In 2018 the University of Florida created its moonshot initiatives to address society’s “most urgent problems while redefining the role of a land-grant university for the 21st century.” UF identified and included migration as one of the great challenges and opportunities.

The world is shifting quickly and, specifically in Florida, the population is growing rapidly and becoming more culturally diverse. A growing entrepreneurial immigrant population is sharing their music, dance, art, food, clothing, style, languages and folk traditions in ways that are changing and influencing culture more broadly. The College of the Arts responded to the challenge and societal shifts by creating a new center and a new model for cultural production, artistic practice, research and scholarship: the Center for Arts, Migration and Entrepreneurship (CAME).

CAME operates at the intersection of the creative economy, migrant identity and entrepreneurial leadership. To that end, CAME specifically intends to connect and nourish local, national, and international arts and cultural networks to boost the speed, durability, and effectiveness of cultural innovation and cultivate the relationship between artistic production and economic sustainability.  CAME starts from a place that recognizes migration and its attendant cultural diasporas as locations of necessary innovation, resilience, and ingenuity by people in new contexts.  These cultural forms that persist, remix, or emerge have historically been, are, and will continue to be sites of productive creativity and content that generate abundant tangible and intangible value. CAME will gather collaborators to facilitate the engines of creative and cultural economics at the heart of migration: artists, thinkers, scholars, makers, creators, entrepreneurs, leaders, investors, policy makers, and funders.”

CAME’s UF Partners include:  Center for African Studies; Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research; Center for the Humanities in the Public Sphere; Center for Latin American Studies; Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering; College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and IFAS Extension; Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center of the Warrington College of Business ; and UF INNOVATE.

Under the guidance of inaugural center director Osubi Craig, this year CAME opened its vibrant suite in Yon Hall, laid the groundwork for local, regional and international networks, and initiated its first programs with Nigerian choreographer, performer and curator Qudus Onikeku as the center’s maker-in-residence. Last month in Lagos, Nigeria, Onikeku’s QDance Center and CAME produced a virtual danceGathering that has drawn overwhelming critical and popular response from the international dance community.

On April 24 over 70 faculty across UF participated in CAME’s informational session to learn more about the center, its programs and opportunities for networking and project funding. CAME now seeks scholars with related research, teaching, or service interests to become affiliate faculty and advance CAME’s objectives through scholarly projects. CAME invites UF faculty to apply for funding for individual ($1500) and group ($3500) projects or for cross-disciplinary working groups ($2500) that match CAME focus areas. The deadline for FY21 funding applications is May 15. The deadline for affiliate faculty applications is June 1.

For more information about applying for project funding or affiliate faculty status, please contact Osubi Craig at CAME@arts.ufl.edu.

Research post written by Cady Gonzalez (PhD Candidate, Anthropology)

I recently returned to the US after completing nearly 12 months of dissertation fieldwork in Ethiopia’s capital city as a Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad fellow. My ethnographic research in Addis Ababa looks at an urban renewal initiative aiming to rehabilitate rivers and stimulate riverbasin economies that speaks as much to issues of managing urban growth and urban natures as it does the political project of state building. Like many of my colleagues and friends, I experienced a rushed and early departure due to the global public health pandemic. Fortunately, my research period was minimally impacted as my year abroad was coming to a close at the end of March.

I first came to Ethiopia in summer of 2016, on a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship. At the time, I hoped to research among coffee growing communities in the south of the country, but language study requirements restricted me to the city. Being stuck in Addis Ababa meant that I had to completely rethink my research strategy, or in Erving Goffman’s words, I had to open myself up to any overture. What better way to do that then to brainstorm over a cup of traditionally prepared, strong Ethiopian coffee, called jebena buna? After a red-eye flight, I found myself sipping my first cup in a narrow urban green area, between a bustling city sidewalk and the towering wall of Addis Ababa University’s campus border. The enticing smell of roasting coffee and burning incense had lured me to this enclave, which one of its patrons later explained was a small public park built by the municipal government to provide pay-per-use toilet services along with refreshments. The object of study for my MA research remained coffee, but within the context of polluted streets rather than the foothills of high-altitude forests. I explored how the social life and hospitality of the Ethiopian coffee ceremony within the context of development projects, acted as a tool to govern bodies and bodily processes, namely open defecation.

