CAS: "Is High Modernism Returning?" (Oxford, 2-3 May 2017)

Call for Applications:  

Is High Modernism Returning? A Symposium on Political Ideology and Practice Oxford, 2-3 May 2017  

This event seeks to explore the political, economic and ideological underpinnings of the more state-led, industrial and big infrastructure development trend seemingly taking hold across many African states. Much of this rhetoric, and indeed many of the policies of these states, seems to be re-invoking the central ideas and practises associated with the high-modernist, mid-twentieth century. Why is there is a renewed interest in industrialisation and big infrastructure? Are we therefore witnessing a return to 'high modernist’ ideals, or some new thinking?  

This symposium will seek to understand these themes by unpicking the ideology of elites and dominant political parties in a variety of countries, asking to what extent they have strong visions for the future and whether these fit a high modernist, or alternative, framework. Alongside this focus on visionary ideology, the policy practises of these states will be considered, with questions about whether high modernist ideology is shaping specific areas of policy-making and implementation. Policy areas to be covered in dedicated panels will be dam-building, architecture, urban planning, and economic policy. As this seems to be a phenomenon wider than the African continent, one panel will also attempt to put this moment in a broader global perspective, with views from Latin America, the Middle East, South and East Asia.

Application guidelines:  

In addition to contributions by invited speakers, there is a very limited number of presentation slots available for researchers and PhD candidates whose research is closely related to the theme of the symposium. In order to apply, please send a title and abstract (max. 300 words) to Barnaby Dye (, along with a short biographical note detailing your academic background. All applicants will receive a response by 10 April. Speakers will receive accommodation in Oxford free of charge for the night of 2 May. We are unfortunately not in a position to cover travel costs for this event.  

There are also places available for participants not contributing to the symposium, but advance registration is required. It is expected that those applying will have a research interest related to the symposium theme. In order to register for general attendance, please contact Barnaby Dye ( with a short explanation of your interest in the conference and any institutional affiliation (max. 50 words). Unfortunately, we cannot provide any support with travel and accommodation costs for non-presenting participants.


University of Basel
Centre for African Studies
Rheinsprung 21
CH-4051 Basel
Tel.: +41 (0)61 207 34 82