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CMENAS Fall Colloquium. Higher Ed between Epistemic Networks and International Institutions

Eric Burton, University of Innsbruck (Austria); Florian Kohstall, Freie Universität Berlin (Germany)
Monday, November 21, 2022
12:00-2:00 PM
2022 CMENAS Fall Colloquium: Higher Education & Reformation across the MENA: A Geopolitical Exploration

“Higher Ed between Epistemic Networks and International Institutions”

Eric Burton, University of Innsbruck (Austria): The ‘Nile Route’ and Other ‘Pipelines’: Decolonization, the Cold War, and Africans’ Routes to Higher Education Overseas, 1957–65

From the late 1950s, Africans seeking higher education went to a rapidly increasing number of destinations, both within Africa and overseas. Based on multi-sited archival research and memoirs, this talk examines how Africans forged and used new routes to gain access to higher education denied to them in their territories of origin, and in this way also shaped scholarship policies across the globe. Focusing on British-ruled territories in East Africa, the article establishes the importance of African intermediaries and independent countries as hubs of mobility. The agency of students and intermediaries, as well as official responses, are examined in three interconnected cases: the clandestine ‘Nile route’ from East Africa to Egypt and eastern Europe; the ‘airlifts’ from East Africa to North America; and the ‘exodus’ of African students from the Eastern bloc to western Europe. Although all of these routes were short-lived, they transformed official scholarship provisions, and significantly shaped the postcolonial period in the countries of origin.

Florian Kohstall, Freie Universität Berlin (Germany): Do we need another university reform in the Middle East? Exploring the unintended consequences of international support

In my presentation, I will try to explore the triangle of reform in the Middle East of donor organizations, governments and the university, in order to understand the rather poor performance of reform policies so far. Given the demographic developments the task to reform the university remains enormous. Major changes to the university are introduced through emergency measures often disconnected from a thorough analysis of the state of the art. Second, many comprehensive plans fail because they ignore the embeddedness of the system, its long traditions and a certain path dependency of actors highly resistant to change. It is not only the unwillingness of the ruling elite, but also the resistance of those crucial for their support (professors) and the fear of resistance of those who might challenge them (students). Between these different groups international support from donor organization might not necessarily solve the problem but produce unintended consequences.

Speaker Bios:

Eric Burton is assistant professor in global history at the University of Innsbruck. Previously, he held positions and fellowships at the universities of Leipzig, Legon, Exeter, and Vienna. His work on development, socialism, and decolonization has appeared in various journals, including the Journal of Global History and the Journal of African Cultural Studies, as well as the collective monograph "Socialism Goes Global: The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the Age of Decolonisation" (Oxford University Press, 2022). Edited volumes edited or co-edited by him include "Africans and the Socialist World" (International Journal of African Historical Studies, 2022), "Navigating Socialist Encounters. Moorings and (Dis)Entanglements between Africa and East Germany during the Cold War" (DeGruyter, 2021), and "Journeys of Education and Struggle. African Mobility in Times of Decolonization and the Cold War" (Stichproben. Vienna Journal of African Studies, 2018). His first monograph on Tanzania’s African Socialism and the two German states, "In Diensten des Afrikanischen Sozialismus" (DeGruyter, 2021), was awarded the Walter Markov Prize by the European Network in Universal and Global History (ENIUGH). In his current research project, Eric Burton examines the evolvement of Dar es Salaam, Accra and Cairo as hubs of decolonization for African liberation movements.

Florian Kohstall is the director of the Global Responsibility Program at Freie Universität Berlin, founder of Academics in Solidarity and project lead of the Berlin Center for Global Engagement of the Berlin University Alliance. From 2010 to 2015, he was head of the Cairo Office of Freie Universität Berlin. Prior to joining the university, he was a research fellow with the Centre d'Études et de Documentation Économiques, Juridiques et Sociales (CEDEJ) in Cairo and lecturer at Sciences Po Aix-en-Provence in France. Kohstall holds a PhD from Freie Universität Berlin and Institut d’Études Politiques d’Aix-en-Provence on Higher Education Reforms in Egypt and Morocco. His research interests comprises university reform, consequences of internationalization, different conditions of knowledge production and new forms of solidarity. His latest publication includes: “Academics in Exile: Networks, Knowledge Exchange and New Forms of Internationalization”, Transcript 2022, ed. with Vera Axyonova and Carola Richter.

Register to the virtual event:

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Off Campus Location
Location: Virtual
Event Link:
Event Type: Class / Instruction
Tags: Cmenas Colloquium Series, Higher Education, Middle East Studies, Virtual
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, International Institute, African Studies Center, Department of Anthropology