Returning to Addis Ababa in Spring 2019, three years after the inauguration of the public toilets, I found the project changed. While the initiative attempted to tackle a myriad of sustainable development goals, its emphasis on sanitation had receded and the project’s governance was under transition from the water and sewage department to the city beatification and recreation authority. Underpinned by a desire to clean and green the dirtiest areas of Addis Ababa, the project would continue to be sustained by Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s focus on human-centered, green urban planning. Public toilets constructed along the river were swept up by his personal vision for river rehabilitation and the design, implementation, and conservation of urban-natures.

In other words, I found the city not just under construction, but also under renovation, and city residents were expected to take part. Sunday mornings were reserved monthly for neighborhood cleaning, car-free days were scheduled to reduce pollution and a national tree planting day in July aimed to set a world record for the number of saplings planted in 24 hours. Medians along highway corridors were beautified with clay flower pots and shrub trees. Tree removal during road construction resulted in pockets of land amidst construction zones converted into nurseries, where uprooted trees—from seedlings to mature canopies—were watered and nurtured through IV drips.

Although underway since the 1990s, Ethiopia’s urban cleaning and conservation projects have not unfolded according to any uniform logic. In Addis Ababa today, processes of greening, cleaning and caring are part and parcel to Dr. Abiy’s guiding political philosophy medemer—literally meaning to “add up” or to “add to.”  While medemer rhetorically espouses ideals of unity, love and care, its practices of discipline, eviction and taming undermine the social synergy it seeks to generate. Taking the public toilets and their green areas as my point of departure, I spent the year exploring the ways cleaning and caring for a home, city, and nation speak to double-edged processes of controlling others and “living together.”

I spent significant time “hanging-out” at public parks and riverside slums, wandering the hallways of municipal offices, and engaging with urban planners and architects. For the first six months of fieldwork, I walked or rode public transportation past the park above. While the chain-link fence was unlocked, I along with much of the neighborhood was skeptical about the terms of use. Was it open? Was it free? Was it safe? Very rarely was anyone inside; that was until one of the gardeners began to paint the concrete retention wall in a vibrant, geometric pattern.

Once attuned to color’s effects on urban-nature relations, I found the use of art as mirror, critique and provocation to be salient throughout the city due to the political emphasis on beautification. I leaned into my own artistic inclinations to also engage with designers and artists by way of design studios, art competitions and art educational programs—each of which held river rehabilitation, waste management and the design of urban-natures at their gravitational center.

What urban renewal means and entails today for Addis Ababa is fiercely debated and feeds into tension between new and old, and short- and long-term city residents; religious and ethnic groups; and municipal, regional and national governments. My research shows that it is critical for environmental and political stability to understand how urban-natures and their connected cleaning and greening campaigns, become a right, a source of anger or an object of manipulation and negotiation.

As I begin to revisit my fieldnotes and reflect on my winding research trajectories, my gratitude for my advisors, colleagues and friends is endless. Their encouragement to trust my instincts inspired and fueled creativity throughout the research process and when work felt stagnant, their insistence to “be a sponge” was reassuring. I am also so thankful to have had the support of the Center for African Studies, Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad program and UF International Center’s Office for Global Research Engagement throughout this research process. Without them, long-term fieldwork would not have been possible.

 

 

I am honored to share my father’s secret  ‘Potiron or Giraumon soup”.
there is nothing secret about it other than a simple way to get his
twelve kids eating their soup which was known  as ‘la Soupe des Fous’.
As kids my father endlessly told us about la légende de la Courge de
Mailhac and Cendrillon et  la Citrouille.  Ever since, he said, it was
served daily at most institutions for it’s health benefits.

