Through the joint effort of scholars in the UC system, the African Studies Multi-Campus Research Group (MRG) is interested in repositioning the relationship between African Studies as an academic field of inquiry and the researcher who studies “Africa.” Since the inception of African Studies, the identity of the “Africanist ” has fundamentally shifted from an Orientalist perspective of colonial authority and cultural arrogance to a new kind of twenty-first century interlocutor who mediates between non-African institutions and the African continent. The researcher who studies Africa has a crucial role to play in re-conceptualizing the significance of African Studies as a multi-sited post-colonial discipline that is no longer bounded by the geography of the African continent itself.
In July 2008, the University of California has launched an initiative to re-conceptualize African Studies as a multi-sited post-colonial discipline in order to foment change in the study and engagement with the African continent. Over a five-year period, the new African Studies MRG will organize an array of activities on the African continent that will include three international conferences on the African continent —in Ghana, Senegal, and South Africa—featuring writing competitions for emerging African writers, art exhibitions that will travel abroad, and the restoration, preservation, and screening of African film and media. By combining resources among the ten University of California campuses, the MRG will arrange visiting fellowships for academics from the continent, performances of African cultural groups, as well as graduate student workshops and other events so that African Studies may be further integrated into teaching and research within the humanities and social sciences across the University of California system and beyond.
The MRG is based at UC Santa Barbara campus and is co-directed by Peter J. Bloom (Film and Media Studies) and by Stephan Miescher (History).