Two weeks ago our project team met up at ECAS 2016, the 6th European Conference on African Studies. The conference was organised by IMAF, LAM and AEGIS and hosted by Universite Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne which was a fantastic setting with some incredible lecture halls and the book fair taking place in a hall with a stunning vaulted ceiling. It was a great opportunity for us all to meet as a team, something we don’t get to do as often as we’d like because of the international nature of our project.
The panel we convened was in the late slot on the first day and we’re very grateful to our panellists and audience for sticking with us on such a hot afternoon when the cafés of Paris were calling. The theme of the panel was ‘Struggles for Cultural Rights in East Africa, Amidst Constitutional Change and the Reassertion of Traditional Authority.’ It featured papers by team members Lotte Hughes, Steve Akoth and Harriet Deacon alongside papers from Florian Kern (University of Essex) and Gabrielle Lynch (University of Warwick).
The panel began with a paper from Florian exploring how and why the co-existence of state institutions with traditional forms of government leads to conflict. His work is based on comparing the situation in a number of different countries. Harriet’s paper was also comparative as she laid out the key trends in current constitution making in Africa and the extent to which the Kenyan Constitution follows or bucks these trends – this work is the basis of one of our desk studies and you can expect to hear more about it soon. The final three papers were all based on fieldwork done in Kenya. Gabrielle spoke of the efforts of the Sengwer in the Cherangany Hills to position themselves as ‘indigenous people’ and claim rights through this definition. Steve and Lotte will be reporting on their own work in the coming months so I’ll leave it there for now.