CFP: Science and Society in Africa

3—4 Sept 2014, Stellenbosch

ABSTRACT SUBMISSION DEADLINE: 3 March 2014

Please e-mail abstracts to: scisocafrica@gmail.com

Africa faces the challenge of improving the critical understanding of science among non-scientists while respecting and responding to the fact that the history of science has been dominated by Europe and the USA.  Scientists in Africa must also grapple with colonial legacies of the use of a continent as a laboratory and a field-site. At the same time, Africa presents a challenge to science studies disciplines (e.g. philosophy, anthropology, communications) as they have evolved in Europe and the United States. At present there is a perceived gap between two positions: epistemic relativism which situates science as merely one socially constructed way of knowing among others of equal validity and realism, which accords it greater status as a universally true body of knowledge.  Both have been critiqued: realism has been cast as ignoring the influence of social factors on science and relativism has been pronounced to be impractical.

Closing this gap is politically and socially critical for development on the continent, as well as of global intellectual importance. Societies and science in Africa need to come to terms with each other, both as a set of social institutions and as knowledge-producers.

We welcome 300 word abstracts dealing with the following themes, or others relevant to the overall theme of the workshop:-

  • The proper integration of scientific knowledge in societies ruled by democratic and democratising states.
  • Science as one of many ways to understand race and human nature in post-colonial African contexts.
  • Biotechnology, nanotechnology and ‘blue sky science’ in African societies
  • ‘From bench to cell phone’: the challenges of ensuring public access to research and translating science into technology and institutional practices in a digital era.
  • The socio-economic and political challenges facing early career scientists in Africa
  • African coherence in science: the role of regional philanthropy and collaborations in agenda setting and contextual solutions

Participants will be invited to attend the conference to offer presentations based on full 5 000 word papers which should be based on these abstracts. (Drafts of these papers will be circulated to participants in advance and will need to be ready by 1 August 2014.)

This  workshop is being jointly organised by the South African Young Academy of Science, the Philosophy Department of University of Johannesburg, the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University and the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences at University of Cape Town.

The conference organizers are: Professor Alex Broadbent at the University of Johannesburg; Dr. Mandisa Mbali at Stellenbosch University and Dr. Tolullah Oni at the University of Cape Town.

The meeting will take place at Stellenbosch University.  Some travel funding will be available for post-graduate students and early career scholars.

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