Lines of Research
Get to know each of CEsA’s research lines, their thematic axes and the associated research teams.
1 – Economics, Development and International Cooperation
The main subject of this line of research’s main guideline is the study of developmental dynamics after the period following World War II, in particular transformation pathways adopted by post-colonial societies. It encompasses various research areas, grounded on a broad economic, developmental and international cooperation perspective. It seeks to intersect various paradigms and theoretical perspectives and resort to multiple analytical tools, in order to build approaches capable of improving our knowledge of the development processes occurring in different societies.
This line of research involves four main subject areas:
1.1 Development Economics and Policy
The concept of development, interpreted both in its immanent sense of structural change, and in the programmatic and normative sense of public policy and cooperation agendas, takes on a crucial role in terms of the research developed in this area, which seeks to summon the legacy of the various theoretical traditions associated with development economics and development studies. The relationships established in different societies between Sate, institutions, markets, individuals and organisations are equally relevant when looking at development as an eminently national process.
1.2 Sociocultural Aspects of Development
This area aims to focus on the multidimensional aspect of development, seeking to bring together fields of knowledge and knowledge production, such as economy, sociology, anthropology, history, demography or political science. This area prioritises plural and diversified approaches, resorting to both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and focussing on both micro- and macro-social factors.
1.3 Globalisation and Development Cooperation
This area pertains to matters of globalisation, international relations and international cooperation, which substantiate the international and global aspects of development. One of our areas of research work is linked to questions such as international flows of goods, people and capitals, global value chains, regional and global organisations and cooperation systems, as well as the dynamics of cooperation, competition, hegemony and conflict that characterise the global system.
1.4 Development Dynamics
This area includes specific studies and comparative analyses of economic and social development processes. Portuguese-speaking countries, including Angola, Brazil, Cape-Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe and East Timor, are a privileged research field. Another important field of study is the Asia-Pacific region, with an emphasis on China, its contemporary strategies and its relationship with Portugal and with Portuguese-speaking countries. Both Africa as a whole and Latin America are another two traditional fields of study at CEsA to which this department continues to pay particular attention.
Researchers in this line of research:
Alano Sicato, Alexandre Abreu, Alice Nicole Sindzingre, Ana Luísa Silva, António Almeida Serra, António Mendonça, Arlindo Fortes, Bruno Rocha, Carlos Lopes, Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco, Carlos Sangreman, Christian Wolf, Cleuber Vieira, Daniel Carolo, Eduardo Sarmento, Elsa Fontainha, Enrique Martínez-Galán, Fernanda Ilhéu, Giovanna Modé Magalhães, Joana Matusse, João Estêvão, João Silva, João Van Dunem, Lawrence Sciberras, Luís Bernardo, Luis Mah, Marcelo Moreira, Maria Galito, Mariam Abbas, Miguel Fonseca, Nuno Leitão, Odair Varela, Paulo Duarte, Pedro Amakasu Raposo, Pedro Verga Matos, Sara Paralta, Sílvia Amaral, Sónia Frias and Susana Brissos.
2 – History, cultures and identities
African Studies, taken to mean a contemporary questioning about historical, cultural and identity factors, are a dominant area of this line of CEsA’s research. The epistemological approach to this area addresses the various subject frameworks, paradigms and analytical tools inherent to human and social sciences that pertain to African legacies, knowledge and practices. Research areas that transcend the boundaries of knowledge established around the great systems and based on universal analytical categories are particularly valued in this line of research. Therefore, contrary to the Eurocentric perceptions of social and cultural phenomena, we favour the heuristic value of perspectives that address the unpublished, less well-known but more often experienced aspects of what currently constitutes Africanism in an increasingly globalised and interconnected world. The study of African Countries with Portuguese as their Official Language (PALOP, in Portuguese), and of the multiplicity and heterogeneity of their social-historical and cultural construction, are a privileged field of observation. However, other regions in the world, including other African countries where “Lusophone” African people have settled throughout history, are another important research subject, because the relationships established have left significant social, economic, cultural, religious and identity marks on the many hosting societies: American, European and Asian.
This line of research covers three main subject areas:
2.1 Africa’s Social and Economic History
The trend towards political and economic globalisation that characterised pre-colonial 19th-century Africa, driven by industrial capitalism and the international abolitionist movement, is the starting point to reflect about the tendency towards isolation that marked the experiences of 20th-century colonisation within the framework of European expansionism.
Within this framework, comparative analyses intersecting the territories under Portuguese administration with other European domination cases are favoured.
Particular attention is paid to Asian communities who lived in East Africa, Central Eastern Africa and Southern Africa from the late-19th century onwards under British, Portuguese and Belgian rule. As in other cases of population movements within the continent, as well as the importance of expanding our knowledge regarding the multiplicity of the African social and identity landscape, it is a question of wishing to contribute to writing an unpublished history, beyond the reductive coloniser–colonised dichotomy. This concern with valuing interactions between different existing peoples, cultures and social groups appears as an essential counterpoint to macro-historical perspectives, which largely make up the legacy of the recent historiography about the colonial period, as well as the African historiographies that came after the countries’ independence processes.
 Based on the project FCT PTDC/AFR/69150/2006 (2007-2011) “A construção das identidades lusófonas: o caso dos ismailis de Moçambique (1950-1974) / “The Construction of Lusophone Identities: The Case of the Ismailis from Mozambique (1950-1974)”.