A simple recipe from Georgie’s kitchen – Butternut Squash Soup.
Butternut squash is of a long pale cream color- celebrated for its
versatility and sweet, nutty flavor.
Butternut squash is also a fruit and makes delicious desserts.
Found  fresh in all supermarkets.

1  fresh butternut squash, cubed, with all skin and seeds removed
(place in microwave to soften the skin).
1 small sweet onion
1 Tbspoon of butter
2 or 3 cups of vegetable or unsalted chicken broth (1 bowl per person)
or your preferred consistency.
1 tsp of black pepper, dash of salt, dash of sugar.
1 tsp of corn starch or flour
1Tbspoon of coconut milk or half&half (optional)
Whole Star anise and juniper berries
Fresh sage leaf  together with the  whole star anise and two juniper
berries  to place on top of each soup bowl before serving (keep you
bowl soup warm).
Traditional blender to puree the squash.

1. Cook – Place the diced butternut squash in  your pot  with the
broth and butter until tender. 10mins

2.-Blend – Puree the hot soup with one small onion and the tspoon of
corn starch/flour until smooth ( depending on your blender size)

3.-Taste and season – add sugar, salt, coconut milk or half & half ( if desired)

4.-Enjoy – keep the soup on low temp until ready to serve.
Serve hot with the star anise, juniper berries, and the sage leaf on
top at the end.

You can add your own twist! apple, fresh cilantro, and much more.
Enjoy

Photo: Bamba Sourang/Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority via CNN

Research Post Written by Megan Cogburn (PhD Candidate, Anthropology)

For the past 8 months I have been in Tanzania completing a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research project. My ethnographic research focuses on maternal health governance and the pregnancy and childbirth care experiences of women in rural communities in the central Dodoma region of Tanzania. I am interested in the everyday maternity experiences of nurses, mothers, and wakunga wa jadi (local birth attendants), and how new global and national policies aimed at increasing facility deliveries intersect with their own care desires and practices. While my project was intended to end late March, I like many others, had to return from the field a bit early due to global public health concerns. Luckily, my project was close to its end and I have prior additional field research seasons to build from for my dissertation project.

I first came to Mpwapwa District in January of 2016, through a fellowship with the Transparency for Development Project. I lived in three different villages for 7 months, following community members’ experiences with an intervention aimed at improving maternal health indicators. One of the questions that emerged from this time was what happens to care when it becomes indicator-driven—what does that look like on different levels and in the lives of those giving and receiving care? From this research I wrote an article called, “Home birth fines and health cards in rural Tanzania: on the push for numbers in maternal health,” in press with Social Science & Medicine.

My Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Award supported my return to Mpwapwa in July 2019. I had 8 months to ethnographically explore what counts as care, when, why, and to whom, and with what intended and unintended consequences for the lives of women. I chose the village health dispensary— the lowest tier of the Tanzanian biomedical health system — as well as one district-level hospital and maternity waiting home, known locally as Chigonela, as my ethnographic sites. In addition to these facilities, I also sought to follow women’s experiences as they moved through different ‘middle spaces’ of care, which included the homes, churches, and public spaces of respected elders, wakunga wa jadi, and local healers.

Returning to the same field site 3 years later allowed me to document several changes. Many of which I observed at the health dispensary, where I spent numerous hours helping the nurse register pregnant women, record data, and administer testing. Women are supposed to arrive to the health dispensary early on in their pregnancies—as soon as one feels she is pregnant. They must arrive with their husbands so both can be tested for HIV and STIs, receive a mosquito net, and learn how to prepare for a facility delivery. Due to by-laws banning homebirths, women are not allowed to deliver at home with wakunga wa jadi. Many prefer birth at their local health dispensaries, though fewer and fewer are allowed to do so. This led me to explore the way the dispensary delivery has become the new ‘homebirth’ in interesting ways, leading to novel forms of confessional care at the health facility.

