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The Project

This project brings together contemporary policy discourse around pan-Africanism with a broader analysis of it as an ideology with a long-standing and multifaceted tradition and history. The idea of pan-Africanism first emerged among Africans in the diaspora, especially in America and the Caribbean Islands. Originally a cultural and intellectual movement that challenged racial definitions and the segregation of people of African descent in the diaspora, it was eventually adopted by African nationalists like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana in the 1950s as a philosophy for anti-colonial struggle. It later evolved into a drive for political independence in the new states created by colonial rule. Since the 1980s, pan-Africanism has become topical in new ways in Africa, utilised for policy purposes in the Africa Union's regional integration and international relations strategy. 


It has since been used to frame collective responses to huge policy challenges, from conflict to development, as well as forming the basis for exploring African and diaspora values and identities. Its re-mobilisation as a policy tool and resource of identification is leveraged to alter structures and practices of governance, reconfiguring relationships between the AU and its member states, the continent and its diaspora, and Africa within the international system. 


In this project, we ask how pan-Africanism, as a system of ideas, becomes animated, that is to say how it comes to matter, in the African policy arena, in popular politics and diaspora identities and whether it can be a viable ideology in these very different contexts. The research is particularly guided by the following questions: 


  • How is pan-Africanism as a system of ideas formed and translated into policy aspirations and with what effects? 

  • How is it mobilised in the specific sectors of peacebuilding, development and diaspora engagement initiatives? 

  • Are there regional differences in the way it is deployed and how do African citizens and the diaspora react to pan-African claims of universality? 

  • How, to what extent and under which conditions do African regional integration initiatives and global diaspora solidarities contribute to transformative change? 

  • How should we conceptualise pan-Africanism in the contemporary world? 

  • We employ a pioneering multi-level research approach that combines an exploration of top-down institutional and policy processes with the bottom-up identity narratives of African citizens in different parts of the continent and members of the Afro-diaspora in the UK. 


By exploring the diverse deployments of pan-Africanism as a geopolitical and policy framework on the continent and in the diaspora, we seek to establish a novel located approach to the study of pan-Africanism. We consider the policy implications of the mobilisation of the idea and ideals of pan-Africanism in the fields of African security, African development and diaspora politics. We aim to bridge gaps between theory, policy and practice and develop perspectives that will help drive new thinking in continental and regional policymaking and diaspora engagement 

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