Inspiring Societal Panel Day

On Friday 19 January some thirty representatives of the societal partners of the ASCL attended the yearly Societal Panel Day. Representatives from ministries, knowledge platforms, NGOs, the diaspora, the private sector, the media/publishing sector, the city of Leiden and LeidenGlobal were invited to discuss the relevance of the African Studies Centre Leiden for society. 

Since the ASCL became an interfaculty institute of Leiden University in January 2016, its Board and Director are advised by an Academic Advisory Council and a Societal Advisory Council. The Societal Advisory Council has a flexible composition and meets once a year.

This year the Societal Panel focused on the newly proposed Collaborative Research Groups (CRGs) and their relevance for society and the societal partners. As ASCL Director Prof. Jan-Bart Gewald explained, compared with former years the CRGs will gain in importance in the overall research programme for 2018-2023, in addition to the six research Chairs and their individual research plans. These Chairs are Prof. Jan Abbink, Prof. Mirjam de Bruijn, Prof. Marleen Dekker, Prof. Rijk van Dijk, Prof. Jan-Bart Gewald, and Prof. Chibuike Uche. 

During the Societal Panel Day, the CRGs were discussed in smaller groups, under the guidance of their convenors. The newly proposed CRGs are:

1) Politics, Governance and Law in Africa (Prof. Jan Abbink)

2) Governance, Entrepreneurship and Inclusive Development (Prof. Marleen Dekker)

3) Collaboration and Contestation in Words: Dialogues and Disputes in African Social Realities (Prof. Rijk van Dijk)

4) Pioneering Futures of Health and Well-being (Prof. Mirjam de Bruijn and Gitty Petit, PhD candidate)

5) Trans-Species perspectives on African Studies (Dr Harry Wels)

The following CRGs have already existed for several years and will be maintained:

6) Africa in the World (Dr Mayke Kaag)

7) Rethinking African History (Dr Klaas van Walraven)

The feedback given by the societal partners was to the point, well-thought-through and relevant. ASCL Director Jan-Bart Gewald stressed that societal partners can engage in the CRGs and their activities. In his speech Prof. Gewald emphasized that Africa through sheer population numbers will gain global influence. 'Africa will change dramatically in the next few decades', he said, 'and scientists will be needed to contextualize these developments'.

An intermezzo was catered for by NRC Handelsblad journalist Wim Brummelman, who is also a member of the Africa Thesis Award jury. In his spoken commentary he urged scientiests to speak out on a topic that is as socially relevant as Africa is, and by doing so preserve the dignity of Africa.

The ASCL would like to thank all partners present for their highly useful contributions during the discussions. The convenors will use their input in drafting the final versions of the CRG proposals. The ASCL would also like to thank the chair of the day, Mr Bernard Berendsen, who is a Board member of the Foundation African Studies Centre.

All CRGs will be published on the ASCL website in the next few weeks.
Update: the CRGs can be found here (1 February 2018).

  • Opening of the Societal Panel Day by the day chair, Mr Bernard Berendsen.
  • Prof. Jan-Bart Gewald happily receives a copy of a 1960s telephone directory of Khartoum for the ASCL Library. Kindly offered by Mr Guido van den Berg of the Zuid-Afrikahuis.
  • Break-out session of the CRG 'Politics, governance and law in Africa'.
  • Spoken commentary by NRC journalist Wim Brummelman.
  • Feedback from a break-out session to the plenary by Dr Margot Leegwater (ASCL).
  • Feedback from a break-out session to the plenary by Dr Akinyinka Akinyoade (ASCL).
  • Feedback from a break-out session to the plenary by junior ASCL researcher Mimi Ocadiz.