September 2017
Workshop "Waiting in Africa"
28.09.2017 - 30.09.2017

The Working Group ‘Waiting for Futures’ of the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies is pleased to announce the Workshop "Waiting in Africa"

Africa’s futures, Goldstein and Obarrio (2016: 13) remark, seem to be ‘engulfed by a continuous present’. Economic exigencies, neopatrimonial dependencies, conflicts, displacements, inequalities and a widespread insecurity about day-to-day routines have epistemic repercussions: the present’s obtrusiveness limits horizons of expectation, perpetually postponing the creation of meaningful futures. Simultaneously, and seemingly paradoxically, for many people in Africa the main state of being is one of anticipatory alignment towards possible futures – a state that is principally tantamount to waiting. People wait for work and (social) adulthood; for opportunities for education, migration and curative treatment; for stability, prosperity, redemption etc. At the same time, ‘works of waiting’ are also ubiquitous in more quotidian realms, such as transport, bureaucracy and ICTs.

Whether experienced as suffering or deferred gratification, as a ‘wasting’ of time or an ‘investment’ in the proverbial better-times-to-come, waiting portends that the future will be qualitatively different from the present. While waiting, people engage in and expect something from the future and, ultimately, from life, ascribing value to what is forthcoming, whether near or far. Waiting, seen from this angle, emerges as both a gap and a link between present and future. Waiting might be experienced as a temporal void or an instrument for submission, leading people to resign to fate or into states of rage, frustration or even apathy. Yet it might also surface as a possibility for muse or for tempting fate by exercising faith, hope, patience and, ultimately, agency. States of waiting tend to restructure temporality in such ways that present and past are engaging the future as a possibility for difference, whether this pertains to social, economic, political, religious, imaginative, existential or utterly mundane positioning.

In this interdisciplinary workshop, we want to attend to the multifaceted nature of waiting from an Africanist perspective. We invite empirical or theoretical contributions from across the social sciences and cultural studies to explore practices, experiences, affects, contexts and consequences of waiting in Africa and among African diasporas. By zeroing in on the different ways in which people engage with temporalities of waiting, be it through modes of expectancy, patience, perseverance, creed, anxiety, powerlessness or indifference, we wish to strengthen the theoretical purchase that the perspective on waiting offers. Set against the overarching topic of waiting in Africa, the primary aim of the workshop is to provide a platform for discussing different approaches towards waiting as both a descriptive and an analytical category, as well as for reflecting on the methodological challenges implied in the study of situations of waiting.