On Friday September 11, Dr. Matiangai Sirleaf (University of Maryland) presented, “Africa, COVID-19, and Responsibility.” Sirleaf is the Nathan Patz Professor of Law. She writes and teaches in the areas of global public health law, public international law, international human rights law, international criminal law, post-conflict and transitional justice, and criminal law. Her most recent publications in this area include “Racial Valuation of Diseases” (forthcoming, 2020); “Global Health Law: Legal Foundations for Social Justice in Public Health” (forthcoming, 2020); and “Responsibility for Epidemics” (2018).

Her lecture began by considering the potential impact of COVID-19 across the continent, focusing on the challenges and opportunities the pandemic presents. She addressed the vulnerabilities in health infrastructure, the prevalence of comorbidities (e.g. HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria) in Sub-Saharan Africa, and issues with leadership and disease prevention as challenges. However, she notes that there are also opportunities presented in the African context—the relatively young age of the population, less regional travel compared to other parts of the world, ability to observe ineffective responses in other countries and adapt, and many countries are well-positioned to respond due to previous epidemics. Moreover, she pointed to the resilience, creativity, and innovation within African societies and cultures as a strength in responding to COVID-19.

She addressed the role of international financial institutions in facilitating systemic healthcare unavailability, centering on the impact of structural adjustment on the healthcare sector. She also problematized the COVID-19 vaccine and detailed how medical colonialism has been sustained in Africa. She questioned—if a vaccine is developed, how will it be distributed globally, how will priority be established, and how will African countries be positioned compared to other countries around the world? These questions moved Dr. Sirleaf to consider how we might assign greater responsibility to those who have contributed more or have more resources to respond to pandemics. She uses a legal framework to tease this out, analyzing geopolitical hierarchies and how power is leveraged. She argues that we much broaden notions of culpability beyond extant legal frameworks and use other bodies of law to elongate the gaze of responsibility.


On Friday February 10th, Kathleen Klaus gave a Baraza presentation titled “Claiming Land: Institutions, Narratives, and Political Violence in Kenya.” Dr. Klaus received her PhD in Political Science from Wisconsin University in 2015 and is currently the Buffett Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University. The talk introduced Klaus’ book project which is focused on the relationship between access to, and narratives surrounding, land and the occurrence of electoral violence in Kenya. Electoral violence resulted in 1,500 deaths in 1992, 300+ deaths in 1997, few if any in 2002, and at least 1,300 in 2007. Additionally, hundreds of thousands were displaced during the 1992 and 2007 elections.

Though the study of political violence has received an increasing amount of attention within the political science discipline, the cross-national work which examines violence tends to attribute its occurrence to national-level factors (i.e., state capacity, political consolidation, electoral rules, ethnic heterogeneity, etc.). Klaus focuses on the sub-national level, however, and finds significant variation within sub-national boundaries, even within places with similar ethnic composition.

Using a mixed-methods (3-stage comparative case design, household survey with 750 respondents, archival research and key informant interviews), Klaus argues that the distribution and control of land shapes the process and organization of electoral violence in three stages: land rights inequality -> continuous land narratives -> escalation of election violence. First, Klaus identifies political incentives, security incentives, and logistical capacity as variables affecting whether leaders have the incentive or capacity to allocate land rights to supporters. Second, salient and contentious land narratives form as the result of relative land inequality, illegitimate land allocation processes, and individuals or communities’ experience with prior evictions. Finally, elites can mobilize electoral violence where a subset of citizens link the outcome of the elections with the ability to gain or secure land.

 

CAS News Bulletin- Week of February 13th, 2017

Dr. Rebecca Hardin from the University of Michigan presented “Elemental Design, Environmental Health and Sustainable Technology at Gabon’s Schweitzer Hospital,” at the most recent Baraza on Friday October 27.  Her research concerns human/wildlife interactions, social and environmental change, wildlife management, tourism, logging, and mining especially in Central African Republic and the western Congo basin. She is a frequent contributor to Cultural Anthropology; Science; World Development PerspectivesEnvironmental Research LettersEcohealth; Conservation Biology; FOCAAL (the Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology); Environmental Health Perspectives; American Anthropologist; and Anthropologie et Sociétés.

