Retelling the past

The study of eastern African’s past faces a moment of challenge and opportunity. Challenge comes from a growing tendency in governments in the region to discount knowledge about the past and historicized ways of thinking. In institutions of higher education, the assumption that history is an unaffordable luxury, or is irrelevant to an African future – or both – has become established. Yet at the same time, historical narratives and knowledge play an ever more potent role in litigation and debates over land rights, citizenship and the politics of culture and heritage; the disconnect between official disregard and popular history-making is increasingly profound. At the same time, opportunity comes from a moment of wider debate over the very nature of scholarship: the decolonizing of knowledge has become a pressing concern. Challenge and opportunity are linked: the past – whether deep, or recent – must be revisited and retold from new perspectives. The BIEA will facilitate and promote that process, without seeking to dominate it, through pilot projects of partnership that encourage new representations of the region’s past.