Africa research to gain momentum in collaboration with African scholars at the University of Helsinki’s City Centre Campus

AfriStadi – the Africa Research Forum for Social Sciences and Humanities – wishes to increase awareness of and multidisciplinary research on Africa in the humanities and social sciences together with African researchers.

According to Professor Friederike Lüpke, the network established in October 2021 has two important objectives. The first relates to the very Eurocentric knowledge production. 

“It is important that we increase our understanding of Africa, but this is not enough in itself. We also need to look critically at the knowledge production in our own disciplines,” says Lüpke. 

Africa is often considered a field from which research material has been sought as raw material to consolidate questions and theories formulated in the Global North. These questions and theories have been seen as universal. However, knowledge pertaining to Africa must be seen as relevant to the theory formation of various disciplines – we also need new perspectives and new relevant questions about the Global South. 

“We want to show that Africa research has relevance not only within this discipline but also in other disciplines. Personally, I study multilingualism in Africa, which gives rise to many important theories that should be taken into account by all linguists,” says Lüpke.

Another important goal is to increase internal cooperation with African scholars within the University of Helsinki and raise funds in the project so that African researchers can take on a more integral role as members of the University of Helsinki’s scholarly community. 

The network has received funding from the University of Helsinki’s Helsinki Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities (HSSH), and one of the key goals of the network is to increase methodological cooperation.

The AfriStadi network engages in multidisciplinary activities in many faculties

The AfriStadi network promotes the implementation of University of Helsinki’s Strategic Plan and Africa Programme in the humanities and social sciences while bringing together scholars in the field from all the faculties on the City Centre Campus,” says Head of Development Anna-Maria Salmi. “We at the University of Helsinki possess strong expertise on all campuses, and it is also important that cooperation within the City Centre Campus will now be consolidated in a totally new way. 

AfriStadi contributes significantly to the objectives of the University's Africa Programme by accelerating multidisciplinary collaboration, building sustainable partnerships inside and outside the University as well as increasing interaction between scholars and other parties on the African continent.”

All scholars conducting research on Africa can join the network on the AfriStadi website. The network also welcomes stakeholders, such as NGO representatives and members of the African diaspora. 

The network also wants to influence Finnish society and challenge outdated perceptions of Africa as a dark, developing country. 

“People often claim they know nothing about Africa, but this is not true; the majority have negative prejudices and stereotypical views about Africa, which need to be dismantled,” says Lüpke.  “Africa is diverse, complex and multivoiced. We want to bring out African perspectives”, the professor continues.

The AfriStadi network helps scholars to find each other and join forces 

“By combining different fields of research and developing interdisciplinary and research-based teaching, we will promote a deeper understanding of Africa in universities and society at large,” says Lüpke. 

The aim is also to organise conferences where scholars from various disciplines can find each other and seminars where researchers from different fields can meet to discuss a common theme. The network also organises film screenings and cultural events to produce and share information.

The AfriStadi network focuses on themes of global importance, which can be viewed from a variety of perspectives due to the diversity of disciplines. Important themes include sustainable economic development, high-quality inclusive education, social justice, citizenship and mobility, inclusive multilingual societies, health care, political agency as well as research ethics in global cooperation between the Global North and the Global South. 

Africa scholars at the University of Helsinki

Video: Antti Vuori