Scholarly Conference

Accra, Ghana | Fall 2022

The second edition of The Africa Institute’s annual country-focused program will continue in Accra, Ghana and is set to take place between October 27-29, 2022. Themed, Global Ghana: In Search of Africa’s Black Star, the conference will explore the multiplicity of meanings that have been and continue to be invested in Ghana as a beacon of African emancipation, African unity, and continental innovation.

The program aims to eschew racially essentialist interpretations of the Black Star in favor of diverse perspectives informed by Ghana’s complex history­­—from Ghana’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries to its place as one of the most significant sites for Afro-Arab solidarity in the 20th century. Deep historical perspectives will inform the program’s consideration of how younger generations in Ghana today are reimagining what and who constitutes the Black Star nation and its possible futures through a range of different media, including visual and performing arts.

The conference will be convened in collaboration with leading scholars Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Carina Ray, Jean Allman, and Joseph Oduro-Frimpong. Along with panel discussions, the multidisciplinary program will be complemented by a dynamic range of music, film screenings and performances.

About the Panels:

On the State of Contemporary Art Practices in Ghana

Moderator: Joseph Oduro-Frimpong, Director of the Center for African Popular Culture, Ashesi University, Ghana

Within Ghana’s contemporary art scene, some of the respected and young artists have situated their acquired expansive “studios” within the very communities they work. In these spaces, it is not uncommon to observe locals from this area, who have been hired to work in these studios. In others, these artists purposefully bus young students from neighboring communities into their artistic work environment to let them make and experience varying art forms. What motivates such emerging practice in contemporary Ghana? What do these artists, who currently spearhead this practice, hope to achieve (or have achieved) with such endeavor? In this panel, these questions are explored along with other new practices with popular Ghanaian artists and sculptors.

“When Women Speak”: Film Screening and Roundtable

Moderator: Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch, Associate Professor of History, Dartmouth University, USA

This documentary film, “When Women Speak” focuses on Ghanaian women’s organizing and campaigning strategies under military, single-party, and short-lived multi-party governments, particularly in the under-studied period between the mid-1960s and the early 1990s. During this time, Ghanaian women negotiated national priorities, cultural particularities, and universalist ambitions, both at home and as part of an international women’s movement. Ghanaian women were important players in the creation and implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and they campaigned for new national laws on marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child maintenance. By highlighting their ideas and their strategies, this film challenges the representation of women as passive bearers of timeless and essentialized “African culture” and reshapes public understanding of gender activism as an integral part of Ghana’s national history and international relations. The roundtable brings the film’s producers and director to discuss the film and the wider field of political, social, economic, and gender justice and activism that it seeks to portray.

The Archival Diaspora of African Liberation: In Search of Ghana’s Postcolonial Past

Moderator: Jean Allman, Professor of History, The Africa Institute 

This panel explores Ghana’s postcolonial archive. Much has been written over the past three decades about the colonial archive, particularly as a technology for reproducing state power. But what of the anticolonial archive, the archive that documents the challenges to colonial state structures, and the struggles to disassemble them? As Ghana’s postcolonial past so vividly illustrates, coups and countercoups, structural adjustment, and economic precarity have wreaked havoc on the making of postcolonial archives in Africa. Yet there are fragments of documentation dispersed around the globe that constitute a vast transnational, postcolonial archive of African liberation. Featuring archivists, activists, and academics, this panel explores the archival diaspora through which current and future generations will reconstruct Ghana’s postcolonial past—from the early years of former President Nkrumah through the close of Rawlings’ Presidency in 2001.

From Ghana to the Black World and Back

Moderator: Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Professor of African and Gender Studies at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana

This panel will discuss Ghana’s independence movement and afro-futurism. The years leading up to, and the immediate post-independence years were rich with hope. While some Ghanaians today still see the Black Star as a symbol for many Pan-African projects, it is also a very Ghanaian symbol, perhaps due to its pride of place in its flag. Today, despite choreographed efforts such as the Year of Return that brought much cultural excitement and some (mostly celebrity) diaspora connections, a flagging economy and growing state repression, alongside obvious corruption and wealth, seem to have generated a sense of hopelessness and cynicism among many young people. At the same time, there is a lot of innovation and creativity. This panel brings together activists, academics, and young leaders to share their perspectives as we traverse through complex history, politics, socioeconomics, and popular culture to gain a better understanding of Africa’s Black Star.

