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Supporting transatlantic partnerships around research and higher education.

Columbia University and Université Paris I Take a Fresh Look at African Studies

The PUF Joint African Studies Program (JASP) is a novel collaboration between Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and Columbia University that has united 170 French and 85 American professors and students to explore a cross-disciplinary approach to African studies. The JASP, led by Richard Banégas, Professor of Political Science at CERI-SciencesPo and Associate Researcher at the CEMAf (Centre d’études des mondes africains), and Mamadou Diouf, Leitner Professor of African Studies and History and Director of the Institute of African Studies of Columbia University, is training a new generation of African Studies scholars and experts with a multidisciplinary and international approach.

The program aims to boost international faculty exchanges and student mobility between the partner universities while also organizing joint conferences and research projects to open up new channels of knowledge production within African Studies. Thanks to PUF funding, its long-term aspirations to build a true trilateral cooperation with African partners (in particular UCAD/CREPOS in Dakar and LASDEL in Niamey) are also becoming a reality: in 2012 to 2013, field research was organized in Senegal and Niger and, in 2014, an international joint conference was held in Côte d’Ivoire with this goal in mind.

The primary accomplishment of the JASP is the Dual Certificate in African Studies that has been created and recently expanded thanks to the PUF grant. In just two years, from 2011 to 2014, eleven students from Paris 1 came to Columbia to work towards a Dual Certificate in African Studies. New Joint Degrees in African Studies at the Bachelor’s and Ph.D. level are also being initiated, and a collaboration between Columbia, Paris 1, and Sciences Po has begun.

Over the past years, Dual Certificate students were mentored by core faculty and took classes in African history, religion, philosophy, literature, and African Studies. A Joint Global Seminar has been offered alternatively in Paris and New York by professors from Columbia University, Sciences Po and Paris 1, initiated by Dr. Etienne Smith during his visiting scholarship at IAS to explore key topics of democracy, statecraft, and leadership in African context. The first session focused on “Democracy, Citizenship and Leadership” (Columbia University, Fall 2012), followed by “History of African Cities” (Columbia University, Spring 2013), “The Arts of Citizenship in Urban Africa” (Paris 1/Sciences Po, Spring 2014) and “Social Movements and Citizenship in Africa” (Columbia University, Fall 2014).

The JASP has also generated a staggering amount of student and faculty mobility. Twenty-six French participants and 15 American participants, taken together, have travelled to eight countries, including five African countries, for joint research, conferences, and educational collaboration.

Hands-on exposure to a variety of different approaches has led JASP scholars to build a truly original body of knowledge in this field, digging deep into the core stakes of African urban cultures. A common research program has been set up on the issue of “The Arts of Citizenship in Africa”, including three transnational projects: “Election, opposition and representation”; “Youth and Social movements”; “Public spaces, urban politics, and new civilities”. Conducted jointly by senior and junior fellows, these comparative field research projects have produced seven books and special journal issues, along with dozens of other articles.

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