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Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa

MIASA, based at the University of Legon, Ghana, is one of five Maria Sibylla Merian Centres for Advanced Studies, funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research. Its overall aim is to work towards a reduction of global asymmetries in knowledge production and bridging the cultural divide between anglophone and francophone Africa. MIASA's thematical focus is on sustainable governance. The GIGA contributes to the Interdisciplinary Fellow Group on ‘Sustainable Rural Transformation’ and its outreach activities.
BMBF, 2020-2026

Cooperation Partners

German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA)
University of Ghana
Goethe University Frankfurt
University of Konstanz
German Historical Institute Paris

Research Questions

MIASA's research programme inquires into a broad field: sustainable governance in Africa in the three important areas of environment, democracy, and peace, which serve as MIASA’s main thematic corridors. The guiding question is how the practice of historically grounded social sciences and humanities in Africa can address sustainable governance as a theoretical, conceptual, and empirical challenge to provide new answers to key societal problems.

Contribution to International Research

Four elements are particularly important to MIASA. It is meant to create a place of intense exchange between African and non-African thinkers. Secondly, MIASA seeks to highlight knowledge production by African scholars. Thirdly, it aims to challenge the North-South divides in the academic sphere. Fourth, MIASA strives to bring different directions and research traditions across the Humanities and Social Sciences into conversation. The GIGA contributes to these overarching goals by organising the Interdisciplinary Fellow Group on ‘Sustainable Rural Transformation’, policy conferences and publishing workshops.

Research Design and Methods

The Interdisciplinary Fellow Groups bring together early career fellows and senior fellows to allow for the opportunity for establishing long-lasting intercontinental networks around a certain topic of specific interest. The group on ‘Sustainable Rural Transformation’, which was already created during MIASA's first funding phase, was comprised of ten international Fellows, one guest researcher and numerous contributors and collaborated at MIASA between February and May 2020. It concluded with a virtual conference in May 2020.
The publishing workshops offer an opportunity to discuss imbalances in academic knowledge production on Africa. On a more practical level, they offer different formats of mentoring and training for the next generation of African authors, reviewers and (associate) editors.

Preliminary Findings

The IFG worked on selected aspects of the pertinent issues of rural change: (1) large-scale land acquisitions and rural livelihoods, (2) the nexus between the environment and rural change, again with particular reference to large-scale land acquisitions, (3) resource-based conflicts, with a focus on conflict in the Sahel zone, and, (4) internal mobility and rural-urban interactions. The group’s work was not designed to provide a holistic analysis of rural transformation in Africa, but to dive deep into the respective topic while being exposed to research on other facets of rural change. Collaborations between different members of the groups emerged and the weekly meetings of the group altered and expanded the perspectives of the individual research agendas. The collaboration has led the group’s research to (1) recognize more explicitly the interactions and inter-relationships between the different aspects of rural transformation that are typically dealt with in disciplinary and topical silos, and (2) to be more cognizant of the ambiguities of change and the empirical nuances and distinctions that call into question simplistic assumptions that often underlie analyses of rural transformation processes. Finally, the joint work also exposed (3) a number of common patterns and drivers of the analysed processes of rural transformation.

Publications

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