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Création de l’Institut des mondes africains (IMAF)

L’Institut des mondes africains (IMAF) a été créé au 1er janvier 2014, par la fusion de trois laboratoires : le Centre d’études des mondes africains (CEMAf), le Centre d’études africaines (CEAf) et le Centre d’histoire sociale de l’islam méditerranéen (CHSIM).
Le site internet de l’IMAF prend le relai de celui du CEMAf, qui n’est plus mis à jour.

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Axes of research

The Centre d’Études des Mondes Africains (CEMAf) has become more than an accumulation of the research conducted by the three laboratories that merged to form it in January 2006. Given the determination and willingness to establish crisscrossing relations between the three units, their researchers and professors, CEMAf has experienced the mutual benefits of reworking the themes under study.

Given this multiplication and enhancement of research, along with the emergence of new activities, several projects have been submitted to the French National Research Agency (ANR). Till now, these targeted projects have all been successful : seven ANR projects received funding for periods ranging from three to four years between 2006 and 2009. These projects reach across all three of CEMAf’s sites (Paris, Ivry and Aix-en-Provence), and are open to national or international collaboration. They have helped lay down new approaches to the work done in the laboratory.

Other innovative subjects have emerged in our laboratory out of untargeted research programs. They have to do with, in particular, the study of the environment and health. Such genuinely multidisciplinary research is our laboratory’s constant objective. By reaching across traditional disciplines, it enables us, as social scientists, to dialog with colleagues from the “exact” sciences.

The following scientific program has been developed in this rapidly changing situation. During the last two years, the number of research axes has risen from four to five :

- (1) Epistemology and knowledge : study the practices to be used to develop an epistemological know-how. First of all, the practices related to writing for the production of not just academic texts but also the texts ordinarily produced upstream from academic publications (notes, diaries, correspondence, etc.). Secondly, institutional practices, including the special institutions related to religious orders. The intent is to see writings and practices in their context of production and to evaluate what we can learn from them about the relations between Europeans and Africans, by considering how Western knowledge about Africa has been produced and, too, how African societies produce a way of looking at their own history.

- (2) Changes in Africa and forms of globalization over the long run : study the continent’s relations with the rest of the world over a long period. Re-examine the concept of globalization, to more finely analyze its current valency and understand the forms of globalization in which Africa has been a full-fledged party in various periods. Define the “spaces” of interaction, exchanges and regional integration (the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, Portugese maritime zone). Analyze the social changes deriving from changes of scale. Many international partners — African, European, American — are involved in the projects related to this axis.

- (3) Nation-states, territories, memories : shed light on the places of political, religious and economic power in Africa ; and delineate a geopolitics that pays little heed to current borders and to the classical procedures for drawing boundaries between territories. Examining the principal poles, their relations or lack of relations, and shedding light on the regional bases of power will help us better understand : Africa’s territorial and political organization during different periods, the articulation between poles of power or even their antagonistic or shared conceptions of territory. A first step toward establishing a new political geography of Africa can be made by relating information drawn from : written sources ; the material evidence of urban, religious and political settlements ; and local traditions. Zones of contact are “frontier zones”, where there is much cultural mixing with fluctuating political but also immaterial and cultural influences. In an effort to move beyond the classical limits established between politico-cultural zones in Africa, this third research axis will focus on networks.

- (4) Political configurations, mobilizations based on identities and religions : articulate politics, religions and identities. Explain ideologies as well as political arrangements and processes over time by considering not just the religious dynamics involved but also forms of mobilization based on a sense of identity. To understand the varied, unprecedented forms that politics can assume over the long run (the sacred, religion, witchcraft, reformism, traditionalism, patrimonial strategies), we will emphasize the institutional, ideological, symbolic, ritual, mimetic, artistic arrangements and currents of thought that, though sometimes not very visible, are put to use in politics. The aim is to bring to light the major players, current and nascent, and to identify performative figures and representations.

- (5) Social constructions and developments, environment and health. The developments referred to here have to do with health, environment, natural resources, social relations in urban areas and women’s rights — types of political action that seek to deliberately change reality. They bear a vision of the future that African political groups can adopt or that donors can impose. The coherence of this axis stems from the theme of development and its historical consequences. Several teams will investigate development in the fields of health, the environment, access to the land or natural resources, or the relations between social bonds and violence.