African Peacebuilding Network Grantee Research Writing and Dissemination Training Workshop

Ramada Resort by Wyndham Dar es Salaam, Tazania

The African Peacebuilding Network (APN) and the Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa (Next Gen) program held a week-long joint workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for the 2019 cohort of APN Individual Research Grant (IRG) recipients and the 2019 cohort of Next Gen fellows. The workshop was organized in collaboration with the University Dar es Salaam from December 9th to 14th, 2019.

15 APN Individual Research Grant participants benefited from lectures, working group sessions, and one-on-one dialogues with experienced facilitators, including senior scholars, and current and former APN Advisory Board members. The grantees met from December 11th to 14th, 2019. The workshop involved a mix of plenary lectures, small working groups and one-on-one feedback sessions. During the breakout sessions, each small working group (led by a facilitator) guided grantees through presentation of their projects and peer-review and feedback on each other’s projects. These sessions helped grantees refine their proposals, research questions and methods before heading out to conduct fieldwork and collect data for their research projects.

On December 11th, APN grantees joined Next Gen fellows for the first day of their joint workshop. The day began with opening remarks from Professor William A. L. Anangisye, Vice Chancellor of the University of Dar es Salaam. This was followed by a keynote lecture titled “Law Making, Peacemaking, and National Development: Reflections on Research and Policy Linkages” given by Dr. Tulia Ackson, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Tanzania. Dr. Tulia Ackson spoke about the correlation between research and policymaking and how these two are very important when talking about peacebuilding in Tanzania and in other African countries. The day’s activities were concluded with an emotional and reflective off-site visit to Bagamoyo, a cultural heritage site which in the first half of the 19th century became a trading port for ivory and the slave trade. Following the visit, APN and Next Gen fellows and grantees attended a dinner at the Vice Chancellor’s Residence at the University of Dar es Salaam.

The second joint workshop day consisted of two joint thematic sessions and two roundtables. The first roundtable featured Professor Yolande Bouka (Queen’s University), Dr. Siphokazi Magadla (Rhodes University), and Professor Sarah Ssali (Makerere University). The roundtable was titled “Mainstreaming Gender in Academic Writing.” During the roundtable, the speakers talked about how taking gender seriously when researching can allow us to take fundamental parts of and facts about our history into consideration. They also urged the fellows and grantees to question how having a gender focus can bring about new insights to their analyses/research.

The second and last roundtable of the joint workshop featured a panel of APN and Next Gen fellows and grantees who spoke on the “Challenges of Dissertation Writing – Candidate and Supervisor Perspectives.” The fellows and grantees on the panel talked about how important it is for candidates to do their research before getting into a PhD program. Some spoke about the complicated power dynamic embedded within the student-supervisor relationship while others talked about the pressure of having to publish while being a PhD student.

The third day of the APN workshop included two plenary sessions and one roundtable discussion. The first plenary keynote was given by Professor Rita Abrahamsen (University of Ottawa) and was titled “The Perils of Securitization: Understanding the Global Political Economy of Conflict and Insecurity.” Professor Abrahamsen talked about how poverty and development usher in a new type of militarization and that certain myths such as “poverty is dangerous” determine the process of securitization. She also talked about the ways in which politicians and policymakers can change their language when talking about underdevelopment. The second plenary keynote was titled “Contemporary Issues in African Peacebuilding” and was given by Professor Kenneth Omeje (University of Johannesburg). Professor Omeje spoke about how peacebuilding can be considered as a post-conflict activity. He also touched on making a distinction between “orthodox peacebuilding in Africa” and “African peacebuilding.”

The roundtable discussion featured Dr. Temitope Oriola (University of Alberta), Professor Rita Abrahamsen (University of Ottawa), and Dr. Ismail Rashid (Vassar College). The roundtable focused on “Disseminating Research Findings through Peer-Reviewed Journals.” They spoke to the mechanics of submitting articles to journals, the various steps and things to consider, particularly the things journal editors look out for. Some of the advice given included the following: decolonizing debates as Africa in under-represented in most journals, take writing seriously - you cannot make a good argument without revising your draft many times - identifying your audience, and learning how to deal with rejection. The featured speakers also talked about the Catch 22 that occurs when African scholars start publishing in international journals. What happens is that even though publishing internationally is a good thing, it also impoverishes national journals because people put their best efforts in international journals. They also spoke on the writing process and how researchers need to decide early on in their process who their audience is going to be and understand that that is going to influence their approach.

The last day of the APN workshop began with a plenary keynote titled “The Politics of Knowledge Production, Power, and What it Means to be an African Scholar” given by Professor Ismail Rashid (Vassar College). Professor Rashid talked about the historic mission of the African scholar and how a myriad of disciplines have been clustered together to create a particular subject on the African continent. He also emphasized that the purpose of being in education or being a scholar is to be the best possible citizen in the world.

The last plenary session and activity of the workshop featured Dr. Christine Noe (University of Dar es Salaam) and Dr. Duncan Omanga (APN and Next Gen Program Officer). The session was titled “Using Digital Data and Platforms for Academic Writing and Publications.” Dr. Noe and Dr. Omanga talked about how it is necessary for journals and writers to tap into the power of media in order to disseminate their work.
 Dr. Noe also identified and spoke about several digital tools for collaboration with other scholars, referencing, and compiling bibliographies. She noted that such tools were important for the following: searching literature, knowledge-sharing, image editing, editing, writing help, visualizing work in different ways and reference management.  In his presentation, Duncan Omanga noted that it was not sufficient to publish, and emphasized the importance of making an overt and conscious effort to disseminate the knowledge produced. He also underscored the importance of developing a sound knowledge of social media and spoke to the use of social media to disseminate information about research findings and publications.