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Student Column: IcAfrica: A Call to Meet African (Intellectual) Ancestors

Posted By Joy Kibarabara (Daystar U) and David Cheruiyot (Karlstad U) , Monday, November 21, 2016

"You should know your (intellectual) ancestors! You need to know these people and the conditions in which they are writing."

That was the call made to young African scholars at the historic ICA Regional Conference at Daystar University in Nairobi held on 19-21 October.

Wandia Njoya from Daystar University in Kenya and fellow panelists, at a forum for graduate students and early-career scholars, asked young researchers in Africa to interrogate Western theories while at the same time exploring the rich works of African scholars in the social and human sciences.

The forum was part of events organized for students and early-career scholars at the ICA Regional with the support of the Local Organizing Committee led by Sr. Prof Lando, the ICA Executive Board, the Student and Early-Career Advisory Committee of the ICA (SECAC) as well as Daystar University.

The aim of the forum was to offer chance to early-career scholars and graduate students to learn from the experiences of senior researchers on the question of dewesternization of media and communication studies.

The issues discussed included, how to grapple with the challenge of applying western disciplinary traditions and theories in research about Africa as well as ways to make the most from international collaborations.

The panel consisted Njoya, Jessica Gustafsson from Aarhus University in Denmark, Wendy Willems from London School of Economics and Prof Peter Vorderer from the University of Mannheim in Germany, who is also a former ICA President. Nanna Schneidermann, from Oslo and Akershus University College for Applied Sciences, chaired the session held on the second day of the conference (October 20).

The panelists and the participants were in agreement that researchers in the Global South as well as those in the 'dominant North' need to constantly engage on the question of dewesternization.

Willems urged African scholars to be "a little less modest" about their contribution to research while at the same time interrogating their choice of citations.

"Citing is a political act. Think about who you are citing and whose ideas you are promoting," Willems told the participants.

On the previous day (19 October), another forum for students and early-career scholars, whose focus was on practical advice for post-graduate students, was held at Daystar University.

Leah Komen from the host university and Peter Kimani from Aga Khan University in Kenya were panelists at the session chaired by Leslie Steeves of the University of Oregon.

The panelists tackled subjects such as, how to make most of a PhD program in preparation for an academic career and how to navigate challenges of teaching (or practicing communication) while researching, as well as finding the balance between social life and a fruitful academic career.

Apart from the forums, more than 50 students attending the ICA Regional Conference made presentations at Research Escalator Sessions where they had a chance to find mentors from among a pool of senior scholars from different parts of the world.

At the closing ceremony on the last day of the conference, there was opportunity for two students - Dani Madrid-Morales of City University of Hong Kong and David Cheruiyot of Karlstad University in Sweden (co-author of this article) - to give short speeches about the future of ICA Regional Conference in Africa.

Madrid-Morales and Cheruiyot emphasized the need for a future regional conference in Africa, especially for the purpose of building a network of the next generation of African scholars eager to make a contribution to media and communication research.

At the close of the conference students and early-career scholars had informal meetings to discuss how to continue with discussions started at the conference and how to build research networks in media and communication in Africa and beyond.

The participants at the meeting agreed to create and sustain a new African Communication Researchers' Network, which will be an online community of students and scholars at different stages of their career with interest in research in Africa.

About 250 participants from more than 30 different countries attended the regional conference, the first to be held in Africa.

The conference program can be found here.

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