Centre for African Studies
David N. Tshimba
The Centre for African Studies (CAS) falls under the School of Postgraduate Studies and Research at Uganda Martyrs University – a private Catholic-founded university located at the Equator in Uganda. CAS is a semi-autonomous academic research unit headed by the Chair of CAS and staffed by research fellows and associates both from within other academic units of the university and without.
The Centre was established in 2015 to address the need to promote and deepen the study and generation/documentation of knowledge about Africa’s multifaceted realities. Whereas we acknowledge the significance of pursuing universal knowledge through the best standards of academic excellence, we emphasise that it would be odd and irresponsible for an African university to pursue such knowledge without a rigorous integration of its African environment and context into the universal. At the heart of CAS’s raison d’être, therefore, is a carefully calibrated balance between ‘universal excellence’ and ‘particular relevance’.
As observed by Professor Molefi Kete Asante, “our African universities are the repositories and dispensers not of our ancestral knowledge and philosophy but of Europe’s. The fact that European knowledge is in the system is not the problem, but that such knowledge is at the center of most African curricula is an immediate danger that privileges white [Western] scholars in those institutions and marginalises Africans and African knowledge”. Through various historical and contemporary local and international machinations, both the politics and political economy of knowledge have underprivileged Africa’s contributions in almost all fields of inquiry. As such, the task of studying African knowledge and practices and repositioning them from the periphery is both a grand and urgent one.
One would ask what difference it makes whether to study Africa from Africa as viewed by Africans or from the various centres for African studies in Europe and America. There is certainly knowledge to be acquired either way, but it may not be the same. But place indeed matters in knowledge production. Although researchers often underline their objectivity, research and politics of knowledge are often informed by interests and positionality. Our study of Africa is rooted in the interest of achieving self-understanding and decolonisation through a pursuit of knowledge mainly driven from within Africa and guided by endogenous imperatives and lenses. This does not rule out working with other people from outside Africa, but we are keen on holding the concerns of the African world as our priority. Put differently, ours is not just another knowledge-scrutinizing and knowledge-producing Centre for African Studies only different by location. Nor does it simply afford a research gaze at Africa(ns) as an object of indifferent study. We are instead embedded and purposeful at finding ways of taking Africa(ns) forward epistemologically first and foremost, and then in material and pragmatic senses as well. On the admission of the above ideal, we are open to working with a healthy synergy of African continent-based and non-continent-based scholars to animate scientific life in initiating and furthering enriching research on Africa and generating insights that could as well inform social policy and practice in Africa.
- To promote quality research, documentation, and exchange of ideas on Africa and her relations with the outside world
- To facilitate research on and collection of elements of Africa’s cultural heritage and their relevance in contemporary times;
- Facilitate respectful dialogue/ conversations among African and non-African researchers on African issues with a view to enhance knowledge pluralism;
- To address misrepresentations and under representation of Africa through rigorous research, public debates, and publication;
- To promote the appreciation and utilisation of relevant African cultural precepts and knowledge.
Research and Publication
Our research focus cuts across the disciplines but mainly inclined towards the arts and social sciences. We privilege interdisciplinary research as a way of overcoming the limitations of disciplinary boundaries. CAS runs a monograph publication series called Mtafiti Mwafrika (African Researcher) and publishes thematic anthologies based on seminars, dialogues, and African research conferences.
Collection and Archiving
The Centre houses the Uganda Martyrs University Museum which was set up in 1996 as a collection of endogenous cultural artefacts and sculptures from Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. Its mission is to preserve and promote African culture, as well as to facilitate research on its significance in the present African and world development contexts. It is one of the few anthropological museums in Uganda. Additionally, the Centre stores written, photographic, audio and audio-visual archival materials from various research and publication projects undertaken by CAS fellows and associates/affiliates.
The primary purpose of the CAS research fellowship/affiliation is two-fold: to marshal collaborative endeavours through joint research and disseminations, as well as to assist specific research fellows as well as associates/affiliates with getting the necessary intellectual and logistical/bureaucratic support for their research endeavours, including research ethics clearance and access to the UMU library and other scholarly resources.
The Centre organises periodic workshops and dialogues on debates facilitated by guest speakers who are researchers in the area of African studies. CAS also holds Policy Dialogues involving fellows engaged in policy-oriented research targeting the state, cultural and religious institutions.
Prof. Jimmy Spire SsentongoAssociate Dean, SPGSR
David N. TshimbaSenior Research Fellow, Chair CAS
Ms. Caroline PaparuResearch Fellow/Documentation Officer
Robinah S. NakaboResearch Fellow/Managing Editor