This Baraza addressed some of her new work, which questions what to do with the Albert Schweitzer mission hospital in Gabon—an old colonial hospital with a complex history in the region. How can this heritage object be considered through the eyes and ethics of sustainable development? And what should happen to his legacy? Prior to being a hospital, the land was used as a logging concession, but Schweitzer was able to acquire the land title by protecting a political leader from an attempted assassination. The hospital is well known for its low-tech environment and self-sufficiency for water, food, and some energy. Dr. Hardin is now working with partners in Gabon to establish spaces for innovation, teaching, and design. Through collaborations with educators and researchers in Gabon, the project hopes to co-design for energy innovation. This work is related to REFRESCH, which seeks to REsearch FRESh solutions to the energy/food/water CHallenge in resource-constrained environments.

Dr. Hardin also discussed some of the projects she is affiliated with at University of Michigan. This includes STEM-Africa, a project that intends to advance research collaborations in STEM fields (including medical and environmental studies) between University of Michigan and partner institutions in Africa. She also talked about the Environmental Justice Certificate Program at UofM and the student-run environmental talk and music show called It’s Hot in Here” (aired weekly on WCBN FM 88.3 with an accompanying blog and podcast).

 

CAS News Bulletin- Week of October 30, 2017

Keynote Lecture with Dr. Asonzeh Ukah

ukahOn Thursday, the “Media and ‘Public’ Islam in Africa” Workshop began with a presentation by Asonzeh Ukah (University of Cape Town). His presentation, “From the Excess to the Apocalyptic: Media and the Production of Religious Surplus in Africa,” pointed to the last three decades following the liberalization and deregulation of the media market, arguing that media have lent themselves to a new regime of religious identity never before witnessed. Dr. Ukah stated that the real “Africa Rising” narrative is not how or about Africa and Africans being economically better off during this period but how Africans have mobilized a new array of media forms and platforms to perform and rearticulate both self and the sacred.

Using examples from his research in southern Africa, Dr. Ukah described a scene in which a new crop of religious entrepreneurs has emerged and deftly mobilized the media in new ways to re(de)fine the contours of sacred surplus in rapidly shifting sociocultural, economic, and political contexts. He considered the ways that religion has been branded—how feeling is evoked, products are produced, and material objects are used as targets of ritual. This branding links to the concept of religious surplus, where excess, overflow, and spill-overs of ritual symbols, personages, practices, and interpretations resist accommodation within and according to mainstream canons of ownership of religious and social institutions. One example were undergarments being sold in markets with the claim that they could help wearers find a spouse, avoid contracting STIs, and more. These undergarments were affixed with the face of the leader of a religious organization, ‘branded’ as a religious object while also acting as advertising for the group. Dr. Ukah’s lecture went on to discuss the penetration of media on the continent, religious advertising how radio and television is being used as a sacred space, the use of hashtags and social media content in religious participation, and attempts to regulate religious deregulation through counter-advertising and state interventions.

Workshop

Day 2 of the workshop started with welcome remarks by Professor Brenda Chalfin and a short overview of the Luce project “Islam in Global context” by Professor Benjamin F. Soares, the project director. Dr. Musa Ibrahim opened the presentations with a brief introduction on the entanglements between media and ’public’  religion by stressing that it is not possible to understand what ‘public religion’ is or what religion does in public without attending to the processes by which it’s made public, which is by or through media.

Approaching mass media as sources of “culture,” Professor Hatsuki Aishima (National Museum of Ethnology, Japan) talked about how ‘Abd al-Halim Mahmud tactfully employed mass media in his Sufi da‘wa (call, invitation) when public figures in Egypt refrained from disclosing their affiliations to Sufi orders due to negative images attached to Sufism in the 1960s and the 70s. The educated middle-class Sufis enjoyed the comfortable distance between the “master and disciple” created by mass media at a time they were denigrated. Sara Katz (Loyola University, new Orleans) analyzed how, between the 1950s-1970s, ‘Mecca uniform’ was employed for different purposes such as debating politics, exposing corruption, and promoting self-fashioned public images, such as obituary notices in the Nigerian Newsprint.  Dr. Frédérick Madore (UF CAS) showed that contrary to general claim, new media does not necessarily instigate change. According to him, the creation of Islamic radio stations in the 2000s made governments in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire to closely monitored Islamic programming, which resulted in a sort of generic Islamic discourse that avoids political debates and confrontations with divergent religious tendencies. Professor Ali Mian (UF Religion Department) provided insights into how the YouTube presence of Pakistani Tablīghī preachers transforms the group’s internal organizational structure as well as their sources of religious authority. Focusing on Mawlānā Ṭāriq Jamīl, he showed that his YouTube activities positioned him as a “public” face of Islam in the Pakistani national imaginary. Lastly, Dr. Musa Ibrahim (UF CAS) engaged with how media practice of representing ‘Islam’ within the popular video culture in northern Nigeria not only symbolizes new forms of convergence between media and Islam but how that triggers contestations about religious practices, styles, and influences authority among different categories of Muslims.

