What does it take to decolonize the VAD (African Studies Association in Germany)?
Abimbola O. Adesoji, Department of History,Faculty of Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University,Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Hans Peter Hahn, Institut für Ethnologie, Goethe Universität
The VAD has the intent to support the decolonial movement and wants to be a proactive partner in this respect. This panel is open to academically grounded suggestions as to how the demands for decolonisation can be implemented within the framework of the professional association.
Since its foundation, the VAD as a scientific association has been committed to the dissemination of knowledge about Africa. Its goals are manifold and ambitious. The VAD aims to promote knowledge about Africa and to promote a more thorough engagement with Africa in the European public sphere. It wants to correct biased views and stereotypes about Africa. Finally, its members intend to influence politics - especially as far as Africa is concerned - and to advise politicians. There is no doubt that the VAD has often failed to live up to these ambitious goals.
However, there have been instances in which it did not – for example, VAD members had an influential position in the antiapartheid struggle. The VAD sees the current increase in right-wing populist positions in Europe as a serious concern with regard to its ambitions, and it is presumably true that knowledge about Africa in the European public sphere is continuously declining. Irrespective of these obvious weaknesses, the VAD must now reflect on what factors determine the image of Africa that the association stands for and propagates. Are there aspects of the structure or activities of the VAD that should be considered as colonial structures? What measures should be taken so that VAD can uncover these and develop in the direction of a stronger “decolonized present”? This panel invites contributors to comment on this question, while considering the goals, and make suggestions on how the VAD can be decolonized.