A* Magazine is a once-off publication commissioned for the 7th European Conference of African Studies (ECAS) that took place in Basel in 2017, hosted by the Centre for African Studies at the University of Basel and the Swiss Society for African Studies. Special thanks to Melanie Boehi, the co-editor of this project.
The A* in A* Magazine stands for *Art, *Africa and *Analysis. Art is purposefully mentioned first to emphasise the critical role that artists play as knowledge producers and specialists who can provide unique insights where other disciplines fall short when it comes to the dynamics governing urban space in Africa. Africa, as referenced in the title of the publication, is understood to be a plural space that consists of multiple Africas, located on the continent and across a vast and complex diaspora that extends to Switzerland. Last, but certainly not least, A* stands for analysis – the critically engaged variety. There is a treasure trove of academic knowledge produced and discussed in contexts such as ECAS, which however often remains inaccessible to the general public. Rich sources of knowledge produced outside of the academic context exist, of course, as well. A*Magazine seeks to bring the two closer together.
A* Magazine is the official publication accompanying this conference and a plethora of events associated with it. The programme it highlights, rather than having been curated by one person or with a single vision in mind, is a coming together of several independent initiatives focused on Africa. This coming together is not meant to constitute a congruent or comprehensive take on Africa. The various initiatives differ in the specific themes they address, the geographies they zoom into, the actors and formats they present and, most importantly, the approaches they propose. As such, they reflect the diversity and the complexity of the dynamics driving African urban spaces, as well as the nuances required to address them. What all of these projects have in common is that they raise core questions: How to speak about Africa? Who should speak about Africa? Why speak about Africa in Basel?