On 12-14 March 2020, several AfREC Fellows participated in the exciting inaugural conference of the University of Melbourne’s African Studies Group entitled Borders, Identities and Belongings in a Cosmopolitan Society: Perspectives from African Migrants in the Diaspora.
The inaugural conference, which was coordinated by PhD students Kennedy Liti Mbeva, Franka Vaughn and Matthew Mabefam as well as Dr. Emmanuel Lohkoko Awoh, builds on the work of the African Studies Group over several years. The conference theme was outlined as follows:
Borders, Identities and Belonging have been at the centre of debates on the profound transformations wrought by globalization. But perhaps the movement of people across geographical borders, and the transformative impact of the digital revolution that has ushered in the information age, are the most illustrative examples. Extant literature and discourse has primarily analysed issues of borders in isolation, thus overlooking the intersection of these two issues. Where this intersection has been examined, it has been in the analogue sense, especially physical geographical borders. There is therefore a lacuna, in literature and discourse, on the intersection of borders and identity, in both the analogue and digital realms.
Moreover, debates on these issues have been largely confined either in academic platforms or public policy and community forums, but rarely engaging all sides. Given the increasing salience of migration and identity issues in politics world over, there is a renewed need for innovative platforms on which to foster these debates. That is, there is a need to engage scholars, practitioners and community members in these deliberations, especially in Australia where there are high waves of migrant issues in recent times.
The Borders, Identities and Belonging conference will be organised around the following thematic questions:
The Concept of Home : What and where is home? Where, when and how do we feel a sense of ‘belonging’?
Relevance of Borders : How do borders permeate our social lives?
Digital Transformation : How have digital communication platforms transformed the concepts and experiences of borders, identity and belonging?
Multiculturalism and Integration : What are the experiences and prospects of multiculturalism in increasing our sense of belonging and social integration?
The conference featured a Masterclass on ‘borderless research’ by Prof. Michael Baffoe from the University of Manitoba, Canada, and a Public Lecture by Prof. Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni from the University of South Africa on ‘Planetary human entanglements and the crisis of living together: The politics of borders, migrations, belonging, identifies and citizenship in the 21st century.’ The conference also usefully included both academic and practitioner panels, which helped to promote dialogue on the nexus between research, policy and community.
Another highlight of the conference was the launch of the important new report Reintegration and Resettlement of African Australians Released from Prison: Towards an Ubuntu Framework of Support produced for the Melbourne Social Equity Institute by Dr Gerald Onsando, Dr Diana Johns, Prof. Karen Farquharson and Dr Greg Armstrong. The project involved a number of African community organisations in Victoria and the launch featured several young African-Australians who had been through the justice system speaking about their resettlement and reintegration experiences.
AfREC would like to congratulate the University of Melbourne African Studies Group for organising an excellent inaugural conference and for your warm hospitality—AfREC looks forward to continuing our collaboration with you into the future!