According to Robert Herbert, the (co-) president of the congress committee of the first WOCAL, there were two main stimuli which brought WOCAL into being:
- The first relates to the struggle for African independence: African linguistics started off as an academic discipline among scholars in the colonizing European countries and later also in the United States, Russia, Poland, Japan, etc. Conferences of African linguistics took place in the US and in the European centres of African language studies, all of them with very little African participation. In the 1980’s African linguists increasingly criticized this “academic colonialism” and claimed a return of African linguistics to Africa. Furthermore, hardly any exchange existed between African scholars from the different parts of Africa.
- The second stimulus came in the early 1990s, when South Africa was freed from the Apartheid regime. It was eager to be reintegrated into the global academic world after being isolated for decades.
For the future of WOCAL it is of eminent importance to keep both aspects in mind, in order to keep the spirit of WOCAL as the only truly international and pan-theoretical Congress of African Linguistics with a strong emphasis on the participation of African scholars.
Matthias Brenzinger, Secretary (source)