Not all women can access a desired dispensary birth. Commands to go to the district hospital materialize in the stars health workers, or at times, a visiting ethnographer, draw on the top of health cards for all first-time pregnant women, women who have had three or more pregnancies, or previous complications such as caesarean sections. These stars indicate that women must go the maternity waiting home to ensure a hospital delivery. This emphasis on place and temporality —a woman’s early arrival at the hospital—influence much of what counts in the making of ‘good care’ today. However, as women are left to care for themselves once at the maternity waiting home, these same axes of care (time and space) are called into question. The material realities of crowded beds and deteriorating infrastructure pose challenges to daily life at Chigonela, leaving many of its residents to wonder where care is located. The maternity waiting home thus becomes a site shaped by and shaping competing modes of good care and governance. It is a space that seeks to fashion rural, pregnant women into neoliberal, self-caring subjects, at the same time it assumes they cannot care for themselves and are in need of state intervention. The maternity waiting home emerges as a space to rethink traditional forms of governance, (re)imagining the bodies of poor, rural pregnant women, and how best to care.

One of the things I really enjoyed about my research, and its multi-sited focus, was the ability to be with, different women before, during, and after birth. Some of the women I would see at the maternity waiting home were friends or acquaintances from my time in the villages in 2016. I felt privileged to be able to share in the intimacy and joy that comes in meeting one’s infant for the first time. I was also able to visit many post-partum mothers at home, and conducted focus group discussions with women who had been together at the maternity waiting home and delivered at the hospital.

My experience as a researcher in Tanzania was shaped by my own identity as a mother. I am now the mother of two young children. This has added to the complexities of planning and negotiating fieldwork abroad but has also provided my family with amazing memories and new experiences for learning and growth. Some highlights were watching the smiles on my children’s faces when the blue and pink school bus would arrive in the morning and taking long evening hikes together. Before my older son left Mpwapwa, he said that the two things he would miss most are the mountains and stationary shops—the latter of which he frequented more for candy and socializing than pencils or books. Isolating with my children at home now, I am even more grateful for the time and freedom they had in Mpwapwa, and the amazing community who welcomed and sustained us there.

In my unique position as a mother and scholar on maternal health, I have come to value the importance of being open about my experiences with motherhood and scholarship. Final products of research are often missing the mundane, lived experiences of researchers themselves—even though these experiences inherently mold the work we do. Some might think that my position as a mother allows me greater access to the research topics of pregnancy and birth—which it can and does. But, at the end of the day, conducting research as a mother inherently means time away from my children while others provide essential care work so I can carry out the tasks at hand. There are so many mixed emotions that go into these logistics—none of which are unique to me. I think these experiences should be valued more in our writing and reflection as scholars, for the research we do never occurs in a vacuum devoid of our emotions, social ties, and responsibilities. During research, I wonder how our ethnographic care not only reflects our academic training (methods and theoretical underpinnings), but the people we care for in our day to day lives both in and out of the field.

I am so thankful to have had the support of the Center for African Studies and my wonderful advisor and committee members throughout this process. I am also thankful to my friends here at UF, fellow graduate students who have offered me unconditional support and encouragement. One even volunteered her time and resources to help me and my children move to Mpwapwa and lived with us there for a month. The phrase “it takes a village” sounds trite, but collaboration and collaborative practice is key to unmasking powerful hierarchies and making space in the academy for women and caregivers, as many feminist scholars have shown. I believe that collaborative practice can be as simple as a WhatsApp group, such as the one I shared with two of my grad school friends here at UF, both of whom were in Africa conducting research this last year. For over a year, we messaged each other daily, checking in on our research and personal progress, sharing ethnographic vignettes, images, hardships and humor. Our WhatsApp group is not just a testimony to friendship—and perhaps, boredom— but to what ethnography is and might become as we move forward in the 21st century, when, by coming together, we can better care not only for the research process, but for each other.

