Institute of African Studies - Columbia University

Bamako: Social Science Research in the Context of Crisis

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Workshop Deepening the Mali-Columbia Connection - Bamako, 25 June 2015

Theme: Les Recherches en sciences sociales dans le contexte de la crise

On June 25, 2015, at the University of Bamako (ex-FLASH) in Badalabougou, eight researchers—from Ph.D. candidates to post-doc’s—presented their work in progress to a group of faculty, students and researchers, from the University’s Faculté des Sciences Humaines, from the Institut des Sciences Humaines, and from abroad. This workshop, the third in a series of joint research seminars which began in 2009, was sponsored by the Faculté des Sciences Humaines and by Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies. It was co-organized by Professors Isaie Dougnon (Bamako) and Gregory Mann (Columbia). The workshop was opened by the dean of the Faculté des Sciences Humaines and concluded with presentations by two senior scholars—Professor Issa N’Diaye and Dr. Dramane Diallo—on “Commentaires sur l’expertise scientifique relative à la crise Malienne.” The core of the workshop—and the motivation behind the event—was a series of three panels in which Malian and foreign researchers presented their work in progress and solicited commentary from those in attendance. These panels—on women and health, on gender and artisanal economies, and on ethnicity, conflict, and migration—offered the opportunity for students from Bamako, Columbia, Florida and Stanford to share ideas and perspectives while benefitting from the sage advice of more experienced researchers like Dr. Felix Koné of the ISH and other colleagues.

The event was a rousing success, in so far as it attracted some three dozen people and created possibilities for commentary, exchange, and critique. It was also extremely cost effective—the Faculté des Sciences Humaines provided a conference room equipped with a video projector as well as facilities for printing the program. The Institute of African Studies at Columbia offered the catering (a coffee break and a lunch). Participants were already in Bamako. The total budget was only $500.

With a few changes to the work-in-progress approach, the workshop might be even more effective in the future. Brief papers or project proposals could be pre-circulated to a “comité scientifique,” which could then offer more targeted commentaries. Such a committee might be composed of, at a minimum, Drs. Dougnon and Koné—and/or another scholar—from Bamako, and Dr. Mann from Columbia. Given that most of the doctoral students from the Université de Bamako are working in anthropology and related fields, the committee might also include a second anthropologist (in addition to Dr. Dougnon). Pre-circulating papers would not pre-empt discussion and debate, but might usefully supplement it for the students, allowing us to build on what works best in what was has been a successful multi-year experience in collaborative research and pedagogy.