“Extracting the Past from the Present”: International and Interdisciplinary Conference on African Precolonial History ~ ONLINE CONFERENCE!

Extracting the past from the present, 2010, picture by Birgit Ricquier


From Monday March 1st to Friday March 5th, 2021, the Université libre de Bruxelles and the Royal Museum for Central Africa will welcome international scholars from disciplines as diverse as linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, genetics, palaeobotany and others, to discuss methods and the latest results regarding the precolonial past of Africa. Contributions must address the precolonial history of Africa, but may be both theoretical or presenting research results, mono- and multidisciplinary. We especially encourage contributions reflecting on the central theme of the conference: “Extracting the Past from the Present”. Many of us analyze data that have been collected recently – words and phrases, observations of contemporary pottery techniques, genes, etc. – in order to formulate hypotheses on the past. Hardliners argue that only direct evidence – such as ancients objects – may inform us on the past and that such inferences are mere speculation. Yet, many of the insights we value today are based on contemporary evidence. Given its controversial nature, we also welcome critical approaches. More details on the conference’s incentives and central theme can be found here.

We foresee five days of conference as to avoid parallel sessions and instead foster the exchange between scholars working at opposite sides of the continent, on different epochs and diverging research interests, but all facing the same multidisciplinary challenge.


Proceedings of the conference will be published in a special volume of the international bilingual open-access journal Afriques: Débats, méthodes et terrains d'histoire.


You may find the final program here.

Practical information

Conference dates: March 1-5, 2021

Online format: the conference will be online, asynchronous, with a discussion forum. Presentations can be video-recorded or written and must be submitted in advance. More details will be available soon.


It is no longer possible to register for this event.



Organizing committee:

Birgit Ricquier, ULB

Daou Véronique Joiris, ULB

David Kopa wa Kopa, ULB - UNIKIS

Shingo Takamura, ULB

Els Cornelissen, RMCA

Alexandre Livingstone Smith, RMCA

Laurent Nieblas Ramirez, RBINS


Scientific committee:

Chiara Batini, University of Leicester

Koen Bostoen, Ghent University

Kathryn de Luna, Georgetown University

Pierre de Maret, ULB

Jeffrey Fleisher, Rice University

Olivier Gosselain, ULB

Alexa Höhn, Goethe University

Susan Keech McIntosh, Rice University

Alice Mezop Temgoua, University of Yaoundé 1

Karim Sadr, University of the Witwatersrand

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