 

March 21st marked seven years since Prof. Chinualumogu Albert Achebe joined his ancestors. He died in Boston, USA on 21st March 2013, after a brief illness, aged 82. In life and in death he remains many things to many people. His Son, Dr. Chidi Achebe in remembrance of his father sent a message around on one of the Social media platforms saying, “My Dad, Chinua Achebe, novelist, poet and critic, crusader for social justice, reluctant politician, advocate for the voiceless, died #OnThisDay in 2013. Author of over twenty books, including five novels, collections of poetry, children’s books, and essays; his 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart, is his stand out publication. It has sold more than 20 million copies, been translated into 57 languages, and read in schools across the globe. Love you Dad. Thank God for your life.”

Let me take you back to just three years before the passing of an African organic library, that time when the Master storyteller was still alive and kicking. My chance meeting of the great mind of Africa was at the Achebe Colloquium which took place in 2010 in conjunction with Brown University, Rhode Island. I recall writing in my diary and I share with you all for what it is worth:

“How does one reconstruct the dance steps of an intimidating masquerade? Alternatively, how easy will it be to tell a story where a master storyteller was in attendance? The festival of ideas and debates took place over two days at the Marriott Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island, in a city said to have been founded by a religious exile from the Massachusetts Bay Area in 1636. As other official accounts have it, the city has re-branded its self and is now known as the ―Creative Capital.

It thus makes sense that an Achebe Colloquium found soil in a place such as this. Do not ask me how and when this creative marriage of ―Pa Chinua Achebe and Brown University came about. All I know is that the official publication of Brown University quoted president of the University, Ruth Simmons, as saying that Achebe ―made it clear from the outset that his concern was to bring issues involving Africa to the attention of the world. But Achebe not only brought attention to issues tearing Africa apart he got most of us at the event standing at attention.

I won‘t detain you with the confluence of coincidences but lead you along as I distill facts, fantasies, and flashes from my memory. If the truth must be the chord of my narration, then you need to know a few things about how I found myself at a Colloquium I was neither invited nor followed the laid-down procedure of registering for an event such as this.

Let us just say, I just booked a flight, and accommodation at the designated Hotel for one night and I was ready to ―just appear at the Achebe Colloquium with a camera and a pair of ears that will pick up side talks and watch intellectuals do what they know how to do best. The list of intellectual giants invited for the colloquium is enough to compel any curious being like me to want to attend with or without invitation. In this case, it is preposterous to list who was there than to just look for a few names that were not present. Well, if you are reading this far from Gainesville then you did not have the wings to fly to this august gathering that played host to Professors Ali Mazuri, Adebowale Adefuye, Attahiru Jega, Kenneth Harrow, Vern Redekop and a host of former Ambassadors.”

Let us not open the whole box of memory but just to say that the Colloquium was not during the time of Corona Virus as we have at present. Ten years have gone into history and seven years have rolled past. The works (and words) of Chinua Achebe remain relevant even until this day. Will you not say when the arrow of God strikes,  things fall apart and man is no longer at ease?  May his soul continue to rest in power and return for repeat performances in the land of ancestors.

Written by Kole Odutola

 

Interrogate and Commemorate the historic meeting of James Baldwin and Chinua Achebe at UF in 1980.

In April 1980 renowned African writer Chinua Achebe and African American literary giant James Baldwin met for the first time in Gainesville, Florida. The occasion was the African Literature Association conference devoted to the African Aesthetic.

On the 40th anniversary of Baldwin and Achebe’s historic encounter at the University of Florida, this two-day event invites return and reflection. The first day probes the experiential archive through oral history, memoir, and artifact. The second day invites literary engagement around reading, representing and writing the nexus of Africa and America in the present on the UF campus and across the community.

How might we come to know and narrate this past in its midst and from afar. Does a Black Aesthetic today displace the pursuit of an African one? Can there ever be a single voice to speak with or against? Does a literary imagination forged in displacement and diaspora transcend attempts at localization? What are the artistic and political stakes and do they recall or refute the promises of the past?

April 2-3, 2020
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida

Sponsored by College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of the Arts, Office of Research, Office of Diversity Affairs, and Center for African Studies.

Click here for the Achebe | Baldwin @40 event flyer. Program details are forthcoming.