Territoriality, Boundaries and Spatial Practices in “Berlin’s Africa”

Territoriality, Boundaries and Spatial Practices in “Berlin’s Africa”

Geert Castryck, Adam Jones and Bas De Roo, SFB 1199 "Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition", U Leipzig, Project B2: “African-European Entangled Histories and Spatial Orders in ‘Berlin’s Africa’
From - Until
08.05.2017 -
Geert Castryck

Different conceptions of space, and of territoriality and boundaries in particular have played a decisive role in colonial history. A widespread reading of colonization posits that the European colonizers imposed arbitrary territorial borders and rigid ethnic areas upon Africa. Although not completely false, this is only one part of a far more complex story. In part, these borders were negotiated with local leaders and in relation to local conceptions of territory. Some imposed borders were locally re-signified, circumvented or exploited. In many cases, pre-existing territorialities and boundaries continued to exist despite colonial territorialization. And often, new spatial forms and practices emanated or evolved from the interplay between diverse conceptions of space.

In this workshop, we discuss processes of spatialization during the 19th and 20th centuries in East and Central Africa. By focusing on areas close to colonial or national borders we want to scrutinize historical processes of territorialization and border-making as well as spatial practices and relations that emerged in response to boundaries, frontiers or different significances of territoriality. We go beyond borderlands studies in the narrow sense by scrutinizing overlapping and interacting spatializations, of which the border-territory-borderland nexus is but one. We aim to bring together scholars working close to the boundaries between Belgian, British, French, German and Portuguese colonial territories, hence also between present-day African states, and to encourage trans-national and trans-imperial historical approaches.

Furthermore, we are interested in different temporal perspectives on space, border and territory making. We expect a fruitful exchange of ideas based on a combination of precolonial, colonial and postcolonial vantage points. This can include long term processes of negotiation, adaptation and signification of territories, boundaries and spatial connections, as well as examples where histories or memories of the making and meaning of boundaries and territories have a bearing on later events.

The workshop takes place in the context of research project B2: “African-European Entangled Histories and Spatial Orders in ‘Berlin’s Africa’” (SFB 1199). In this project, we empirically emphasize the historicity and contingency of spatial orders beyond the confines of separate world regions. The free trade zone agreed upon at the Berlin Africa Conference of 1884/5 serves as the starting-point for the analysis of a history of Afro-European entanglement. The project investigates conflict-ridden processes of spatialization that unfolded over several decades of high imperialism and modern colonialism in Africa and Europe. Its focus is on the analysis of political spaces and processes of territorialisation, religious networks and areas of influence, trade networks and transport connections, as well as on the entangled history of violence experienced in “Berlin’s Africa”.


9:00 am–9:15 am Registration

9:15 am–9:30 am Welcome /Opening Remarks
Adam Jones and Geert Castryck (U Leipzig)

I. constructing territoriality

9:30 am–10:45 am
Chair: Maximilian Georg (Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig)

Henri Médard (Aix-Marseille U /IMAf)
Lake People (Basese), Clan Protest and Colonial Territorial Rule in the Kingdom of Buganda (1886–1924)

Bas De Roo (U Leipzig)
The Making of a Territorial Order in the Belgian Congo: the Case of the M’Bomu Basin (1910–1932)

Discussant: Dmitri van den Bersselaar (U Leipzig)

II. political imaginations

11:15 am–12:30 pm
Chair: Anne-Kristin Hartmetz (U Leipzig)

Aidan Russell (Graduate Institute Geneva /U Cambridge)
The Inevitable Borders: Rwanda, Burundi and the Political Imagination of Secession

Miles Larmer (U Oxford)
Nation-making at the Border: Zambian Diplomacy in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Discussant: Steffi Marung (U Leipzig)

III. mobility and identity

1:30 pm–3:15 pm
Chair: Bas De Roo (U Leipzig)

David Maxwell (U Cambridge)
Free Slaves, Christian Modernity and Ethnic Imagination in Katanga, Belgian Congo

Geert Castryck (U Leipzig)
Bordering the Lake: Transcending Spatial Orders in Kigoma-Ujiji

Gillian Mathys (U Ghent)
Re(b)ordering Space: Fixing Mobility and the Territorialization of Identities in the Lake Kivu Region (19th–20th Century)

Discussant: Adam Jones (U Leipzig)

IV. conceptualizing spatial experiences

3:45 pm–5:00 pm
Chair: Megan Maruschke (U Leipzig)

Margot Luyckfasseel (U Ghent)
The Road as Actant: A New Materialist Approach to Colonial Space

Achim von Oppen (U Bayreuth)
Moving Along, Moving Across, Moving in Time: Linear Geographies, Translocal Practices and the Making of the Zambia — Angola Border (c. 1890 to 1950)

Discussant: Bas De Roo (U Leipzig)

5:00 pm–6:00 pm Closing Summary / General Discussion
Geert Castryck (U Leipzig)

Contact (announcement)

Dr. Ute Rietdorf (SFB 1199)

Editors Information
Published on
Regional Classification
Additional Informations
Country Event
Language(s) of event
Language of announcement