining how authoritarian leaders maintain power, but also in how they are resisted.
Panel Anth35: ‘We need electricity today’: narratives and practices of electrical connections and outages in Africa
Convenors: Moïse Williams Pokam Kamdem (University of Dschang) & Marius De Batchouo Moifo Fonkou (University of Dschang )
Location: Appleton Tower, Lecture Theatre 1
Wednesday 12 June, 8:45-10:15
>>>Communication Title: “Outages, unequal access and torture: electrifying colonialism in Western Sahara”
Authors: Joanna Allan (Northumbria University) & Hamza Lakhal (Durham University )
Paper short abstract:
We analyse Saharawi experiences of, and perspectives on, energy in order to establish the political work that the latter performs in occupied Western Sahara. We ask how electrical energy consolidates and produces political realities, both Moroccan colonialism and Saharawi demands for independence.
Paper long abstract:
Our working paper explores Saharawi experiences of, and attitudes towards, (green) energy infrastructure and electricity in the Moroccan-occupied part of Western Sahara in order to establish the political work that electricity performs there. We contribute to the growing body of research on how electricity consolidates societal politics by showing how it can further two opposing political agendas simultaneously. Our hypothesis, in this working paper, is that, for many Saharawis, Moroccan electrical infrastructural developments further colonialism on both material and discursive levels. However, these developments simultaneously, and perhaps unintentionally, nurture Saharawi nationalist identities and resistance to colonialism. Our methodology involves participant observation and interviews with Saharawis living in the occupied part of Western Sahara, including with those who also lived through electricity infrastructure development in the Spanish colonial epoch. We argue that unequal access to electrical infrastructure helps to produce socio-spatial differentiation between indigenous Saharawis and Moroccan settlers (and previously between Saharawis and Spaniards), endorsing settler supremacy and thereby further antagonizing the relationship between the Moroccan state and Saharawis: demands for access to electricity in Saharawi shanty towns in the outskirts of the capital El Aaiún are increasingly accompanied by demands for independence. Furthermore, we find that ‘electrical oppressions,’ in the form of electrocution as a form of torture used against Saharawi political prisoners, and state-orchestrated blackouts in Saharawi-dominated suburbs at times of particular or potential political unrest, enact colonialism but simultaneously power (metaphorically) resistance to the same.
Panel Anth13: Experiencing violent conflicts over the life course and across generations: connections and ruptures
Convenors: Lidewyde Berckmoes (Leiden University) & Bert Ingelaere (University of Antwerp)
Location: Appleton Tower, Lecture Theatre 4
Thursday 13 June, 16:15-17:45: Performing the dead and the missing in the Sahrawi refugee camps (Tindouf, Algeria): heroic narratives in poems and songs
Author: Sébastien Boulay (Université Paris Descartes-CEPED, ERC CapSahara)
Paper short abstract:
Starting from songs and poems dedicated to the figures of martyrs in Western Sahara, our reflection will focus on the role of these artistic productions and their performativity in the intergenerational transmission of stories of violent deaths told in the Sahrawi refugee camps of Tindouf.
Paper long abstract:
Our paper will address the centrality of the figures of martyrs in contemporary Saharawi political life and identity, especially in the refugee camps of Tindouf (Algeria) where the Saharawi state in exile has encouraged the production of a national narrative largely dedicated to the memory of these victims (civil or military) of the violence of the war or the Moroccan repression. These figures of martyrs are largely told by poetry and song which allow, in this society with a strong oral tradition, their transmission from generation to generation. We will see if these stories encourage self-sacrifice amongst certain young Saharawis today, who are disappointed at the failures of the peace negotiations and ready to take up arms, or if instead they rather support a non-violent political line. At the methodological level, our research consisted first of all in constituting a corpus of poems and songs dedicated to famous martyrs, which we identified on the Web then contextualized in the field, translated from Arabic and analyzed in their content and in their form. It now consists of a filmed ethnography whose purpose is to gather the word of the authors of these tributes but also the stories of the families of martyrs, to study their particular form and see how these stories can be staged in the framework of online or offline commemorations such as the one dedicated to the first Saharawi martyr who died on March 8, 1974, Bachir Lahlaoui.