Project: "Future Africa - Visions in Time"

bamako 2008

“Future Africa – Visions in time” is the first significant project of the Bayreuth Academy. Its starting point is the observation that concepts and representations of ‘future’ outside of Europe often present themselves as being extremely innovative and dynamic. Because of this, they are dealing with a special set of challenges. This is especially true for Africa and the African Diasporas.

A new perspective on African Studies

The exploration and discussion of future perspectives in Africa and amongst its diasporas is at the heart of the project. Up until now, less notice has been taken of these perspectives than of the diverse range of agendas projected time and again onto the continent from outside. However, the global connections and implications of future perspectives developed in African societies and diasporas should always be taken into consideration as well.
The exploration of these concepts of future allows stimulating, trans-continental observations to be made. Comparative perspectives are incorporated, existing perspectives are taken into account. Regional research on Africa and other regions can thusly offer a significant contribution to systematic debates about the ‘future’ across the world.

Five avenues of research - Interdisciplinary and creative

Work on the Project is divided into two levels. Firstly, over the course of the runtime (2012 – 2018) five sub-projects of varying academic fields research several empirical aspects of the main topic:

  • Historical perspectives align with the change in future perspectives in Africa and amongst its diasporas in the context of world history in the 19th and 20th centuries (subproject 1).
  • Visions of time and the future of African nature are being researched by using ecological and sociological models which are connected to, for example, strategies of preserving nature and ways to deal with climate change (subproject 2).
  • Ethnological and sociological approaches are used to look at future perspectives amongst the middle classes as an expression of their social rise in Africa (subproject 3).
  • Cross-genre forms of literary and artistic representations of future generated by African diasporas and increasingly shared via the internet are understood in the context of ‘Afrofuturism’, among other things (subproject 4).
  • Finally, based on cultural studies and art studies, iconographies of African revolutions are being investigated and anthologised (subproject 5). 

The following graphic shows the way these different modules are inter-connected and on the whole constitute the main project “Future Africa”:

Graphik_Future Africa

Working together - Talking together

The second part of the project work is comprised of six working groups, who each convene for one semester between the summer semester 2013 and the winter semester 2015-16. With the participation of selected guest fellows the groups discuss interdisciplinary and interregional aspects of the topic ‘Future Africa’. The working groups systematically compare empirical research results, stimulate theoretical and conceptual debates and produce methodological reflections. The global and social diversity, the temporal structure and the model character of concepts of future arise during the debates, as do the presence and representation of knowledge of and for the future.