Venue: Rhodes University, Makhanda
Dates: 27-29 August 2020

The state is at the heart of what we as political scientists study. In South Africa, the notion of state capture has become a staple of political discussion. A key question is whether new South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government will be able to secure a less corrupt way forward and to improve the efficiency of the South African state. Concerns about the state are not particular to South Africa. The change of power in Zimbabwe from Robert Mugabe to Emmerson Mnangangwa has provoked questions about the limits of democratic transformation of the state following entrenched militarisation of institutions of governance. The end of Omar-al Bashir’s thirty year rule in Sudan and the violence that has characterised the transition from his rule, invites questions about the extent to which the state making project and maintenance continues to be characterised by violence in Africa. How should we understand the role of the state in the 21st century? How has it changed and what are its prospects?

Faith in the idea of democracy, and in particular liberal democracy seems fractured at present. Freedom House reports that respect for civil rights and political freedom has been in decline for more than a decade. How are we to understand what seems like a crisis of democracy? What is at the root of the rise of rightwing populism in the West and Latin America? What is the extent of populism in Africa? There is plenty of evidence of that shadowy social media actors and big data companies have influenced elections. What has been the influence of social media on politics and democratic citizenship? How are these mediums transforming raced, gendered and classed experiences of citizenship?

The decline of the liberal international order is a long-standing topic of discussion among international relations scholars. The growing strength of China, the rise of populism, Brexit, the presidency of Donald Trump are all factors that suggest that the end of the liberal order is imminent. Are we indeed nearing the end of the liberal order? What might arise in its place? What does the decline of the West and the rise of the ‘rest’, as Fareed Zakaria calls it, portend for international relations? Is greater regional integration a likely outcome of a fading liberal order and if so what are the implications for free trade, human rights, peacekeeping, etc? Moreover, what does a more decentred world portend for problems that need global solutions? Might Africa play a more influential role in a post-Western world? Is the historic signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Person in Africa signalling a new era for African integration and Pan-Africanism?

We welcome papers related to the above themes and questions as well as papers in other areas of political studies and international relations.

Submission Of Abstracts And Panel Proposals

Abstracts and panel proposals should be emailed to by 29 February 2020. Please include:

  • Title of paper
  • Name(s) of author(s)
  • Affiliation(s)
  • Email address(es)
  • 200-300 word abstract

Proposals for panels, workshops or other activities can also be sent to by 29 February 2020. We are very open to ideas for various kinds of activities to be included on the programme. Please include all the relevant details and indicate a contact person and contact email address. Notifications of acceptance of abstracts and panels/workshops will go out by the end of March 2020.


Registration will be available from April 2020. More details will be provided on acceptance of abstracts.


All queries can be directed by the conference email address (


The local organising committee (LOC) consists of Sally Matthews, Siphokazi Magadla and Eduard Jordaan, all from Rhodes University. The broader organising committee also includes Valery Ferim (University of Fort Hare), Chris Allsobrook (University of Fort Hare) and Giovanni Poggi (Nelson Mandela University).