"Extracting the Past from the Present": International and Interdisciplinary Conference on African Precolonial History
Abstr. due: 30.06.2020
Dates: 01.03.21 — 05.03.21
Area Of Sciences: History and archeology;
Organizing comittee e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Organizers: Université libre de Bruxelles
The conference will gather scholars who study African precolonial history from different disciplines, methodologies and datasets. A prominent role is indeed played by historical linguistics: through language classification, the study of linguistic contact phenomena, the reconstruction of ancient vocabulary, etc. We therefore like to encourage linguists to take part in this interdisciplinary gathering which forms a unique opportunity to discuss the relevance of linguistic results for historical research, i.e. the African precolonial past.
The central theme of the conference is ''Extracting the Past from the Present''. Many of us analyze data that have been collected recently – words and phrases, observations of contemporary pottery techniques, genes, etc. – in order to formulate hypotheses on the past. Hardliners argue that only direct evidence – such as ancients objects – may inform us on the past and that such inferences are mere speculation. Yet, many of the insights we value today are based on contemporary evidence, for instance the theories on the Bantu Expansion. The use of contemporary data is also at the core of our own ERC research project, BANTURIVERS, with anthropology receiving its proper role within historical research. At the Université libre de Bruxelles and the Royal Museum for Central Africa, we map contemporary evidence (pottery traditions, words) in space before travelling into time. For this, we are looking into the possibilities of cartography and the spatial approach as a common language to speak of history across the various disciplines. This is the direct incentive for the focus of our conference on the use of contemporary evidence as a frame for decoding the past. Given its controversial nature, we also welcome critical approaches.
The conference will take place from March 1-5, 2021, at the premises of the Université libre de Bruxelles. We foresee five days of conference because we want to avoid parallel sessions and instead foster the exchange between scholars working at opposite sides of the continent, on different epochs and diverging research interests, but all facing the same multidisciplinary challenge.