Anthropology of/in Africa

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Anthropology of/in Africa

A place to discuss anthropological research in Africa, and the state of the discipline in African universities.

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Anthropology of Africa and Anthropology in Africa

In a recent post I wrote for Savage Minds, I discussed the state of anthropology in Nigeria, and by extension Africa.

The note on which I ended the post pretty much summarises why I think we need to have a lively discussion not just on the anthropology of Africa, but on the reputation of the discipline in Africa, and its state in African universitities:

Does Nigeria, and by extension other African countries, have need of the anthropologist’s contribution in its present predicament? Can the problems thrown up in the country be framed in anthropological ways? Are these problems not always being framed in such ways whether or not people realize or admit it, whether or not people study their society, its mental, material and behavioural artefacts, and engage one another, self and other, with the benefit of ethnographic and theoretical training received in university departments of anthropology? At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, I think that it is always anthropology, good or bad—from Huntington to Soyinka.

Discussion Forum

Stereotypes and Africa 11 Replies

Started by Olumide Abimbola. Last reply by Charlotte Joy Feb 20, 2012.

Anthropology in Kenya 4 Replies

Started by Stacy A A Hope. Last reply by Nathan Dobson Oct 19, 2011.

Chabal and the political anthropology of Africa 2 Replies

Started by Olumide Abimbola. Last reply by Maria Beatriz Rodriguez-Feo Sep 3, 2010.

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Comment by Laura Mann on December 20, 2011 at 1:50am

Call for participation

CAS@50 : Cutting Edges and Retrospectives, 
Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh
6th June 2012 09:00 – 8th June 2012

This panel aims to address some of the ahistoricity of the Information and Communication Technologies for Development field (ICT4D). It does so by focusing on experienced, enacted, and imagined changes in African economic relationships and positionalities due to technologies of connectivity in a contemporary and historical perspective.

ICT4D is a term used to denote a collection of activities that have framed electronic technologies as being useful for socio-economic development. Such technologies (and technologically mediated practices) may incorporate computers, mobile phones and the Internet, and may be used for a variety of developmental ends including health, education and economic activities. Much of the ICT4D literature tends to depict these technologies as ‘revolutionary’ and frames the changes that they engender as unique to our current age. This outlook neglects the longer history of the notion that economies in Africa can be ‘revolutionised’ through technologies – ideas which have been seminal both to the ‘civilising missions’ of the European colonial empires and in the development programmes of colonial and post-colonial states.

This dialogue between historical and contemporary perspectives has a number of approaches and theories to draw upon, including among others Kapil Raj’s ideas about ‘Relocating Modern Science’, Helen Tilley’s notion of ‘Africa as a Living Laboratory’, David Edgerton’s use orientated approach to technological development and Timothy Mitchell’s contributions to post-colonial theory. What these approaches have in common is that they forcefully challenge any simplistic notion of technological diffusion and economic development. As Timothy Mitchell writes, "the practices that form the economy operate, in part, to establish equivalences, contain circulations, identify social actors or agents, make quantities and performances measurable, and designate relations of control and command". This panel will use these theories as building blocks on which to understand how technological change reshapes our understandings about how the economy operates, the way in which the economy is measured and the way in which economic space is territorialised, both socially and spatially. It will therefore look critically at how contemporary ICT diffusion compare with earlier technological and economic ‘revolutions’.

Themes may include:

  • past and current aspects of control over and use of new technologies
  • the relations between newly introduced technologies and existing technologies and material culture
  • shifting perceptions of the benefits and beneficiaries of new technologies  
  • patterns of communication and imagined social, economic and political identities within, between and beyond African border
  • changing ideas and conceptualisations of technology as a driver of economic change and development
  • comparative studies of different forms of technologies in relation to economic development and economic theory
  • the role of technologies in the territorialization and de-territorialization of economic space
  • shifting roles of state and non-state agents in contemporary ICT4D and its historical predecessors
  • the diffusion of technology as a justification of wider political or social projects
In order to best provoke discussion, we would like participants to prepare short papers (4-5000 words) that will be circulated ahead of time and to prepare short presentations (5-10 minutes) so as to maximize discussion and debate during the roundtable. We ultimately hope for participants to expand their papers into contributions for an edited volume.

