Thinking Africa differently

Birmingham academics are transforming our understanding of Africa’s history, politics, law, environment, art, and cultures.

Our Department of African Studies and Anthropology foregrounds its work on the lived experiences of culture, art, and the recent past among Africans on the continent and in its diasporas. For us, Africa offers a unique vantage point from which to question existing theories and discourses and together to push the boundaries of knowledge.

We hosted the 27th biennial conference of the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK). This was the largest conference on Africa outside of the United States in 2018, and with over 800 delegates it offered a rich and varied programme that affirms the University’s global standing and its long and proud commitment to African Studies and Africa. We have an active student exchange agreement with the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, and research collaborations with institutions in several African countries. These partnerships are vital to ensuring that the knowledge produced and disseminated about Africa at Birmingham is a true reflection of life on the continent and amongst its peoples.

Projects undertaken at Birmingham influence policymakers and public discussion in Africa and globally.

  • A grant from the European Research Council (ERC) enabled Insa Nolte to explore religious identification in the Yoruba-speaking part of Nigeria and to map out everyday relationship between Muslims, Christians, and traditionalists.
  • An AHRC GCRF AKN grant has facilitated Benedetta Rossi to develop her research on work and the problem of unfree labour in Niger.
  • An ESRC Future Research Leaders grant is allowing Maxim Bolt to explore inheritance in urban South Africa, looking into property, class reproduction, customary norms and the reach of the state in Johannesburg.
  • Kate Skinner will take up a Leverhulme International Academic Fellowship in 2019 at the University of Cape Coast (Ghana). Her research will identify some of the key legal reforms for which Ghanaian women have campaigned since Independence, and will pay particular attention to women’s strategies during periods of single-party and military rule.
  • The ERC is funding Leslie Fesenmyer to embark on a collaborative ethnographic project looking at multi-religious encounters in Kenya.

Research in African Studies at Birmingham is helping people in Africa, Europe and beyond to better understand the forms of cultural life and popular expression emerging in the ever-evolving African continent.

  • Rebecca Jones is researching and increasing public awareness of contemporary Nigerian literature, whether produced by the diaspora or by writers working in their home country.
  • Juliet Gilbert is shaping our understanding of contemporary African Pentecostal Christianity and its implications for young women in Nigeria.
  • Jessica Johnson and Marco Di Nunzio are expanding our understanding of how rights, notions of legality and responsibility are changing in African societies in response to public health crises and processes of urbanisation. Marco also explores how development produces marginality through inclusion and why growing investments into African cities are deepening, and not challenging, exclusion and inequality.

“We build our research networks in Africa from the bottom up, drawing on an extensive network of contacts in the countries which we study. That allows us to engage with Africa as a place of intellectual production in its own right.”

Dr Insa Nolte

Dr Insa Nolte

Head of African Studies and Anthropology

    Further information

  • Department of African Studies and Anthropology

    Home of African Studies at Birmingham

  • Report on the ASAUK 2018 conference

    Birmingham hosted the 2018 biennial conference of the African Studies Association of the UK.

  • Research award: Gender activism in Ghana

    Dr Kate Skinner wins funding from the British Academy Sustainable Development Programme.

  • From Slavery to Aid

    Dr Benedetta Rossi's book engages two major themes in African historiography: the slow death of slavery and the evolution of international development, and reveals their interrelation in the social history of the region of Ader in the Nigerien Sahel

  • Keynote address

    Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, gave the keynote address at the ASAUK conference in September 2018

Thinking Africa differently in the news

Researchers