By Gary Littlejohn
The IESE (Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Economicos) will be holding its fifth annual conference towards the end of 2017. The call for papers for this has already gone out. It is remarkable that the IESE has succeeded in organising nine annual conferences already under what have been at times difficult circumstances, but what is more remarkable is the sheer scale and ambition of such conferences, which are run by a fairly small research institute that is entirely dependent on the funds that it raises through consultancy work and book sales, although at least at times it has also benefitted from some core funding from Scandinavia and elsewhere.
That would be admirable enough, but what is most striking is the quality of work produced. The flow of core and specific research project funding would not have been forthcoming otherwise, but it is a consistent feature of their work. For example, one book in Portuguese edited by Sérgio Chichava and Chris Allen (2012) The Mamba and the Dragon: Mozambique-China Relations in Perspective, 200pp., published jointly by IESE and the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), acknowledges support from the Swiss Agency of Cooperation for Development; the Royal Embassy of Denmark; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland; Irish Cooperation; IBIS Mozambique and the Swedish Embassy; and the Canadian International Development Agency.
I wish that more of it could be translated into English. I myself have only attended two such conferences, in 2010 and 2012. However, I have also visited the IESE on other trips to Maputo, in the hope of bringing home some more of their books and to discuss current issues in Mozambique. Usually one or two new books by IESE are launched at each conference, and they tend to include the annual issue of a series: Desafios Para Moçambique (Challenges for Mozambique). For 2012, the latest edition that I have, Desafios was edited by Luis de Brito, Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco, Sérgio Chichava and António Francisco. It consists of a series of chapters by different authors, running to 426 pages, plus another ten pages listing earlier publications by IESE. In addition to books, this list includes a list of 46 different papers in the series BOLETIM IDeIAS, running from 2008 to 2012; six DISCUSSION PAPERS running from 2008 to 2009; one WORKING PAPER in 2009; and eleven CADERNOS IESE 2010-2011, a series which replaced the Working Papers and the Discussion Papers. Some of these papers are published in both Portuguese and English. The third book published in 2012 was Moçambique: Decentralisar O Centralismo (Mozambique: Decentralising Centralism). It was edited by Bernhard Weimer and runs to 492 pages, and has a wide range of edited chapters, plus the usual list of earlier IESE publications. This is an astonishing output, in terms of both quantity and quality.
Turning to the conferences, I was really surprised by their scale and by the scope of international contributions, even though I have known some of the IESE staff since I first lived in Mozambique in 1982-83. It was not that I doubted their organisational ability, or those of other friends. For example, Teresa Cruz e Silva and colleagues at the CEA (Centro de Estudos Africanos) had organised a huge, successful Conferencia Luso-Afro-Brasileiro in Maputo some years earlier, and this was the first time that this particular conference series had been held in Africa. What surprised me was not only the scale and scope of the IESE conferences, but the extent of national media coverage for a conference that was equal in size to the UK African Studies Association (ASA) conferences, although smaller than the US ASA conferences. The full programme was covered in the main national newspaper, Noticias, and by reports and interviews were broadcast by two Mozambican TV stations. Last minute changes to the programme also received full coverage in Noticias. The conferences included distinguished speakers from Southern Africa, especially South Africa, and from Europe and North America, especially Canada. For example, in 2012 I had not expected to run into Professor Jan Toporowski from SOAS in London, whom I had not seen for several decades. This expert in the work of the Polish economist Kalecki gave a very clear, measured critique of neoliberal economics assumptions in one of the plenary sessions in 2012. I was delighted to learn that he was also writing a biography of Kalecki, whose work deserves more attention in my view.
Other books are also launched at the IESE conferences, and in 2012 these included the English edition of a Japanese history of the war with Renamo. Technical economics books were also on sale, including one in Portuguese on social accounting matrices. To my surprise, even old examples of Não Vamos Esquecer were on sale, from the CEA Oficina de Historia (History Workshop), published in around 1983.
It is good to see that what might be called Briefings, the series BOLETIM IDeIAS, has continued. At least some are published in English as well as Portuguese, and five of them are reproduced with an introduction by Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco and posted on the Resource page of roape.net. The IDeIAS in the title refers to ‘Information on Development, Institutions and Social Analysis’. They were published in June and July 2016.
Gary Littlejohn is the author of Secret Stockpiles: A review of disarmament efforts in Mozambique, Working Paper 21, Small Arms Survey, Geneva, October 2015. He was also Briefings and Debates editor of the Review of African Political Economy from 2010 to 2015.