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Abstract

Challenging the view that African societies are solitudeless, this panel explores manifestations, expressions and valuations of solitude in Africa by considering experiences of social isolation and withdrawal as well as broader-scale dynamics generative of both aloneness and autonomy.
Call for Papers
European Conference on African Studies (ECAS)
Edinburgh, 12-14 June, 2019
Panel (Anth42): Solitude in Africa
https://www.nomadit.co.uk/ecas/ecas2019/conferencesuite.php/panels/7860
Deadline for paper abstract submission is January 21, 2019, at 11pm (CET).
Please feel free to forward/circulate to anyone who may be interested!
For any further questions: Michael Stasik (MPI MMG): stasik@mmg.mpg.de
Short Abstract
Challenging the view that African societies are solitudeless, this panel explores
manifestations, expressions and valuations of solitude in Africa by considering experiences of
social isolation and withdrawal as well as broader-scale dynamics generative of both
aloneness and autonomy.
Long Abstract
The phenomenon of solitude – broadly understood as the state of being and/or feeling apart
from others and society – is among the most prominent themes in social theory’s
preoccupation with modern social life and experience in the global north. The study of
solitude in Africa, by contrast, is virtually non-existent. Factors such as extended household
groups and the importance of mutuality and a wealth-in-people ascribed to African social life
and relationships appear to make ‘solitude in Africa’ an oxymoronic notion. Living in a
‘crowded’ and connected world, however, does not preclude the possibility of social isolation
and withdrawal, whether involuntary or intended. Examples from both the margins and midst
of African societies highlight the presence of solitary people, including the stranger, madman
and victim of witchcraft accusations as well as the artist, autocrat and migrant worker’s wife.
Set out to challenge the view that African societies are solitudeless, this panel invites
contributions that explore manifestations, expressions and culturally-bound valuations of
solitude in Africa. It calls for contributions that shed light on how experiences and sentiments
of solitude intersect with, for instance, different life-stages, socio-economic positions and
religious, gender and sexual identities. It particularly welcomes approaches that consider how
broader-scale dynamics of, for example, urbanisation, migration and social differentiation
generate specific forms of aloneness and solitary affliction but also distinctive states of
autonomy and freedom for self-cultivation.
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