POSITION TEXT FOR THE CONFERENCE ‘THE FUTURE(S) OF DR CONGO (RESEARCH)’
Friday December 9 2011
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Erasmushuis 08.16, Faculty of Arts, Blijde Inkomststraat 21, 3000 Leuven (Belgium)
Sponsored by The Newton Alumni Program (British Academy) and the Belgian Association of Africanists
Organized by the CongoResearchNetwork and the Institute of Anthropological Research in Africa (K.U.Leuven)
This conference will engage with notions of “the future” both in DR Congo itself and in research about DR Congo.
First, we have invite papers that analyze local ideas about the future, both in DR Congo and among its Diaspora. In the midst of economic, political and social turmoil, a wide range of images of ‘lobilobi’ (Lingala: ‘the future’) thrives and generates spaces of hope, national unity and humanity. The ways in which the future is conceived inspire cultural practices that allow Congolese to master and even to control, if only on a symbolic level, time.
The speakers will offer empirical and analytical material about the various ways in which lobilobi has been conceptualized and given shape within Congolese communities, both in DR Congo and the Congolese Diaspora.
We believe that the particular interpretations of the future and also its manifestations are temporal and contextual, depending on the particular socio-economic and political vectors at play in a given locale. We hypothesize that discourses about the future, and cultural practices fed by these discourses, in a war-ridden region such as Sud-Kivu differ from how the inhabitants of Nkamba, the Kimbanguist sacred village in the Lower Congo, experience and envision the future. Examples of questions that conference participants may address are: In what sense do political proximity to the national political center in Kinshasa, or linguistic and ethnic affinity with the current president shape understandings about the future of the Congolese nation in eastern Congo? How do religious actors allow their followers to control time? How do particular religious temporalities intersect or compete with political events, e.g. the organization of national elections in November 2011? How have distinct forms of colonial and postcolonial ‘futurologies’ materialized in social and cultural forms?
A second theme which this conference hopes to address is the future of DR Congo research itself. We have invited scholars to reflect on the directions DR Congo research can and should take in the following years. Which topics need our urgent attention within the Humanities and Social Sciences, both within Congolese academia and elsewhere? What are the black spots within Congolese historiography, anthropology, political sciences, linguistics, etc.? And, what does this entail in terms of methodology, funding possibilities, etc.?
We believe that this is a good time to address these questions about future of (empirical, fundamental, applied) Congo research should be addressed, because a new critical mass of DR Congo scholars is currently emerging. The conference will allow us to carve out a renewed agenda for future DR Congo research.