The Academy for African Urban Diversity (AAUD) was launched at the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) on 6 November 2017.
AAUD is a joint initiative of ACMS; the African Centre for Cities; and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. It brings together a cohort of post-fieldwork doctoral students exploring diversity in African cities to debate and theorize the political, social and economic processes surrounding Africa’s growing and diversifying cities.
The initiative creates interdisciplinary engagement among young and senior scholars working on urban studies on the African continent. The AAUD launch began with a welcome note from Wits Dean of Humanities Professor Ruksana Osman. Osman highlighted the importance of AAUD in aligning with the University of the Witwatersrand’s vision to nurture young, talented, academic African researchers.
Other top South African and global academics also welcomed the initiative. “The AAUD is a key and very important opportunity for scholars to advance their understanding of diversity in African cities, and to generate new ways of understanding urban processes on the continent”, said Professor Edgar Pieterse, Director of the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town.
Research Fellow at the African Centre for Cities, Professor Henrietta Nyamnjoh expressed her excitement to be part of the AAUD innovative interdisciplinary research and workshop with young and senior scholars from around the continent focusing on urban studies.
The initiative is also an opportunity to foster collaboration across the institutions and researchers involved.
The platform will help enable wider knowledge sharing via the development of a transnational scholarly community and the strengthening of collaborative engagements between Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town, added Pieterse.
According to Dr Léonie Newhouse, Senior Research Fellow at Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, by bringing together next-generation scholars from all over the continent and around the world who are doing innovative research on diverse issues for African cities, AAUD promises to be a productive time for the fellows with the added benefit of broadening their networks as much as their theoretical horizons. “For me, this is a truly exciting collaboration”, she said.
In addition to strengthening links between their institute and the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town, the collaboration will play a role in supporting the development of skills and knowledge of a new generation of Urban African scholars.
Engida Dube a PhD student at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia is one of the nine AAUD fellows. Dube’s research is on the spatial and temporal dynamics and management of street vending in Dire Dawa, a city in Ethiopia. “I saw the call from a friend in New York on Facebook then I applied and got accepted”, he said. “It is important to bring different people with different backgrounds together. We get to learn from various colleagues with interdisciplinary thinking and learn from senior academic staff”, he added.
Professor Loren Landau who is the South African Research Chair in Mobility and the Politics of Difference at ACMS acknowledged that the initiative is a milestone for the African academy. “People talk about decolonization. As I see it, this moves beyond critique. This is creating a new form of globally embedded African scholarship”, he alluded.
The week-long workshop ran from November 6-10, 2017. It is part of a six-year project moving in two cycles of Johannesburg, Germany and Cape Town. The next workshop will be held in Göttingen, Germany in 2018.