Mission and Goals

The Africa Hall of Sharjah Mission

The Africa Institute (AI) is an interdisciplinary academic research institute dedicated to the study, research and documentation of Africa, its people and its cultures, its complex past, present, and future, and its manifold connections with the wider world. The Africa Institute aims to address a major paradox that marks the historical and contemporary relationships between Africa and the Arab Gulf region. Despite recent studies demonstrating that geographic proximity and economic and cultural exchanges over millennia have long wed Africa and the Arab Gulf region, both modern and medieval scholars have often conceived of these spheres as largely separate entities. The two regions share fascinating and deep historical roots that influence both past and present events, including migratory patterns, policy shifts, market-based economic fluctuations, and local and global political changes.

The overall vision of The Africa Institute is of a globally oriented institution of research, documentation, study and teaching of Africa and its diaspora, in the humanities and social sciences. It is conceived as a research based think-tank, and a postgraduate studies institution (offering both Masters and Ph.D. programs), which aims to train a new generation of critical thinkers in African and African diaspora studies. The Africa Institute is hoped to be a model center of excellence in research, teaching, and documentation that is hoped to match in quality and breadth of coverage, existing peer of African and African Diaspora Studies in Africa, Europe, and North America.

The conception of The Africa Institute emanates from a basic premise that African Studies is a global enterprise, rather than one narrowly constrained by geography or territorial boundaries. The fact on the ground is that the Arab Gulf region is one of mixed populations, in which cultural exchanges manifested in an impressive variety of processes and patterns pertaining to borrowing and assimilation, forced and voluntary migrations, and adaptive strategies, none of which can be fully understood without incorporating Africa into the analysis. The Africa Institute is uniquely positioned to further analysis of these linkages by illuminating larger African and Gulf ties, like those powerfully demonstrated in the historiography of the Indian Ocean Rim. At once, the Institute envisions larger global processes and knowledge circuits in relation to Africa and its diaspora. In particular, the last two decades have also witnessed rising scholarly interests in the study of new frontiers of African Diaspora studies. These include lesser-explored aspects of the African Diaspora in the Spanish speaking Caribbean (such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico), Latin America including Brazil, in addition to the Black British experience and recent African migrations and diasporas in Europe and the Middle East. These developments will certainly play a part in reconfiguring and revisiting the field and expanding its scope, and by extension, the scholarly focuses and curricula of the new Africa Institute. The Africa Institute hopes to both engage with as well as shape these new paradigms of thought in ways that will ensure its place at the forefront of African studies for years to come.

The idea for The Africa Institute (AI), as a center for African and African Diaspora studies dates as far back as 1976, when Sharjah (UAE) hosted the first “Symposium on African and Arab Relations,” to which 45 African and Arab thinkers were invited to participate. Among the major recommendation of the 1976’s symposium, which was organized under the patronage of His Highness Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah, was the establishment of an institute for African and Arab Relations charged with the study and documentation of such historical linkages, to be located in Sharjah, UAE. The Symposium also announced the setting up of the Documentation and Data Collection Centre for Arab-African Relations in Sharjah, and an annual meeting to discuss Arab-African relations, and a proposed Arab-African Fund. Consequently, the Government of the Emirate of Sharjah, UAE, has decided to pursue the goal of strengthening Afro-Arab relations through the establishment of The Africa Institute, which has been decreed in June 6, 2018.

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