V-10. The Dynamics of Solidarity in Africa: History – State of the Art – Future Challenges

Convener: Peter Kneitz (Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Halle [Saale], Germany); e-mail: peter.kneitz@ethnologie.uni-halle.de

As a result of many decades of deep and enduring socio-political crises of all sorts, the African continent tends to be associated with a rather grim picture of general disorder and decline. The present movement of sub-Saharan African refugees daring their lives by crossing the Continent and the Mediterranean Sea to come to Europe at all costs reinforces such long established images. The aim of the proposed panel is to elaborate the other and rather silent side of the ubiquitous perceptions outlined: that of the many ways and forms solidarity is lived, practiced and transferred from one generation to another on the African continent. In fact, all kinds of social structures depend inevitably on a balance of “give” and “take”, of a very finely woven arrangement between the “me” and the “other”. Does the emblematic figure of the corrupt African political leader not hide more often than not a man who is very much caring for his loyal followers, for his region of origin, for his clan and his family? Does the war lord notwithstanding his supposed cynical disregard of human lives of all those who do not subdue to his will, not depend on the support of his warriors and his ability to establish some kind of social structure? And are those desperate refugees at and in the Mediterranean “Water front” not, on closer scrutiny, daring their lives in many cases on behalf of their families and clans, and therefore be regarded as acting out some particularly visible and tragic form of solidarity? The proposed panel wishes to trace some aspects of the many different and particular ways solidarity is generated, lived and performed on the African continent. The following questions might be of central interest, besides many others: How, in Africa, the capacity of individuals to relate meaningfully within a given social setting is elaborated in a complex socialization process? In what way cultures, normative concepts and social settings of solidarity can be discovered and described here, in the past and the present? How the practices of solidarity have been altered, reinvented or newly organized within time, according to the contingent context of a given region, of specific events, of colonization and the ongoing process of modernization? In what way do the past and present dynamics of African solidarity offer a useful platform for the ongoing processes of intensive social and political negotiations? And, finally, how and why, the dynamics of solidarity in Africa have been undermined, and under what conditions they were and are eroding? Such questions are touching fields of study as different as social anthropology, history, political studies, sociology, developmental psychology, parenting, cross cultural studies and brain studies. The panel is open to all kinds of contributions related to the proposed subject, though preference will be given to case studies based upon empirical evidence or theoretically-driven papers.