At the Cutting Edge of Ghana Studies

Moderator: Carina Ray, A.M. and H.P. Bentley Associate Professor of African History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

This panel brings together five early career scholars who will discuss what their work heralds for the next half-century of Ghana Studies. Over the last half-century, Ghana Studies has witnessed tremendous growth. Gone too are the days when just a handful of scholars from the global north held sway over the field in journals of record and in elite African Studies programs. This sea change has ushered in successive waves of vibrant research agendas pioneered by scholars who have continued to expand the purview of Ghana Studies and African Studies at large.

Co-Convener & Moderator Biographies

Akosua Adomako Ampofo is Professor of African and Gender Studies at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana (UG). Adomako Ampofo is President of the African Studies Association of Africa; an honorary Professor at the Centre for African Studies at the University of Birmingham; and a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the immediate past Dean of International Programs at the University of Ghana, was the foundation Director of the University’s Center for Gender Studies and Advocacy (2005-2009) and from 2010-2015 was Director of the Institute of African Studies.

An activist scholar, Adomako Ampofo’s areas of interest include African knowledge systems; higher education; race and identity politics; gender relations; masculinities; and popular culture. In her current work on Black masculinities, she explores the shifting nature of identities among young men in Africa and the diaspora. Another project, “An Archive of Activism: Gender and Public History in Postcolonial Ghana” seeks to constitute a publicly accessible archive of, and documentary on gender activism and “political women” in postcolonial Ghana (with Kate Skinner, University of Birmingham; funded by the British Academy).

Adomako Ampofo is the Editor-in-Chief of Contemporary Journal of African Studies and Co-Editor of Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa blog. She serves on the board of several organizations including the U.S African Studies Association; The Center for the Advancement of Scholarship, University of Pretoria; Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence, University of Bayreuth of which she is Chairperson; Perivoli Africa Research Centre, University of Bristol; Institute for Humanities in Africa, HUMA, University of Cape Town. Adomako Ampofo’s work has been variously recognized by, among others, the Fulbright Scholar Program and the Sociologists for Women and Society (SWS), which awarded her the Feminist Activism Award.

Carina Ray is the A.M. and H.P. Bentley Associate Professor of African History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. A scholar of race and sexuality, comparative colonialisms and nationalisms, migration, and maritime history, print cultures, bodily aesthetics, and the relationship between race, ethnicity, and political power, Ray’s research focuses on Ghana and its diasporas, while also branching out to include a long-term oral history project documenting the experiences of Cubans who served in Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. She is the author of Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana, winner of the American Historical Association’s 2016 Wesley Logan Book Prize; the African Studies Association’s 2017 Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize; and a finalist for the United Kingdom African Studies Association’s Fage and Oliver Book Prize. Her work has also appeared in Gender and History; PMLA; American Historical Review; and Journal of West African History, among other publications.  She is a series co-editor of New African Histories (Ohio University Press) and African Identities (Cambridge University Press) and recently completed three-year terms as editor of Ghana Studies and as a member of the board of editors of The American Historical Review.

Jean Allman is the Professor of History at The Africa Institute. She is also the J.H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities and Professor of African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where she directs the Center for the Humanities. Allman’s research and published work engages 19th- and 20th-century African history, with a geographic focus on Ghana and thematic interests in gender, colonialism, decolonization, and the racial politics of knowledge production. Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, Fulbright-Hays, the Social Science Research Council, and the Mellon Foundation. She was the President of the Ghana Studies Council (now Association) from 1992-1998; has served on the Board of Directors of both the African Studies Association (USA) and the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora; and was the President of the African Studies Association in 2018.