From a long-term perspective, there is also a reflection around the historical relationships between Africa and the rest of the world, which were established through the circulation of people, ideas, objects, goods, and which resulted in many existing Africas, by adopting plants, techniques, religions, forms of trading, of being and of thinking, housing models, urban structures and other contributions from the outside, which Africans integrated into the framework of their own life strategies. On another historical level, those relationships resulted in the intersection of knowledge among various spheres of African social life, but they also brought cultural and social innovations to those places around the world – Europe (Portugal in particular) and the Americas (more specifically Brazil) – where African populations took root, in different violent ways, through the slave trade as well as forced and free migrations, throughout the period spanning from the 15th- to the 20th centuries.
We also provide a comparative and particularly attentive focus on the PALOP, and on the political, social and economic trajectories of these independent countries. In this analytical trajectory, post-colonial reality is systematically confronted with the perception of historical time which inescapably shapes the fate of societies. To that effect, by resorting to the multiple contributions from recent historiography and social analysis, we share an interest in prioritising, particularly regarding 19th- to 21st-century Africa, “the significant evolutions, the biggest changes as well as the unexpected continuities” (M’BOKOLO, E. (1992/2007)).
 M´BOKOLO, E. (2003) África Negra: História e Civilizações, até ao século XVIII, Tomo I: Lisbon, Vulgata.
M´BOKOLO, E. (2007) Africa Negra: História e Civilizações , Do século XIX aos nossos dias, Tomo II: Lisbon, Colibri.
2.2 Literary, Visual and Cultural Studies
This subject area aims to explore theoretical concepts such as Post-Colonialism and Transnationalism, among others, and to analyse creative practices stemming from literature, cinema, photography and artistic and cultural projects, while discussing the representations of the nation in African countries, as well as the opening up to other spheres – local, transnational, diasporic and global.
The research produced under this subject area studies the makeup of various Narratives and Archives, while establishing close ties between theory and different creative practices. The element that permeates these studies, that is, Narrative as a basis for national and transnational imagination, enables the critical and comparative treatment of different cultural productions, exploring topics such as History, Memory, Gender, Diasporas; social and political Crises; Environment and Material Culture.
Three different Projects (NNPC, NEVIS, NILUS) have been developed within this research framework, bringing together researchers from different fields (literature, history, social sciences, comparative literature, cinema) in an effort to intersect areas of expertise with a view to forming an understanding of artistic practices as elements of culture and society.
Taking into account the need to expand the comparative dimension in the African continent, the Literary, Visual and Cultural Studies department includes research works that explore the historical, cultural and language links established by the Lusophone world, while also investing in multilingual and transnational approaches.
These research areas focus on the various regions of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, with particular emphasis placed on IOS (Indian Ocean Studies) and AOS (Atlantic Ocean Studies), while also considering centres and peripheries, continental geographies, coastal, insular and urban areas.
Ana Mafalda Leite, Elena Brugioni, Ellen Sapega, Giovanna Modé Magalhães, Giulia Spinuzza, Jessica Falconi, Kamila Krakowska, Marta Banasiak, Michel Cahen, Olga Iglésias, Ute Fendler and Vanessa Riambau Pinheiro.
2.3 African and Afrodiasporic Mobilities and Identities
This research area addresses African mobilities, as well as African and Afrodiasporic identities, and adopts the perspectives of social and human sciences, in line with projects such as AFRO-PORT and events organised within Portuguese-language African diaspora contexts (Portugal and Brazil).
 AFRO-PORT. Afrodescendência em Portugal: sociabilidades, representações e dinâmicas socio-culturais e políticas. Um estudo na Área Metropolitana de Lisboa (FCT/PTDC/ SOC-ANT/30651/2017).
 Encontro Áfricas Contemporâneas. Do continente às diásporas, pensar o universal a partir dos arquivos afro-diaspóricos, USP,2019, São Paulo, 10-19 October.
The goal is therefore to continue analysing the process, organisation and conditions that lead to contemporary African mobilities, while establishing relationships between relocations, identity processes and the narratives of belonging to particular places. To that effect, this research commits to delving deeper into addressing the theoretical concepts that inspire Migration Studies, Mobilities and Diasporas, Black Studies, as well as a reflection around Identities, Ethno-Racial Categorization or Social Change.
We will continue paying particular attention to perspectives and narratives about mobilities and identities by Africans and their diasporas, in line with the plural and free African and Afrodiasporic outlook, committed to “mental decolonisation”. Therefore, this research work goes beyond approaches that have traditionally anchored the so-called “African migrant question” to the Americas, Asia or Europe, and instead favours subject areas around “afrodescendência”, a term that combines various designations attributed to people of African descent who are citizens of several countries throughout the world: African-European, Afro-European, American Africans, African Americans, among others.
Our researchers pay particular attention to the dynamics through which African diasporas have taken root, especially in Europe. They take into account their foundations and historical dimension as important indications of the social processes in place, in relation to the ongoing identity reconfigurations happening in European countries, as a result of decolonisation and its lasting effects on the former metropoles. Within this area, our reflection focuses on the contributions of people of African descent and African diasporas to the expansion of Europe’s participation in economic, cultural and social globalisation. In addition, there is also a special focus placed on the Afrodiasporic presence when building a “globalised” and “in-between-places” citizenship, as well as on confirming the contribution of the African World to the production of universal knowledge and thinking.