About us

ZIAF was founded in 2003 as a research centre at Goethe University Frankfurt in order to link the various different Africa-oriented activities in one single network of competence. Today, ZIAF has about 60 members from ten different faculties of Goethe University, and more than 70 associated members from the partner institutions the Senckenberg Research Institute, the Institute for Social-Ecological Research, the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt and other institutions. The scope of disciplines active at ZIAF is unmatched in Germany and comprises African Studies, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Archaeobotany, Archaeology, Biology, Economics, English Studies, Film Studies, Geophysics, German Literature, Human Geography, Musicology, Palaeobiology, Physical Geography, Political Science, Romance Studies and Catholic and Protestant Theology. In addition, the ZIAF coordinates the networking of Africa research within the framework of the Rhine-Main-Alliance of the universities in Frankfurt, Mainz and Darmstadt (Afrikaforschung Rhein-Main).

Aims and Structure of ZIAF

ZIAF as a central networking platform aims to:

  • promote interdisciplinarity in the field of Africa-related research
  • initiate innovative research focuses and new research projects
  • strengthen interdisciplinary and north-south interdisciplinary promotion of young researchers
  • promote cooperation with African partners
  • form a network with national and international institutions from research, economy, development cooperation and culture
  • engage in public relations work to convey a differentiated picture of African reality

The ZIAF Office organises and coordinates these complex tasks. The Board of Directors discusses and decides on the strategic direction and allocation of funds. The ZIAF Advisory Board, consisting of honorary members with a background in academia, economics, and politics, supports the Board of Directors.

Research focus of the ZIAF members

I. Transregional studies

The research deals with the new interactions between Africa and other regions of the world, with a focus on the systematic exploration, conceptualization and theoretical positioning of transregional "interstices".

II Cultural history and ecological change

The focus is on settlement history, economy and the formation of political structures, as well as prehistoric art in its social, cultural and ecological context. Palaeoecology investigates the formation of the cultural landscape under human influence, as well as climate and vegetation changes in interaction with cultural development.

III. Language, discourse, communication

This section is devoted to linguistic analysis and sociology of language on questions of language and cultural change, the role of media and the change in communicative practices in migration, as well as complex discursive processes in the context of political power relations, social institutions, economic activity and religious beliefs.

IV. Sustainable resource management

Bio- and geoscientific research on sustainability deals with plant resources, the degradation of landscape ecosystems, supply infrastructure and the environmental impact of mining. Questions of the future availability of raw materials, political transparency and good governance are also addressed.

Network programs: Innovative approaches and promotion of young researchers

The ZIAF manages and supports interdisciplinary programs in order to promote networking with African and European partners and to generate innovative research perspectives (DFG program Point Sud) as well as to promote young researchers. A further focus is the collaboration with the Maria Sibylla Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA), which, in addition to the support of fellows, has an Africa-wide program of events organized by ZIAF.

Promotion of young researchers

In the area of teaching, numerous seminars, lectures, and other events with references to Africa take place at Goethe University. Through transdisciplinary workshops and events for young researchers, ZIAF promotes networking beyond the individual research areas. Field schools with young researchers from African countries and Germany, such as the Fellowship program of the Volkswagen Foundation in the humanities and social sciences for excellent young African postdocs are amongst the most important ZIAF events.

Public Relations

The ZIAF initiates and conceives lectures, conferences, and exhibitions on innovative topics in order to convey a differentiated picture of African reality. An annual ZIAF Lecture brings top-class representatives from the fields of art, culture, politics, and science to the Goethe University, who speak on current fundamental questions of African Studies and address both a professional audience and the public in Frankfurt interested in Africa. In addition, scientifically accompanied trips to Africa are organized.