NAI-Director Iina Soiri checking her calendar to see if she can accept an invitation from Professor Franklyn Lisk, University of Warwick, to speak at their Africa day in February 2018. Photo: Ivy Chen

Post-colonial stereotypes – shaken and stirred

NAI-Director Iina Soiri leaves Norway with refreshed perspectives and a handful of business cards.

For Iina Soiri, director of NAI, there are 447 reasons to be at the EADI conference on development research in Bergen – as many as the total number of participants.

“There is a strong link between development studies and our trade, area studies on Africa. Many of the researchers here are Africanists who belong to our target group. Also those who do research on regions in other parts of the world can contribute to increase our understanding of Africa”, says Iina Soiri, who endeavored to not only attend panels and seminars on specifically Africa-related topics.

For her, EADI is above all a place for networking and extending relations to collaboration partners. And of course to make new contacts. 

“During these three days, I have met researchers of all kinds of backgrounds and disciplines, policy-makers and aid workers from NGOs and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – and of course research strategists and bureaucrats such as myself,” she says as she sets off for yet another meeting, this time with Ottar Mæstad, director of the Christian Michelsen Institute, a long-time strategic partner of NAI’s.

Another reason to attend the EADI conferences, according to Iina, is to “have one’s inveterate opinions shaken by the roots”. In one of the panels she visited, there was an interesting discussion on whether it is still relevant to look at current African challenges from a post-colonial perspective. 

“It is always refreshing to take a break from the everyday flow of duties and routines, to step back and reflect on how we frame the world. This discussion opened my eyes to my own sometimes exoticising, sometimes stereotypical concepts of Africa, a continent where I have lived and worked for more than 20 years, and where I still have family and friends. I believe, we still have to understand and analyse the challenges in Africa from a post-colonial perspective, but there is no excuse for African leaders to blame shortcomings in their own leadership on old inherited problems stemming from colonialism,” says NAI-director Iina Soiri.


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