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Diaspora and Cosmopolitanism Conference

August 25, 2008

The twenty-first century promises increasing movement–both voluntary and forced–of people from their natal homelands. This rapid diffusion of people, ideas, and practices poses enormous challenges: for managing populations, for creating political communities, and for thinking about the resulting mazes of social relations in an increasingly global world.

The June 2008 Diaspora and Cosmopolitanism conference organized by UW-Madison Prof. Tejumola Olaniyan (African Languages and Literature, English) engaged leading international researchers on current debates on discourses and practices of diaspora and cosmpolitanism. The event deepened UW-Madison’s global engagement through the WUN Colonial and Postcolonial Studies network. In addition to UW Madison members, participants at the conference came from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, Leeds University, Bristol University , the University of Sheffield, the University of Toronto, and York University. According to Olaniyan, future plans for the international research collaborative include satellite hook-up videoconference seminars, faculty and student exchanges, and collaborative book publications. The event received additional support from WUN, the Chancellor’s Office, the Anonymous Fund, and the African Studies Program.

a defining feature. But this was already obvious since at least the last two decades of the 20th century itself. Very few would disagree, though, with the speculation that the 21st century crystal ball promises nothing but even more widespread movements of people and ideas forced or voluntary, and their permanent or semi-permanent settlement in areas far-flung from their natal homelands. This would continue to pose tremendous challenges to the creation of political communities and management of populations.  More specific to us, it challenges us to find new ways to think about such communities and populations and the maze of social relations that they create in an increasingly global world. What we have done with our conference topic, ‘Diaspora and Cosmopolitanism,’ is to suggest these two ideas (and the plentitude of debates about what they mean and imply) as templates for thinking about the real and burning sociological fact of the rapid dispersal of people, ideas, and practices in a world that, in terms of the institutions of governance, still likes to imagine itself as inviolably bounded in small territories called states.  The conference allowed us not only to deepen the research relationship we established with the University of Leeds in 2006, but also gave us the opportunity to expand the collaboration to more WUN member universities. In addition to UW–Madison members, participants at the conference came from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Leeds, Bristol University , the University of Sheffield, the University of Toronto, and York University. Our future plans include satellite hook-up videoconference seminars, faculty and student exchanges, collaborative book publications, and conferences.”

UW Prof. Tejumola Olaniyan: “WUN’s goal is to foster and encourage collaboration between members and thereby bring together the knowledge, experience, expertise, and resources necessary to address the big issues currently facing societies, governments, corporations, and education. The topic of our conference, ‘Diaspora and Cosmopolitanism,’ is one of those big issues. Someone has said that what nationalism was to the 20th century, migration would be to the 21st–that is: a defining feature. But this was already obvious since at least the last two decades of the 20th century itself. Very few would disagree, though, with the speculation that the 21st century crystal ball promises nothing but even more widespread movements of people and ideas forced or voluntary, and their permanent or semi-permanent settlement in areas far-flung from their natal homelands. This would continue to pose tremendous challenges to the creation of political communities and management of populations. More specific to us, it challenges us to find new ways to think about such communities and populations and the maze of social relations that they create in an increasingly global world. What we have done with our conference topic, ‘Diaspora and Cosmopolitanism,’ is to suggest these two ideas (and the plentitude of debates about what they mean and imply) as templates for thinking about the real and burning sociological fact of the rapid dispersal of people, ideas, and practices in a world that, in terms of the institutions of governance, still likes to imagine itself as inviolably bounded in small territories called states. The conference allowed us not only to deepen the research relationship we established with the University of Leeds in 2006, but also gave us the opportunity to expand the collaboration to more WUN member universities. In addition to UW–Madison members, participants at the conference came from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Leeds, Bristol University , the University of Sheffield, the University of Toronto, and York University. Our future plans include satellite hook-up videoconference seminars, faculty and student exchanges, collaborative book publications, and conferences.”

The WUN research group on Postcolonial Studies includes WUN members UW–Madison, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Bristol University; University of Leeds; University of Sheffield; University of Utrecht; University of Sydney.  UW–Madison Prof. Tejumola Olaniyan (African Languages and Literature, English) organized a June 2008 conference on “Diaspora and Cosmopolitanism,” advancing the establishment of a WUN International Network in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. Papers from the conference will be included in a scholarly book about contemporary discourses and practices of diaspora and cosmopolitanism.  The project won additional support from the Chancellor’s Office, the Anonymous Fund, and the African Studies Program.

The WUN research group on Postcolonial Studies includes WUN members UW–Madison, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Bristol University; University of Leeds; University of Sheffield; University of Utrecht; University of Sydney. UW–Madison Prof. Tejumola Olaniyan (African Languages and Literature, English) organized a June 2008 conference on “Diaspora and Cosmopolitanism,” advancing the establishment of a WUN International Network in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. Papers from the conference will be included in a scholarly book about contemporary discourses and practices of diaspora and cosmopolitanism. The project won additional support from the Chancellor’s Office, the Anonymous Fund, and the African Studies Program.

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