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communities of practice

Communities of Practice Revisited: Exploring potentials of CoP across Disciplines and Regions


  • Dr. Alžběta Šváblová, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Sociology of Africa, University of Bayreuth
  • Dr. Asaf Augusto, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Political Geography, University of Bayreuth
  • Dr. Bakheit Mohammed Nur, independent researcher, from Oct. 2022 Bayreuth Academy fellow, University of Bayreuth
  • Valerie Nur, M.A., parental leave, from May 2022 Post-Doctoral Fellow, Anthropology of Africa, University of Bayreuth 


  • Alanna Cant (University of Reading)
  • Silke Roth (University of Southampton)
  • Rosalind Eyben (University of Sussex/Institute of Development Studies)
  • Catherine Goetze (University of Tasmania) 


  • Dr. Erika Dahlmanns, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation, Pretoria, South Africa (November 2022 – January 2023)

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The working group aims to revisit the concept of communities of practice (CoP). The CoP was coined by Etienne Wenger (1998) as a social theory of learning, where learning is understood as a process of social participation (Wenger 1998: 4-5). CoP can be defined as a group of individuals, tied together by a shared practice and concern. Wenger argues, that learning is so crucial for the social order that theorizing about the former is “tantamount to theorizing about the other” (Wenger 1998: 15).

The Working group seeks to scrutinize how the concept of CoP can be refined and updated, so that it reflects the particular realities in the field of African studies, or (critical) area studies.

We intend to discuss the application of CoP in various contexts and disciplines connected to African studies but also beyond. We are especially interested in topics that thematize the issues of power and power hierarchies, as well as aspects related to (de)-territoriality and boundaries.

Instead of a simple critique and possible falsification of the concept, we would like to use its potential of a non-binary relational approach that allows for and considers fluidities and fuzzy boundaries, and apply it in line with cluster’s research agenda, using cluster’s key concepts (relationality, reflexivity and multiplicity) as an analytical lens.

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