Afro-Asian Futures Past is a collaborative research program between the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Media Studies and the Department of English at the American University of Beirut, the Institute for African Studies at the University of Ghana, the Department of Sociology at Cape Town University and the Department of Political Studies at the University of Witwatersrand. It is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The program is divided into three main research tracks in social
theory and literary cultures
, and will be realized through public workshops, an international conference, publications and innovative pedagogies at the partner institutions. The program is a south-south collaboration on empirical, theoretical and literary questions formulated from within, and that is of importance to, the Afro-Asian world today. It welcomes affiliation requests
from international scholars and postgraduates students, and has partnered with the Arab Council for the Social Science
to provide a research home for annual one-year Early Career Fellowships for junior Arab scholars to work on their postdoctoral research projects at AUB.
The purpose of the program is to revisit the Afro-Asian pasts of the decolonization era, and explore the transnational flows of south-south political and social ideas, movements and literary cultures horizontally across the Global South that this past enabled. The program investigates the ways in which a number of Asian and African anti-colonial thinkers, activists, political leaders and writers from the decolonization era imagined and articulated their connections, convergences and divergences in relation to the Afro-Asian anti-colonial imaginary of the time. It traces the genealogy and histories of the Afro-Asian movement, and engages the failures of this Bandung era, particularly through the unrealized hopes for better futures that it embodied.
The program also revisits the envisioned futures that the Afro-Asian past articulated, and reformulates these past questions for a changed present as futures past. This approach will generate a theoretically- and conceptually-relevant language to understanding the changed realities of the Global South today by drawing on its recent decolonial past, and rethink the Bandung era and its main questions as categories for a critical philosophy for today. To this end, the program will also further an archive of literature and primary source documents from the Bandung era at the Archives and Special Collections
at the University Libraries at AUB and the J.H. Kwabena Nketia Archives at the Institute for African Studies at the University of Ghana. A film on the archive building aspect of the program, supported by the Arab-German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities, can be seen here
. Through curating an institutional cultural repository of primary source material that can support meaningful grassroots south-south research, the program will also support a contemporary humanities and humanistic social sciences in, of and for the Global South.