SSRC and University of Kinshasa host Colloquium in Kinshasa, DRC
On December 7, 2009, CPPF Deputy Director Tatiana Carayannis chaired a colloquium in partnership with the University of Kinshasa (UNIKIN) and Berci, a Congolese survey research firm, on “50 Years of Political Mobilization in the Congo.” The colloquium, held in Kinshasa, honored fifty years of social science research in the Congo conducted by American political scientist Professor Herbert F. Weiss (CUNY; Columbia University) and helped UNIKIN launch a series of year-long commemorative activities to mark the 50th anniversary of Congolese independence on June 30, 2010. Events held in the margins of the colloquium included a public roundtable discussion with surviving Congolese independence leaders and a traveling photo exhibit of images taken by Professor Weiss in the 1950s and 1960s.
During the pre-independence period that led up to June 30, 1960, Professor Weiss observed that the political transformation underway in the Congo was driven more by popular masses than the political elite, an argument that countered conventional theories of elite-driven independence movements elsewhere. He won the Herskovits prize in 1966 for his ground-breaking work on what came to be known as "rural radicalism." “Professor Weiss is credited with uncovering the revolutionary potential of the peasantry well before studies in Vietnam, underscoring the contribution of the study of Africa to social science theory,” said Tatiana Carayannis. Professor Weiss went on to maintain a 50-year relationship with Congolese scholars in three continents, sharing with them research materials and documentation in support of social science research in the Congo.
Participants in the colloquium and its related activities included Isidore Ndaywel, leading Congolese historian and chair of the scientific committee for the 50th anniversary of independence, Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, renowned French scholar of African history, and leading Belgian political scientist and frequent collaborator of the late Benoit Verhaegan, Jean-Claude Willame. The colloquium and other events were held under the auspices of the DRC Ministers of Higher Education and of Planning, Mssrs. Mashako and Kamitatu, and with additional support from the Centre Wallonie Bruxelles.