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10 Jun 2021

Gastvorlesung / Vortrag

Elísio Macamo: What is 'the object' in African Studies?

Session #11 of Ataya: the HUMA Interdisciplinary Seminar Series 2021 (Webinar Edition)

Topic: What is it we are studying when we claim to be looking into anything? More specifically, what are we learning when we say that we are studying Africa? The most straightforward answer to these questions is to conflate the intellectual agenda of our discipline (social anthropology, sociology, political science, etc.) with the object, arguing, for instance, that we are studying culture, society and politics. In this presentation, I will discuss the challenge of defining the object in African Studies. The claim I will put forward is to the effect that a clear definition of ‘the object’ is not an empirically retrievable phenomenon but rather the work we do to construct what we are able to know. The aim is to argue for African Studies as a refined version of the methodology of the social sciences.

How Ataya works: One presenter, one paper – in exchange with the audience. Each Ataya session engages with a particular, selected academic paper. The presenter introduces his/her authored paper and grounds the subsequent discussion with the participants.

Paper: 'Before we start: science and power in the constitution of Africa' by Elisio Macamo, Chapter 15 in The Politics of Nature and Science in Southern Africa, edited by Maano Ramutsindela and Giorgio Miescher. Published by Basler Afrika Bibliographien in 2016.

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