LAWRENCE — The Inaugural Kansas African Studies Center Virtual Symposium will offer an opportunity to learn about findings from the 2022 Global Humanities Institute, "Chronic Conditions: Childhood and Social Suffering in Global Africa," which took place Aug. 1-12 at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The symposium, from 9-11 a.m. Sept. 27, will feature presentations by early career researchers from the Global Humanities Institute partner universities: the University of Kansas, which administered the project; the University of Dar es Salaam; the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal; and the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador, Brazil.
More than 30 KU faculty, staff and students took part in the institute, which was supported by a $175,000 grant from the Consortium of Humanities Centers & Institutes (CHCI) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. CHCI and the Mellon Foundation have supported numerous Global Humanities Institutes beginning in 2017.
The goal of the institute was to discuss new ways to understand and approach the historical, cultural, spatial and structural processes that have given rise to chronic health conditions among African and African-descended youth and children.
"In order to effect change toward racial equity, health humanities scholars must possess broad understandings of historic and contemporary racial constructions, forge multi-community collaborations and invest in partnerships,” said Katie Rhine, associate director of the Kansas African Studies Center. “Our Global Humanities Institute, 'Chronic Conditions,' sought to do just that; that is, we are building multinational research interrogations among scholars of African and African diasporic communities around the world, while also working to remove barriers to sustained collaborations, publication and research dissemination among early career scholars.”
Planning for the Global Humanities Institute started before the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams from the four universities met regularly, first to submit the grant application, which included funding for a weeklong pre-institute planning meeting that would have happened at the Federal University of Bahia — in the Brazilian city with the largest Afro-descendant population outside of Africa. Due to the pandemic, this meeting was held virtually. The research teams, aided by translators, determined that one of the goals would be to organize an event that has the characteristics of an academic conference, but would go beyond, including workshops, site visits and other experiences that allow participants to have meaningful reflections on the institute’s theme. For example, there were capoeira and percussion workshops, which led to experiences and discussions about the therapeutic role of the arts for African and Afro-descendant communities. There were also visits to museums and health facilities.
The institute brought together 90 experienced and early career scholars from the four universities and beyond. The core objectives were to provide participants not only with an opportunity to share their work but also to create and strengthen interdisciplinary professional networks to foster future collaborations.
"KU affirmed its position as a leader in African and Afro-diasporic studies by partnering up with three other universities to plan and organize the 2022 Global Humanities Institute at the University of Dar es Salaam,” said Antonio Luciano Tosta, interim director of the Center for Global & International Studies. “We brought together groups of scholars that are engaged in the critical study of the correlations between the current health conditions in African and Afro-diasporic communities and their historical and social contexts.”
Rhine, associate professor of African & African-American studies and of geography, led the institute. The KU organizing committee also included Tosta, associate professor of Spanish & Portuguese; as well as Glenn Adams, Kansas African Studies Center interim director and associate professor of psychology; Elizabeth McGonagle, associate professor of African & African-American studies; and Marta Caminero-Santangelo, University Distinguished Professor of English.
Among the other KU faculty members who attended the institute were Shawn Alexander, professor and chair of African & African-American studies; Kim Warren, associate dean of diversity, equity & inclusion for the School of Social Welfare and associate professor of history; and Sarah Crawford-Parker, director of the University Honors Program. Graduate and undergraduate students came from departments across the university.
The 2022 Global Humanities Institute will also lead to many opportunities of collaboration between these universities. There will be a post-institute meeting at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in 2023 to plan future collaboration. In addition, Rhine, Tosta and McGonagle will lead a winter break study abroad program on race, history and health in Brazil in the city of Salvador from Jan. 3-15, 2023, open to undergraduate and graduate students.
“Although we hope that our institute was only the beginning of a broader collaboration between and beyond its participants, the success of the event was evidence of the power of teamwork, and the importance of international cooperation and interdisciplinary research," Tosta said.
Photos: The 2022 Global Humanities Institute, "Chronic Conditions: Childhood and Social Suffering in Global Africa," took place Aug. 1-12 at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. More than 30 University of Kansas faculty, staff and students attended the institute, which was a partnership among four universities and led by Katie Rhine, associate director of the Kansas African Studies Center. Credit: Meg Kumin, KU Marketing.