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Basel Summer School in African Studies 2021: How Political is Knowledge?

Teilnehmende Basel Summer School 2017

Basel Summer School 2017 (Mbaraka Matitu and Anthony Stewart)

The ZASB calls for applications for the Basel Summer School in African Studies, which will focus on the relationship between knowledge and politics. The Summer School will take place online from 13 to 17 September 2021. The deadline for applications is 31 July.

The Summer School aims at stimulating and consolidating a new perspective on African Studies with a focus on African Studies as “area studies”. It addresses themes that are theoretically, conceptually and methodologically relevant to the pursuit of reflection on the intellectual challenge of Africa as an object of knowledge on the one hand and its contribution to general scholarship, on the other. 

How Political is Knowledge?

No serious scholar of African affairs can afford to ignore the role politics has played in shaping the language of science addressing Africa and the goals of the knowledge produced. It has been a staple of African critiques of knowledge production on the continent to suspect that such knowledge is consistent with discourses speaking to regimes of power and truth likely to represent Africa problematically. The question arising from this concerns the methodological implications for research in Africa. 

There is a political economy of knowledge production in Africa requiring critical reflection. It raises general questions about the relationship between knowledge and politics. To address these questions, however, we have to reflect even more intensely on what it means to claim that knowledge is political. Does it mean that knowledge is a function of the exercise of power? What are the standards based on which we can validate knowledge? More broadly speaking, what is the basis of intelligibility in scholarly conversations?

The Basel Summer School in African Studies 2021 invites applications from doctoral students interested in exploring these issues as part of a larger framework of engaging with methodological challenges in African Studies. Applicants should challenge themselves to look critically into their work and ask themselves what role any of the issues listed below play in it:

1.    What normative assumptions underlie your research?
2.    What regimes of power and truth, but also resistance and contention, speak through your research?
3.    What does the idea that “knowledge is political” mean in your research, and how do you go about it?
4.    How “objective” are the standards for the validation of your research findings?

Advanced Study Skills workshop: How to write a book review

Through writing and submitting a book review to a scholarly journal, this Advanced Study Skills workshop focuses on participants’ writing habits, their competences, and output. It inculcates the write – review – revise cycle and combines this with the writing and talking about writing cycle (the latter divided into talk about the writing process and talk about the written text). Prior to the workshop, participants should submit a proposal for a book review they plan to submit to a journal. During the workshop, they will analyse the features of book reviews, paying attention to the overall structure of the genre as well as its most prominent linguistic features, such as condensation and evaluation that balances criticism and praise. During and after the workshop, participants will give and receive peer feedback as well as receive feedback from the lecturer, thereby supporting them to submit their review to a suitable journal, should they so wish. 



  • Elísio Macamo, Professor of African Studies at the University of Basel
  • Ralph Weber, Professor of European Global Studies at the University of Basel

There will be further resource persons to facilitate specific sessions.

Advanced Study Skills:

  • Stephan Meyer, Deputy of the Director and Coordinator English, Language Center of the University of Basel
Practical information

The summer school is open for PhD students enrolled in Switzerland and abroad. 

The summer school takes place online via Zoom.

For PhD candidates enrolled at a university in Switzerland or in Africa, the Summer School is free of charge. The participation fee for all other PhD candidates is CHF 100.


Download call document

Deadline for application: 31 July 2021