She is the author of The Quills of the Porcupine: Asante Nationalism in an emergent Ghana, “I Will Not Eat Stone”: A Women’s History of Colonial Asante (with Victoria Tashjian), and Tongnaab: The History of a West African God (with John Parker) and has edited several collections, including Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress. Allman co-edits the New African Histories book series at Ohio University Press, and her work has also appeared in a range of journals, including the Journal of African History, Africa, Gender and History, Journal of Women’s History, History Workshop Journal, International Journal of African Historical Studies, African Studies Review, American Historical Review, and Souls.

Joseph Oduro-Frimpong is a media anthropologist and Director of the Center for African Popular Culture at Ashesi University. He received his PhD from the Department of Anthropology at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (2012) and also holds degrees in Information Studies (University of Ghana, Legon) and Human Communication (Central Michigan University). He is an American Council of Learned Societies/African Humanities Program Fellow. He has held postdoctoral fellowships at Rhodes University and at the University of Cape Town.

Widely published, his research has appeared in respected journals, including Journal of African Cultural Studies, International Journal of Communication, and African Studies Review, and in several edited volumes, including Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of Everyday Life and Taking African Cartoons Seriously: Politics, Satire, and Culture.

Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch holds a Ph.D. in African history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a specialization in West Africa and the history of Ghana. She currently serves as Associate Professor of History at Dartmouth University, USA.

Her first book, The Politics of Chieftaincy: Authority and Property in Colonial Ghana, 1920-1950 examines critical junctures and transformations in the history of local Ghanaian institutions during the first half of the twentieth century.  The study explores larger questions of power, authority and conflict by tracing the ways in which Africans reworked local epistemologies and practices to engage with and resist powerful internal and external influences in a growing urban setting. 

 

Additional information on the participants and schedule for Global Ghana: In Search of Africa’s Black Star will be announced in the coming months.
The health and safety of guests and participants are of utmost priority to The Africa Institute. The Institute will continue to monitor developments on COVID-19 and the program will be subject to modification depending on how the pandemic evolves and travel is impacted.

Scholarly Conference Accra, Ghana | Fall 2022 The second edition of The Africa Institute’s annual country-focused program will continue in Accra, Ghana and is set to take place between October 27-29, 2022. Themed, Global Ghana: In Search of Africa’s Black Star, the conference will explore the multiplicity of meanings that have been and continue to be invested in Ghana as a beacon of African emancipation, African unity, and continental innovation.

Scholarly Conference

Accra, Ghana | Fall 2022

The second edition of The Africa Institute’s annual country-focused program will continue in Accra, Ghana and is set to take place between October 27-29, 2022. Themed, Global Ghana: In Search of Africa’s Black Star, the conference will explore the multiplicity of meanings that have been and continue to be invested in Ghana as a beacon of African emancipation, African unity, and continental innovation.

The program aims to eschew racially essentialist interpretations of the Black Star in favor of diverse perspectives informed by Ghana’s complex history­­—from Ghana’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries to its place as one of the most significant sites for Afro-Arab solidarity in the 20th century. Deep historical perspectives will inform the program’s consideration of how younger generations in Ghana today are reimagining what and who constitutes the Black Star nation and its possible futures through a range of different media, including visual and performing arts.

The conference will be convened in collaboration with leading scholars Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Carina Ray, Jean Allman, and Joseph Oduro-Frimpong. Along with panel discussions, the multidisciplinary program will be complemented by a dynamic range of music, film screenings and performances.

About the Panels:

On the State of Contemporary Art Practices in Ghana

Moderator: Joseph Oduro-Frimpong, Director of the Center for African Popular Culture, Ashesi University, Ghana

Within Ghana’s contemporary art scene, some of the respected and young artists have situated their acquired expansive “studios” within the very communities they work. In these spaces, it is not uncommon to observe locals from this area, who have been hired to work in these studios. In others, these artists purposefully bus young students from neighboring communities into their artistic work environment to let them make and experience varying art forms. What motivates such emerging practice in contemporary Ghana? What do these artists, who currently spearhead this practice, hope to achieve (or have achieved) with such endeavor? In this panel, these questions are explored along with other new practices with popular Ghanaian artists and sculptors.