Collectively, the papers addressed the question of how intersections of media and religion in Africa not only make religion much more public, commodified, and personalized set of practices than it has been in the past, but how the realm of both religion and media are themselves transforming and being transformed by each other.

Workshop Recap Guest Written by Dr. Musa Ibrahim

Baraza with Dr. Victoria Bernal

bernalOn Friday January 24, Victoria Bernal (University of California – Irvine) gave a Baraza lecture titled, “Cityscapes, Mediascapes, and Diaspora: (Post)colonial Imaginaries of Asmara.” Dr. Bernal is professor of anthropology. Her publications include: “Diaspora and the Afterlife of Violence: Eritrean National Narratives and What Goes Without Saying.” American Anthropologist (2017); Nation as Network: Diaspora, Cyberspace, and Citizenship (2014); “Please Forget Democracy and Justice: Eritrean Politics and the Powers of Humor.” American Ethnologist (2013).

Her lecture examined a series of publications by Western experts on the Eritrean capital city of Asmara in comparison to internet posts by Eritreans. Dr. Bernal considered the imaginings and portrayals of Asmara by both groups in relation to the complex legacies of colonialism and its continuations, the diaspora and internet as spaces of expression, and the ways in which the city serves as a symbolic field. She argues that the internet and media allow Eritreans to represent counter-narratives to mainstream media representations of the city. She detailed the ways in which Asmara has been portrayed in Western media—as a space of aesthetic nostalgia where traces of Italian occupation are preserved and hold high cultural value, connecting Eritrea to a European narrative in which Eritreans are invisible. Meanwhile, Eritreans contest representations of the city—defining and claiming Asmara as a metropolis that is modern, diverse and inclusive, and full of possibilities, illustrated by the sensations, vibes, and mundane experiences of those who identify as Asmarinos.

 

This workshop was made possible through a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation Initiative on Religion and International Affairs. It was co-sponsored by UF’s Center for African Studies and the Department of Religion. 

On Friday February 28, Dr. Meghan Kirkwood gave a Baraza lecture titled, “Social Documentary Photography in the Twenty-first Century: The Ernest Cole Award and the Legacy of Struggle Photography in South Africa.” Dr. Kirkwood is assistant professor of art at Washington University—St. Louis and earned her doctorate at UF. Her publications include: “Land as Natural Resource: Representations of Mining in Contemporary South African Landscape Photography.” Photography and Culture (2019); “Social Documentary and Personal Investigations in Contemporary South African Photography: Tracey Derrick’s ‘One in Nine’ Series.” Social Dynamics (2014); and “Post-independence Architecture through North Korean Modes: Namibian Commissions of the Mansudae Project.” in A Companion to Modern African Art (2013).

Her current research draws from her dissertation, which broadly questioned how contemporary photographers document land and landscape in South Africa. The history of photography in South Africa was deeply impacted the desire to expose injustices of apartheid to a global audience. Images were used as proof that events during apartheid were not outliers like the South African government suggested. This point of focus promoted the adoption of documentary and struggle aesthetics in South African photography. Dr. Kirkwood asks, what is the legacy of this movement and how has it impacted contemporary documentary photographers?

Her presentation explored this question through the work of Ernest Cole Award recipients. The Ernest Cole Award was created by Paul Weinberg and David Goldblatt, two struggle/documentary photographers (although the award is not limited to this aesthetic). They created the award in honor of Ernest Cole, the first black freelance photographer in South Africa whose seminal work, House of Bondage, depicted everyday life during the apartheid-era. Through an examination of the five recipients of the Ernest Cole Award—Dale Yudelman, Ilan Godfrey, Graeme Williams, Masixole Feni, and Daylin Paul–Dr. Kirkwood sought to consider how documentary photography as a genre has been reinterpreted and approached in new ways in post-apartheid South Africa. She continues to work on this project, analyzing not only award winners but also submitted applications, to better understand how the award has shaped trends in style, topic, and genre adopted by photographers.

On Friday February 14, the Center for African Studies and the Center for Global Islamic Studies hosted a Baraza with Marloes Janson (University of London). Dr. Janson is a reader in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology. Her publications include: “Studying Religious Pluralism in Yorubaland: A Tribute to J.D.Y. Peel.” Religion and Society: Advances in Research (2017); “The Spiritual Highway: Religious World Making in Megacity Lagos.” Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief (co-author, 2016); and Islam, Youth, and Modernity in the Gambia: The Tablighi Jama’at (2013).

