Mid-term Conference: Sustainable Governance in a Time of Global Flux: Issues, Concepts and Future Directions
Its mid-term conference will review findings from previous research by fellows, but also new perspectives on central thematic fields where sustainable governance would make a difference to actual governance practices, be it with regard to peace, environment, democracy, mobility, land access, energy transitions, natural resources, African cities, human rights or memory politics. Over the last five years, Interdisciplinary Fellow Groups, research tandems and individual researchers at MIASA have worked on related topics and have come up with findings that speak to somewhat compartmentalized academic discussions. In addition, recent transformations and disruptions across the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have generated lively debates about the governance of economies, growing inequalities and the autonomy of economic policy making across Africa and indeed the globe.
This conference aims at establishing linkages between only apparently separate debates, and stimulating a conversation across disciplines and specific thematic fields. We understand MIASA’s overarching theme as a conceptional challenge, by some endorsed and others contested, but worth to further explore in a time of global flux and uncertain futures.
From our original application, we can draw a selection of four rarely explored aspects of sustainable governance that can inspire this conference as cross-cutting questions – more specifically the idea that these aspects are not yet fully explored (including practically by policy-makers and any other social/political/economic actors):
- Grounding. In(ter)ventions in any of the aforementioned fields are rarely in parallel welcomed both on popular and elite levels. Proposed solutions will not stand the test of time if they are broadly ignored by the population or forcefully resisted by powerful veto players. This means that it needs a much more nuanced understanding of the interactions of social actors, interest groups and stake-holders in order to reflect on the meanings of sustainable governance on a local, national and regional level.
- Global interconnections. Barely any aspect of sustainable governance can be investigated adequately and reliably without taking Africa’s global connections into account. A transregional perspective that highlights Africa’s worldwide entanglements is too rarely addressed. Africa can neither be understood as a geographical container nor as being at the “margins” of a “Northern-dominated” world. The continent rather embraces different scales of interconnections.
- Historical experience. Modern societies tend to forget lessons and experiences of the past. Past transformations have their repercussions in the present and future. Bringing in African perspectives necessarily includes historical research on past experiences. The past is experienced in multiple ways, through institutions, social norms, cultural practices, built and unbuilt environment, memory et al. Considering historical experience also means situating different aspects of sustainable governance in time.
- Flipping the script. Since our initial application, MIASA thrives for critical reflection on sustainable governance, which also means not taking any concept for granted. Creating deeper and new understandings of sustainable governance requires both thinking through specific contexts from different perspectives and questioning the inherent power structures that impact global knowledge production.
The conference welcomes panels and papers which are thematically related to MIASA’s main thematic fields, its intersectional topics and its cross-cutting issues, while contributing to a broader debate on sustainable governance in critical and interdisciplinary perspective. Panels and papers may focus on different social, political, economic, cultural and epistemological practices which allow for re-considering the issue of sustainable governance and its conceptual implications.
This broad agenda translates into three thematic fields based on research conducted at MIASA:
- The politics and practices of sustainable governance. This field responds to MIASA’s main thematic corridors on democratisation and peace. Research at MIASA has addressed different actors and institutions, in particular, political parties and parliaments, as well as non-state actors and NGOs, raising issues of democratic governance, plural forms of authority and the politics of state-building. Research has also explored political discourses and specific practices of governance, including public services and technopolitics. Moreover, it has investigated contexts of conflict and crisis, such as secessionist movements and violent extremism, and raised the question of peacebuilding processes.
- The governance of economies and economic processes. This thematic field raises issues of MIASA’s third thematic corridor on sustainability trans-formations, which includes the energy transition, land and resource governance, mining, agriculture and food security as well as economic integration. Research at MIASA on these topics has taken both urban and rural perspectives. The research has demonstrated the important role of the governance of economies and economic processes – including but not limited to the quality and characteristics of institutions and markets as well as social and (macro)-economic policies – in these areas and beyond.
- The governance of socio-cultural change. MIASA has designated a number of intersectional topics (migration and mobility, restitution, human rights, African cities), which allow for further inquiring the governance of socio-cultural change and have been central to MIASA’s ongoing research. The topic of mobility and migration entails internal and transnational mobility as well as issues around the production of shifting identities. It is also related to the study of religious and cultural diversity, African cities and urban social transformation, including the role of gender as well as discourses of violence and discrimination. One of MIASA’s key fields has been the topic of restitution and the question of dealing with the colonial past and trauma.