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  • Urbane scholarship: studying Africa, understanding the world1
  • Elísio Macamo (bio)

Welcome and introduction from Alcinda Honwana

On behalf of the International African Institute, I would like to welcome you all to this year’s Lugard Lecture. The Institute established the lecture in 1948 in honour of its founding chairman, Lord Lugard. A few years ago, the Council had a lively debate on whether to change the name of the lecture given Lord Lugard’s colonial ties. While there were divergent views, the Council came to the conclusion that it was important not to try to erase our ancestors or our history but to acknowledge the past, face its dark side, and engage it critically to advance new perspectives, new ways of understanding ourselves and the world around us. Indeed, over the years, distinguished scholars developing innovative and cutting-edge research and analysis in the field of African Studies have delivered remarkable Lugard lectures on a variety of topics addressing critical challenges of our time. And it is with great pleasure that I introduce you today to my fellow countryman and colleague, Professor Elísio Macamo, as the 2017 Lugard lecturer. Elísio, meu irmão, ede facto um grande prazer apresentar-te nesta ocasião tão especial. Born in the city of Xai-Xai in Southern Mozambique, Professor Macamo studied in Maputo where he concluded a diploma in language and translation, and then proceeded to earning an MA degree in translation and interpreting from Salford University in the UK, and another MA in sociology and social policy from the University of North London. He then continued his graduate studies in Germany, receiving a PhD and a ‘Habilitation’ in sociology from the University of Bayreuth in 1997 and 2009 respectively. Professor Macamo’s distinguished scholarship made him rise through the ranks and he is currently Director of the African Studies Centre, and Head of the Department of Social Sciences in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Basel. Before joining the University of Basel, he taught development sociology at Bayreuth and was one of the founding members of the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies. Moreover, Elísio Macamo has been a visiting professor at universities in Germany, Portugal, Mozambique, South Africa and Brazil, and a member of several academic bodies, including the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), the German and Swiss Associations of African Studies as well as the International African Institute. He is also co-editor of the African Sociological Review and the Revista Angolana de Sociologia, amongst others. Elísio’s outstanding contributions to academia are seen in his extensive publications. Drawing inspiration from [End Page 1] both postcolonial theorists and sociology classics, he takes a special interest in phenomenological and interpretive approaches to empirical social research, and has written on issues as diverse as modernity, religion, development policy, risk, disasters, social movements and political violence as well as African philosophy. Elísio is committed to the development of African Studies by addressing the challenges posed by cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary research. And, as he pointed out in a recent interview: ‘My main concern is to find ways to reflect about how to produce knowledge; it is a philosophical and an epistemological concern, because it is really about theories of knowledge.’ Indeed, in his lecture today, entitled ‘Urbane Scholarship’, Elísio will eloquently address the challenges of studying Africa and understanding our contemporary world. How to navigate the divergent currents of universalism and relativism? How to critique and transform Western epistemological concepts and theories? How to establish more inclusive bases for intercultural dialogue in conditions of diversity? These are some of the key questions he will tackle in his presentation.


When I first learnt that I had been chosen to deliver this lecture, I thought to myself how unusual it was for ECAS to have a ‘local hero’2 as keynote speaker. Fortunately, I am arrogant enough – that’s at least what people I don’t like say about me – to assume that the International African Institute must have had very good reasons to chart new territory. The problem, however, is...


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