Conferences – Call for Papers

Revisiting Dams in Africa

The workshop organized by Point Sud Centre, Goethe-University of Frankfurt/DFG and Centro de Estudos Africanos, University Eduardo Mondlane invites empirical or theoretical contributions from across the social sciences. It will take place June 17–19, 2018 in Maputo, Mozambique. Deadline for submissions is the March 10, 2018.

  • Date: 17.06.2018 – 19.06.2018
  • Institution: Point Sud, Forschungszentrum
  • Location: Maputo / Mosambik
  • Documents to: Tamer Abd Elkreem (tamer.246[at], Valerie Hänsch (valerie.haensch[at], Inês Macamo Raimundo (inesmacamo[at] and Eléusio Viegas Filipe (eleusioviegasfilipe[at]

The construction of high dams in Africa has tremendously increased since the turn of the new millennium. In colonial and postcolonial Africa dams have been perceived as the main engine of modernity, serving the urban economy and industries, and eventually spurring the electrification of nation states and granting the transmission of energy across the continent. During the last two decades, the emergence of new global players in funding and building dams (e.g. China), as well as the global concern for climate change, has reinvigorated the interest in dams as a source of clean and renewable energy, serving poverty reduction and food security. However, present and past dam constructions have also generated massive displacements, impoverishment of the affected communities and environmental hazards. The controversial legacy of large dams has not yet been satisfactorily revisited in a way that connects issues of state, society, environment, developmental paradigms and their related knowledge production.

African dams are still governed by imported visions of modernization, neo-liberal and developmental state models that do not consider the specificity of the region and the wider sociopolitical conditions within which these projects are pursued and implemented. That is the problematic knowledge gap this workshops aims to fill by bringing together different disciplines and actors who are closely, yet separately, involved in those debates. During the last decades, a diversified set of actors such as environmentalists, civil society, and affected communities are gradually trying to take part and shape the way in which the projects are being planned and implemented.

Dams by their very nature connect different issues ranging from environmental, engineering, economic, political, legal, and social dimensions. However, this interdisciplinary workshop, wants to focus on the state-society-environment nexus by paying particularly attention to African dams’ historical trajectories, current experiences, and future aspirations. This dynamic nexus is shaped by the following aspects on which the workshop concentrates:

  • Revisiting the debates over African dams and energy futures
  • Infrastructures’ socio-political processes and development-induced displacement
  • Escalating civil or affected people's unrest and protests, global anti-dam networks
  • New visions for Africa’s development (competing developmental models, neoliberal vs.East Asian developmental state) and China’s involvement in dam building
  • Questions of social responsibility (for people, environment, by whom).

The organizers invite empirical or theoretical contributions from across the social sciences to explore experiences of dam-induced displacement and to analyze the complex relations between planning/implementation processes and socio-political processes by focusing on the state-society-environment nexus and the resulting question of responsibility. By attending to dam-related complex assemblages of heterogeneous knowledge and actors at various levels the workshop wishes to go beyond the de-contextualized, de-historicized and de-politicized legacy that is observable in the dam-related literature and the developmental paradigms.

The primary aim of the workshop is to provide a platform for discussing state-society-environment relations and their involved actors. The workshop aims to open multiple dialogues between disciplines, young and senior researchers, and scholars and activists, to enrich the debate and to strengthen research networks. The call for papers addresses particularly junior researchers working on newly built or planned dams in Africa.

Each participant contributes a paper to thematic sessions. The workshop is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and takes place in the framework of the Point Sud Centre for research on local knowledge, which will account for lodging and reasonable travel expenses. The workshop will be held at the Centre for African Studies, Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo. As an outcome of the workshop, the organizers envisage a joint publication.

If interested, please send a 300-word abstract to Tamer Abd Elkreem (tamer.246[at], Valerie Hänsch (valerie.haensch[at], Inês Macamo Raimundo (inesmacamo[at] and Eléusio Viegas Filipe (eleusioviegasfilipe[at] by March 10, 2018.

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