Stellenbosch University’s Department of Journalism recently co-hosted the International Communication Association Regional Conference in Africa with the University of Cape Town. Prof Herman Wasserman from the Department of Journalism chaired the Local Organizing Committee, with Dr Gabriel Botma and Dr Marenet Jordaan from the Department also serving on the committee. The conference, held from 16-18 November 2023, had over 150 registered delegates from 19 countries in attendance. The theme was De-centering International Communication Studies: African Perspectives. The main conference was preceded by a Knowledge Exchange Preconference, where emerging and established scholars workshopped papers.
This event marked the fourth time the ICA regional conference had taken place in Africa following the first held in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2016, and successive ones in Entebbe, Uganda and Accra, Ghana. Building on key socio-political and institutional challenges highlighted in the previous conferences, the ICA 2023 conference in Cape Town interrogated Western influences on the practice of communication studies in work and scholarship on the continent as well as about the continent.
The conference was attended by three former ICA Presidents – Claes de Vreese (University of Amsterdam), Paula Gardner (McMaster Univeristy) and Francois Heinderyckx (Free University of Brussels). The conference was also addressed via videolink by the current ICA President, Professor Eun-Ju Lee (Seoul National University), and another former ICA President, Noshir Contractor (Northwestern University), and heads of regional chapters in Nigeria and China. Social events included a cocktail function and performance by hip-hop artist Jitsvinger, a gala lunch with a performance by the Stellenbosch University Jazz Band, and the launch of the book Platforms, Power and Politics by Bruce Mutsvairo, Ulrike Klinger and Daniel Kreiss.
The third and final day of the conference was held at Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) with the closing plenary keynote address was delivered by Sorious Samura, an Emmy and Peabody award-winning journalist from Sierra Leone whose works include Cry Freetown (2000) and Exodus from Africa (2001). He emphasized the need for context as a vehicle for meaning and empathy – a fitting close for the conference theme.