Sunday, September 27, 2015

Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge Conference now over

The three days of the Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge conference was well worth attending. The food was great and the band on Friday night was out of this world. Some of the academic panels were pretty good too. I learned a lot about the Sindhi diaspora in Africa, the relationship between Indian and African film, and the Indian Ocean slave trade. As is obvious from above, India was well represented at the conference due to its large size, population, and political influence. However, the dominant theme of the conference seemed to be Chinese-African relations. So much so that it seemed that often speakers were using Asia and China as synonyms. Yes, China is important internationally and especially as regards to Africa. But, a lot of Asia wasn't covered at all. Most of the papers dealt with China or India and a handful of others covered Japan, Korea, and Indonesia. There was nothing at all on Vietnam, Pakistan, Iran, the Philippines, or the entire Arab world just to mention some of the larger states in Asia and in the Arab case in Africa as well. Central Asia was represented only by our panel which had a paper on Kyrgyzstan by me and a paper on Kazakhstan by Eric Schmaltz as well as a paper given in another panel on irrigation in Uzbekistan.

Unfortunately, very few people showed up to our panel on ethnic Germans in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and Siberia. We had a total of seven, but some came late and other left early. So there were only three audience members there for the whole panel. Out of those three attendees one was a colleague of mine here in Legon, one was a Canadian post-graduate students doing a PhD in London, and one was a South African scholar specializing in Sinkiang. I don't know if the Canadian woman was paying attention or not since she was completely silent throughout the entire question and answer and discussion period. That left my colleague and the South African. Which meant in terms of reaching a new audience that had not previously been exposed to the topic we can only verify a total of one South African anthropologist. Of course one person is infinitely more and better than zero, but I expected a larger audience.

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