Dr. Janson’s lecture, “‘Moses is Jesus and Jesus is Muhammad’ – The Chrislam Movement in Nigeria” focused on the concept of religious pluralism. Religious pluralism describes when religious practitioners engage in multiple religions at the same site. This concept offers a fresh perspective on religions in a multi-faith setting, and Chrislam—Dr. Janson’s focus of study—is an example of this. During her research in Gambia, Dr. Janson interviewed youth who had encountered Chrislam preachers from Nigeria. After trying to find such preachers in Gambia, she went to Nigeria where she conducted nine months of ethnographic research.

She noted that the dynamics of Christian-Muslim encounters are still not fully understood. Largely they are approached as religious conflicts or interfaith dialogues. Dr. Janson has found that both approaches take religious boundaries for granted. Her research asked three key questions: (1) How can we conceptualize processes of religious mixing without falling into the pitfall of assuming an essentialized purity, as is the case with much work on syncretism (2) Which alternative concepts are available to examine the dynamics of multi-religious fields? And (3) What difference does it make to take multiplicity as the default?

Using ethnographic vignettes, Dr. Janson’s lecture detailed how participation in religious events for both Christian and Islam faiths works within the community. She noted that shared culture and ethnicity makes co-existence and shared religious practices possible and accepted in Yorubaland. Respondents had a pragmatic approach to religion, which she found to be characteristic of the Chrislam movement. Some of this she attributes to the failure of the Nigerian state to provide welfare to citizens. Thus, religious movements like Chrislam seek to provide economic and social support to followers in this void.

On Friday January 31, Dr. Tasiyana Javangwe gave a Baraza lecture titled, “‘Dis/eased Others’ – Identity and Agency in Literary Representations of Migrants of African Origin.” Dr. Javangwe is associate professor in the Department of English and Communication at Midlands State University. His publications include: “Colonial heterotopia as metanarrative in White Rhodesian writing: A post millennial reading of Peter Godwin’s Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa.Journal of Literary Studies (2016); “Mythicized selves: constructions of political self-identities in Joshua Nkomo’s The Story of My Life and Edgar Zivanai Tekere’s A Lifetime of Struggle.African Identities (2016); and Vulgar acts of entrenchment: The depiction of the Zimbabwean postcolony in Chenjerai Hove’s Palaver Finish.” Imbizo (2014). He is currently a visiting Fulbright scholar at the Center for African Studies.

Dr. Javangwe’s lecture centered on the concept of dis/easing–how it can be applied as a literary concept and the levels at which the concept is identifiable in existing literary representations. He began the lecture by discussing the development of the word dis/ease. In the past, dis/ease was used to indicate the literal absence of ease, and broadened to refer to the fitness of whole personality which determines ease or disease in adaptation. Contemporary uses of dis/ease refer to pathological conditions, but at no point in time have definitions of dis/ease excluded the socio-cultural and psychological dis/equilibrium between mankind and environment. Dr. Javangwe seeks to connect the two definitions of dis/ease to see how it can be used in the context of African migrants. He argues that to be in the condition of migrant is to be in a condition of dis/ease—in dis/equilibrium with the self, environment, and society.

His lecture analyzed the works of Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstone and Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers through the hierarchies of dis/ease in literary representation—the state of the nation of origin, general migrant neighborhoods, and migrant’s body as a space of dis/ease. The state of the nation of origin refers to the socio-economic and political development of a migrant’s original country and how these characteristics triggers a sense of dis/ease and discomfort in citizens, leading to migration as a desperate option for most. General migrant neighborhoods refer to neighborhoods in host countries occupied by people of a specific nationality, ethnicity and/or race. In these neighborhoods, migrants find themselves in dis/ease due to the poor conditions of these spaces. The conditions of neighborhoods impinge on identity projections that are critical to how migrants are viewed and named in the host society. Finally, Dr. Javangwe described the migrant’s body as a space of dis/ease. He noted that the migrant is always ‘ethnic’, and therefore seen as different physically, socially, and culturally. These differences are identified as qualities of ‘the other’, making the migrant uncomfortable with his/her body, with self, and thus dis/eased within their host country.

On April 20, Peter Alegi (Michigan State University) gave a Baraza lecture titled, “Shaka’s Progeny: Youth Football and Masculinity in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.” The presentation focused on the Izichwe Youth Football Program in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The program was founded in 2010 by Reynold Thabo Dladla, a footballer (African Wanderers, AmaZulu Royals) who began coaching after his professional career ended. Dladla had a vision of combining soccer training and education in a program that would produce smart kids, engaged citizens, and good footballers.