“When Women Speak”: Film Screening and Roundtable

Moderator: Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch, Associate Professor of History, Dartmouth University, USA

This documentary film, “When Women Speak” focuses on Ghanaian women’s organizing and campaigning strategies under military, single-party, and short-lived multi-party governments, particularly in the under-studied period between the mid-1960s and the early 1990s. During this time, Ghanaian women negotiated national priorities, cultural particularities, and universalist ambitions, both at home and as part of an international women’s movement. Ghanaian women were important players in the creation and implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and they campaigned for new national laws on marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child maintenance. By highlighting their ideas and their strategies, this film challenges the representation of women as passive bearers of timeless and essentialized “African culture” and reshapes public understanding of gender activism as an integral part of Ghana’s national history and international relations. The roundtable brings the film’s producers and director to discuss the film and the wider field of political, social, economic, and gender justice and activism that it seeks to portray.

The Archival Diaspora of African Liberation: In Search of Ghana’s Postcolonial Past

Moderator: Jean Allman, Professor of History, The Africa Institute 

This panel explores Ghana’s postcolonial archive. Much has been written over the past three decades about the colonial archive, particularly as a technology for reproducing state power. But what of the anticolonial archive, the archive that documents the challenges to colonial state structures, and the struggles to disassemble them? As Ghana’s postcolonial past so vividly illustrates, coups and countercoups, structural adjustment, and economic precarity have wreaked havoc on the making of postcolonial archives in Africa. Yet there are fragments of documentation dispersed around the globe that constitute a vast transnational, postcolonial archive of African liberation. Featuring archivists, activists, and academics, this panel explores the archival diaspora through which current and future generations will reconstruct Ghana’s postcolonial past—from the early years of former President Nkrumah through the close of Rawlings’ Presidency in 2001.

From Ghana to the Black World and Back

Moderator: Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Professor of African and Gender Studies at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana

This panel will discuss Ghana’s independence movement and afro-futurism. The years leading up to, and the immediate post-independence years were rich with hope. While some Ghanaians today still see the Black Star as a symbol for many Pan-African projects, it is also a very Ghanaian symbol, perhaps due to its pride of place in its flag. Today, despite choreographed efforts such as the Year of Return that brought much cultural excitement and some (mostly celebrity) diaspora connections, a flagging economy and growing state repression, alongside obvious corruption and wealth, seem to have generated a sense of hopelessness and cynicism among many young people. At the same time, there is a lot of innovation and creativity. This panel brings together activists, academics, and young leaders to share their perspectives as we traverse through complex history, politics, socioeconomics, and popular culture to gain a better understanding of Africa’s Black Star.

At the Cutting Edge of Ghana Studies

Moderator: Carina Ray, A.M. and H.P. Bentley Associate Professor of African History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

This panel brings together five early career scholars who will discuss what their work heralds for the next half-century of Ghana Studies. Over the last half-century, Ghana Studies has witnessed tremendous growth. Gone too are the days when just a handful of scholars from the global north held sway over the field in journals of record and in elite African Studies programs. This sea change has ushered in successive waves of vibrant research agendas pioneered by scholars who have continued to expand the purview of Ghana Studies and African Studies at large.

Co-Convener & Moderator Biographies

Akosua Adomako Ampofo is Professor of African and Gender Studies at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana (UG). Adomako Ampofo is President of the African Studies Association of Africa; an honorary Professor at the Centre for African Studies at the University of Birmingham; and a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the immediate past Dean of International Programs at the University of Ghana, was the foundation Director of the University’s Center for Gender Studies and Advocacy (2005-2009) and from 2010-2015 was Director of the Institute of African Studies.

An activist scholar, Adomako Ampofo’s areas of interest include African knowledge systems; higher education; race and identity politics; gender relations; masculinities; and popular culture. In her current work on Black masculinities, she explores the shifting nature of identities among young men in Africa and the diaspora. Another project, “An Archive of Activism: Gender and Public History in Postcolonial Ghana” seeks to constitute a publicly accessible archive of, and documentary on gender activism and “political women” in postcolonial Ghana (with Kate Skinner, University of Birmingham; funded by the British Academy).