Panel Organizers:
Casper Andersen, Department of Culture and Society/Aarhus University, Laura Mann and Mark Graham, Oxford Internet Institute/University of Oxford

If you are interested in taking part, please send abstracts to Laura Mann (lauramann82@gmail.com) by February 31st, 2012.
Comment by Jack Orlik on January 7, 2011 at 6:38pm
Thank you Keith - I'm just reading The Memory Bank at the moment. It's brilliant. And you're right - I did mean 2011...
Comment by Keith Hart on January 6, 2011 at 10:34pm
This is a great initiative. Thanks for letting us know here. (I am sure you mean 2011). You might like to check out my blog, The Memory Bank, and especially the posts linked under the category The African Revolution. I am also directing a new post-doc program on the human economy at the University of Pretoria and could put you in touch with our fellows who are just starting out research in Southern Africa, being from Brazil, Nepal, Jamaica, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Comment by Jack Orlik on January 6, 2011 at 7:06pm

Seeking anthropologists of Africa

Hello everyone - I am a correspondent for Think Africa Press, an online publication to be launched in January 2001. Think Africa Press intends to present African news, politics and commentary with fresh accuracy and insight.

As one aspect of this editorial angle, we would like to include interviews and commentary from anthropologists in the field. Our feeling is that the combination of their local apporach and international viewpoint will enable us to create a web of context to perfectly complement our other stories. Information from ethnographers who have actively immersed themselves in a society will allow an extra, deeper insight into the sorts of stories, trends and movements we will cover. Of course, as a former anthropology student myself I know that this is not as straightforward as it sounds, and we will work closely with any anthropologist who speaks with us to ensure that their ideas are not misrepresented.

 

I would love to hear from any of you who might be interested in having your work featured in the magazine - we think anthropology will be vitally important to the publications of the future!

 

Best,

 

Jack

Comment by Alice C. Linsley on November 9, 2009 at 12:33am
Responding to your question: What would be the subject of study of a political anthropology of the Africa of today?

As kinship is the perhaps the most fundamental basis of politics in Africa, I would think that kinship analysis along with linguistic studies would clarify a good deal about politics. Also,one would have to disregard modern national boundaries.
Comment by Olumide Abimbola on November 2, 2009 at 3:30pm
Patty, forgive me for just getting back to you. You are more than welcome to be part of the group. The name of the group is supposed to reflect the fact that we are open to anybody who has any kind of affiliation - real, surreal, immagined etc. etc. - with the continent it very welcome.

As per your interest in charities.... Yes, I chose to focus on the UK largely because it is where most of my informants in West Africa get their goods. By the way, 'UK goods' also include goods that come from Ireland, just like 'American goods' also include goods that originate from Canada. The fact that the UK is the most popular source is also tied to the activities of charities, pseudo-charities and professional charity fundraisers - the people who send those appeals out. I have a chapter on the UK end of the trade, and I will be presenting something from it at the AAA conference in Philly.

So, Patty, you are very welcome, and I am looking forward to your contributions on this group.
Comment by Patty A. Gray on October 12, 2009 at 9:02am
I hope you do NOT mind, that is...
Comment by Patty A. Gray on October 12, 2009 at 8:40am
Olumide,I am a Max Planck alum, although from Chris's group, not Guenther's. Right now I am studying Russia's emergence as an international aid donor (I am writing this from "the field" in Moscow, actually), with a particular interest in Russia's activities in Africa (I'm searching, as for a needle in a haystack, for Russian's who have volunteer experience in Africa). But more generally I am interested in the charity industry's orientation around Africa as a prime, perpetual recipient. I am VERY interested in your dissertation, especially the connection back to charities. I am based in Dublin, Ireland, where there is a very active charity "market" - appeals for clothing are slipped through my mail slot almost daily, replete with pitiful images of African children. So I hope you do mind having a member of the group who does not do anthropology IN Africa (at least not yet), but anthropology AROUND Africa.
Comment by Aoife McCullough on September 24, 2009 at 5:30pm
Hi,
I'm shortly going to South Sudan to examine how the dynamics of the conflict have changed there since the signing of the peace agreement. One of the dynamics we are interested in examining is the relationship between the Sudanese Bororo (or Mbororo/Ambororo) and the SPLA/M. I have found some literature on the Bororo in the Blue Nile area, Kordofan and Darfur, however I have yet to find anything on Bororos in the Bahr al-Ghazal area which is the area I will be focusing on. I was wondering if anyone would be able to direct me?
Comment by Derick Fay on September 9, 2009 at 3:02pm
Just a reminder that the CFP deadline for the Northeast Workshop on Southern Africa is coming up on Sept. 21 : http://openanthcoop.ning.com/events/northeast-workshop-on-southern
 

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