Genesis Epistemologies: Origins, Syncretism, and Human Evolution in Africa

deadline for submissions: 
July 31, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Yale University Council on African Studies and the University of South Africa (UNISA)
contact email: 

Dates: November 7th-9th, 2024.

Mode: Mixed mode: In-person, hybrid, and online.

Venue: 7th- In person at Yale University, 8th Hybrid, 9th online only.

Hosts: Council on African Studies at Yale University & the University of South Africa (UNISA).

The Council on African Studies at the MacMillan Center, Yale University, and the Department of Religious Studies & Arabic at the University of South Africa (UNISA), jointly invite presentations for the second African Epistemologies for the 21st Century conference. This year’s theme is “Genesis Epistemologies: Origins, Syncretism, and Human Evolution in Africa.”

Genesis epistemologies: Africa’s status as the Cradle of Humankind holds little importance to its inhabitants, and the pursuit of Darwinian evolution of human origins remains largely a foreign-framed epistemological enterprise. Three genesis narratives are found in the continent: the exogenous religions of Islam and Christianity, Darwinian evolutionary science, and traditional origins myths. Even though both the earliest human ancestors and modern humans first appeared in Africa, many Africans reject Darwinian science due to colonialism, scientific racism, and misinformation. Efforts at community engagement in research projects have had limited success. What have paleoanthropologists done or can do to i) mitigate this situation? and ii) incorporate local knowledge and skills in human evolution projects?

The conference seeks to foster discussion on origins syncretism, the place of Africa’s indigenous origins narratives, multivocality, knowledge co-production, and mean-making in African prehistory research. In this gathering, Africanist and diaspora scholars will engage in dialogue critical to what an African Cradle of Humankind means to researchers and communities. We therefore invite presentations on field research projects and theoretical perspectives that address holistic approaches to human origins research in the continent of Africa.

Conference themes:

The conference seeks to explore and receive contributions centering on the central themes on the Genesis Epistemologies, specifically focusing on origins, syncretism, and human evolution in Africa. Contributions, therefore, must be aligned with the following sub-themes:

Theme 1: Origins, syncretism, and perspectives on an African genesis

  • Post-colonial archaeologies;
  • Indigenous origins narratives: forms and relevance to modern Africans;
  • Diaspora voices and the conceptualizations of the motherland;
  • Knowledge co-production, meaning-making, and multivocality in human origins research.

Theme 2: Religion, Identity, and Darwinian science

  • Unearthing ancestors: Paleontological localities as sacred sites;
  • Primate ancestors: rehabilitating animal imagery in African identity and origins;
  • Ethnography, oral histories, and documenting endangered cultures;
  • Human origins research in contexts of African traditional religions, Islam, and Christianity.

Theme 3: Future directions on origins narratives for Africa and her diasporas

  • Ancient DNA – a new frontier and new challenges for human origins research;
  • Ethics, paleontological research, and indigenous stakeholders;
  • Human genesis in Africa: digital mediascapes as a new frontier for knowledge sharing and consumption;
  • Conceptual models: inclusive paleoanthropology;
  • Useable pasts: sharing science knowledge for practical applications.

Theme 4: Giving back to communities

  • The benefit to paleoanthropology in giving back to communities;
  • Sharing research products;
  • Community voices.

Abstract submissions:

Scholars, researchers, students, and communities are encouraged to submit abstracts, posters, and panel proposals on any relevant or related theme of the conference. Please submit your abstracts either for individual or panel discussions. Abstracts for individual papers are to be submitted to this link or visit; and for panel discussions, use this link or visit Should there be any enquiries about the conference, please send an email to: Dr. Veronica Waweru at; or Prof. Joel Mokhoathi at

Important dates

TaskDeadlineSubmission of abstracts (150-250 words)31 July 2024Acceptance of abstracts 31 August 2024Submission of full papers30 October 2024

Guidelines for submission of manuscripts

  • Manuscript length should range between 5000 to 8000 words.
  • The title page should have the full name(s) and surname of all the authors, affiliations, email address (especially of the principal author), abstract and 5 keywords, in that order.
  • The manuscript body structure should contain the introduction, literature review, materials and methods, results/findings and discussions, summary, and conclusions.
  • Manuscripts are to be formatted using standard margins, Tahoma body font, 12pt for title and section heads, 11pt for subsections and main write-up, 1.5 line spacing, paper size to be set to A4, UK English, full justification, page numbering.
  • Reference using the Harvard Referencing style. Please click on the link for illustration (

Potential for publication

The contributions of this conference will be considered for publication with an accredited publishing house in the form of an edited book.