Adomako Ampofo is the Editor-in-Chief of Contemporary Journal of African Studies and Co-Editor of Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa blog. She serves on the board of several organizations including the U.S African Studies Association; The Center for the Advancement of Scholarship, University of Pretoria; Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence, University of Bayreuth of which she is Chairperson; Perivoli Africa Research Centre, University of Bristol; Institute for Humanities in Africa, HUMA, University of Cape Town. Adomako Ampofo’s work has been variously recognized by, among others, the Fulbright Scholar Program and the Sociologists for Women and Society (SWS), which awarded her the Feminist Activism Award.

Carina Ray is the A.M. and H.P. Bentley Associate Professor of African History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. A scholar of race and sexuality, comparative colonialisms and nationalisms, migration, and maritime history, print cultures, bodily aesthetics, and the relationship between race, ethnicity, and political power, Ray’s research focuses on Ghana and its diasporas, while also branching out to include a long-term oral history project documenting the experiences of Cubans who served in Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. She is the author of Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana, winner of the American Historical Association’s 2016 Wesley Logan Book Prize; the African Studies Association’s 2017 Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize; and a finalist for the United Kingdom African Studies Association’s Fage and Oliver Book Prize. Her work has also appeared in Gender and History; PMLA; American Historical Review; and Journal of West African History, among other publications.  She is a series co-editor of New African Histories (Ohio University Press) and African Identities (Cambridge University Press) and recently completed three-year terms as editor of Ghana Studies and as a member of the board of editors of The American Historical Review.

Jean Allman is the Professor of History at The Africa Institute. She is also the J.H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities and Professor of African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where she directs the Center for the Humanities. Allman’s research and published work engages 19th- and 20th-century African history, with a geographic focus on Ghana and thematic interests in gender, colonialism, decolonization, and the racial politics of knowledge production. Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, Fulbright-Hays, the Social Science Research Council, and the Mellon Foundation. She was the President of the Ghana Studies Council (now Association) from 1992-1998; has served on the Board of Directors of both the African Studies Association (USA) and the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora; and was the President of the African Studies Association in 2018.

She is the author of The Quills of the Porcupine: Asante Nationalism in an emergent Ghana, “I Will Not Eat Stone”: A Women’s History of Colonial Asante (with Victoria Tashjian), and Tongnaab: The History of a West African God (with John Parker) and has edited several collections, including Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress. Allman co-edits the New African Histories book series at Ohio University Press, and her work has also appeared in a range of journals, including the Journal of African History, Africa, Gender and History, Journal of Women’s History, History Workshop Journal, International Journal of African Historical Studies, African Studies Review, American Historical Review, and Souls.

Joseph Oduro-Frimpong is a media anthropologist and Director of the Center for African Popular Culture at Ashesi University. He received his PhD from the Department of Anthropology at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (2012) and also holds degrees in Information Studies (University of Ghana, Legon) and Human Communication (Central Michigan University). He is an American Council of Learned Societies/African Humanities Program Fellow. He has held postdoctoral fellowships at Rhodes University and at the University of Cape Town.

Widely published, his research has appeared in respected journals, including Journal of African Cultural Studies, International Journal of Communication, and African Studies Review, and in several edited volumes, including Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of Everyday Life and Taking African Cartoons Seriously: Politics, Satire, and Culture.

Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch holds a Ph.D. in African history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a specialization in West Africa and the history of Ghana. She currently serves as Associate Professor of History at Dartmouth University, USA.

Her first book, The Politics of Chieftaincy: Authority and Property in Colonial Ghana, 1920-1950 examines critical junctures and transformations in the history of local Ghanaian institutions during the first half of the twentieth century.  The study explores larger questions of power, authority and conflict by tracing the ways in which Africans reworked local epistemologies and practices to engage with and resist powerful internal and external influences in a growing urban setting. 

 

Additional information on the participants and schedule for Global Ghana: In Search of Africa’s Black Star will be announced in the coming months.
The health and safety of guests and participants are of utmost priority to The Africa Institute. The Institute will continue to monitor developments on COVID-19 and the program will be subject to modification depending on how the pandemic evolves and travel is impacted.

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