Izichwe was created outside of the South African Football Association in order to maintain full autonomy in training and competition. The program was funded by a grant from the National Lottery and by the Norwegian football club, Viking Stavanger. Following tryouts for youth under 14, fifty boys were invited for five years of training through the program. Participants would go to school then train daily from 3 to 5pm, eat together, and study for an hour before going home.

The program placed a high importance on fundamentals and character development. Dladla and the coaching team intended to create men who know responsibility for others before self. They promoted the idea that football is a highly intellectual activity and thus encouraged players to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own training. There was little emphasis placed on winning, instead focusing on player development and empowerment.

Only one cohort was trained during the duration of the program, and eventually the team dropped from 50 to 25 due to the program’s high expectations. Despite this, the team succeeded in youth competition and eventually entered adult leagues in 2014. The program was also successful in its focus on education, as most graduates went on to university. However, the Izichwe program ended in mid-2016 following loss of resources and related bureaucratic issues. Although not all youth finished, the philosophy and values of the program live on in the players. Many have football careers at various levels, and many are enrolled in university.

 

CAS News Bulletin- Week of April 23, 2018

On March 30, Dr. Ann Wainscott gave a Baraza lectured titled, “Bureaucratizing Islam: Morocco and the War on Terror.” Dr. Wainscott is assistant professor of political science and earned her Ph.D. from UF in 2013. Her publications include: “Religious Regulation as Foreign Policy: Morocco’s Islamic Diplomacy in West Africa” Politics and Religion (2018); Bureaucratizing Islam: Morocco and the War on Terror (2017); and “Defending Islamic Education: War on Terror Discourse and the Politics of Public Religious Education in Contemporary Morocco” Journal of North African Studies (2015).

The lecture focused on her research on Moroccan religious reforms, which were implemented as a counter terrorism measure following the 2003 Casablanca bombings. The bombings were the first major terrorist attack in Morocco and resulted in an overhaul of religious policy by the state. The Moroccan government now controls religious bureaucracy including religious education, printing of the Quran, recitation of prayer, and institutions of higher religious learning. Because religious management and policy changes were well organized and financed, Dr. Wainscott argues that counter terrorism was only one objective of these changes. State involvement in religious policy fulfills two objectives: it demonstrates the state’s proactivity in dealing with terrorism and it discourages dissent from religious elites. Dr. Wainscott’s lecture described the complex incentive structure formed between education, higher education, and employment in Morocco following the bureaucratization of Islam.

She concluded the lecture by stating that the Moroccan strategy has its political advantages. It limits opposition from religious elites, gains international recognition and material benefits, and avoids condemnation of the international community.  Moreover, this approach has significance beyond Morocco. She argues that the War on Terror has contributed to the “banalization” of Islam, and has created specific opportunities for states with religious identities. Also, religious policy changes made in response to terrorism can be used as a way to silence political opposition.

 

CAS News Bulletin- Week of April 2, 2018

Danny Hoffman, Associate Professor in Anthropology at the University of Washington, outlined the central argument and ethnographic context of his new book, Monrovia Modern: Urban Form and Political Imagination in Liberia.  The book is light on the ethnography typical of an anthropological monograph and instead places the ruined forms of four Monrovian buildings at its center.

Hoffman’s talk singled out the Ministry of Defense building, a product of Samuel Doe’s project of state-building through monumental architecture in the 1980s, turned military barracks during Liberia’s two civil wars. After the Second Civil War ended in 2003, ex-combatants remained in the building as squatters. When the Sirleaf government expelled them between 2008 and 2010, the residents put up surprisingly little resistance and resettled in a nearby mangrove swamp, from which they also anticipated eviction.Borrowing from Liberian English, Hoffman refers to the ministry building and other urban ruins as Monrovia’s ‘gaps,’ or in-between spaces transiently inhabited by the city’s ex-combatants. He asks why, if so many young men exist in the gaps of the city, are they resistant to laying claim to those spaces. What kinds of futures are imaginable in a city dominated by ruined forms? Exploring the spatial arrangements of power built into the architectural forms of the city, Hoffman argued that these facilitate transience, but not rootedness. Nor do they support the production of a political community in the sense exhibited by so many militant claims to urban space elsewhere.

The brutalist architectural style of the Ministry of Defense building creates a space unconducive to dwelling, with spatial proportions and sightlines poorly suited to the human body. The totalitarian ideology upon which the form was constructed is so apparent as to be impossible to reinterpret. It becomes unimaginable as a space that people can and should lay claim to, and impossible to use as anything other than a place of transit.

Guest Recap Written by Netty Carey