Memorial Conference for John McCracken and Jack Thompson

Politics, Society and Christianity in Malawi and Beyond
A Memorial Conference for John McCracken and Jack Thompson

Thursday 26 April 2018
New College, The Mound, Edinburgh

hosted by
Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh
Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh
Division of History and Politics, University of Stirling
Scotland-Malawi Partnership

In 2017, two eminent historians whose work focused on Malawi passed away. To
commemorate John and Jack we cordially invite you to attend the conference ‘Politics and Christianity in Malawi and Beyond’ on 26 April 2018. The conference offers an opportunity to reflect on their tremendous contribution to African studies, studies of African Christianity and the historiography of Africa. Further, it provides a platform for younger generations of scholars who have been inspired by John’s and Jack’s work.

The conference invites you to explore key themes in the historical and social scientific study of Africa featuring prominently in John’s and Jack’s research such as the embeddedness of the academy in society both in Africa and the UK; Christianity and power; material and visual culture in Africa; and Malawi and Global History.

The Academy in Society

Universities historically are known as institutions for the creation and transmission of knowledge in addition to preparing students in their future careers. This panel invites papers that examine the role of intellectuals beyond the academy but also as activists and leaders in creative practical thinking. By examining the expanded role of academics, both historically and speculatively, we aspire to engage discourse on how to influence a new generation of thinkers and their role in Malawi and beyond.

Christianity and Power

A range of diverse topics may be considered under this deliberately broad theme. Papers might focus on, for example, missionaries, and their role in supporting and/or challenging the established political order in the colonial and postcolonial era. Or, the place of Christianity in local, nationalist and pan-Africanist political movements. Presenters may wish to define power broadly (and not simply in terms of politics), and engage with social and cultural histories of Christianity in Malawi.

Material and Visual Culture

Material and visual culture refers to scholarship occurring at the boundaries between history and ethnography, museum and archive. Papers here may examine how images or artefacts played a part in Malawi’s history, providing insights into the power and contingency of representations, the social life of objects and also new histories of technology. We are also interested in papers that examine the possibility of using images and artefacts as sources for Malawian history – adding new facets to our historiography of the region, especially where textual sources are scant.

Malawi and Global History

Malawi has long been connected to the world through a history of mass emigration.
Substantial Malawian communities exist across Africa and Europe. On the one hand,
Malawians abroad spearheaded radical ideas of Christianity and resistance across Africa. On the other hand, the Malawian diaspora was often politically conservative and the object of anti-immigrant riots. At the limits of a ‘global history’ focusing on connections, comparisons and the transgression of nation states, we are keen to excavate anxieties over migration, citizenship, violence, race and gender, and move towards new paradigms, using Malawi as a lens through which to better understand world history.

If you are interested in presenting a paper or wish to attend please get in touch by 31 January 2018 with Gerhard Anders, Centre of African Studies and Brian Stanley, Centre for the Study of World Christianity.

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