Recap of Memorial Conference for John McCracken and Jack Thompson

To celebrate the work of John McCracken and Jack Thompson, scholars from around the world gathered at a conference in Edinburgh on 26 April. The conference, titled ‘Politics, Society and Christianity in Malawi and Beyond’, brought together emerging and established scholars to discuss some of the important themes in these two men’s work. Speakers presented papers on the academy in society, material and visual culture, Malawi and global history, Christianity and political change in Africa, and Christian missions and the making of modern Malawi.

The respect of those who knew them well, both personally and professionally, was apparent. The conference began with a welcome from organisers Gerhard Anders and Brian Stanley of the University of Edinburgh and then a prayer and reminiscence from Kings Phiri from Mzuzu University. That was followed by reminiscences from former friends and colleagues. Each of the speakers shared fond memories of Prof McCracken and Dr Thompson and reflected on their important contributions to the study of Malawi.

Throughout the day, the names of these two men were invoked as the speakers referred to their important contributions. The first session, on the academy in society, largely set the tone as Wapulumuka O. Mulwafu discussed Prof McCracken’s influence on the writing of Malawi history. Chisomo Kalinga moved us forward with a discussion of current work in the arts and humanities in Malawi and Kenneth Ross reflected on the work of our honourees along with Andrew Ross in furthering the current relationship between Scotland and Malawi.

The conference programme is available on the website for the Centre for African Studies. There you can see in the institutional affiliation of the presenters something of how broadly Prof McCracken and Dr Thompson’s work affected the study of Malawian history. The distances travelled by those who came to pay tribute is impressive.

Hosting institutions were the Centre of African Studies and Centre for the Study of World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Stirling’s Division of History and Politics, and the Scotland-Malawi Partnership. The British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi sponsored the conference.

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