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Call: Oral histories of economic life in Africa during the neoliberal-capitalist era

University of Leeds

Oral histories (OHs) of contemporary economic life and change in Africa have, it seems, fallen out of fashion. There appears to be no larger, collective body of work existent that tries to offer a collection of OH data and analysis concerning economic life during the neoliberal-capitalist era, aka from the 1990s onwards.

Moreover, no body of work seems to exist that somewhat resembles - in terms of focus, scope, depth, volume, format - the seminal work of Studs Terkel (e.g. Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do). Terkel published a relatively large number of accounts per book (Working, for example, has more than 120 entries with an average entry length of about three to six pages). We have not seen anything like this for the contemporary period for the African continent, on any of the pertinent economic and social issues, and yet Terkel's format could be highly useful for the African context too. This lacuna is a scholarly problem not only for the simple reason of record and analysis- the last few decades have seen unprecedented changes in the everyday lives of people and generations across the continent, and especially their working lives - but also because the questions of voice, self-making, representation, and of course inclusion, humanism, and equality that animated Africanist scholarship a generation ago, seem to have been to a significant extent jettisoned or excluded today.

The purpose of this Call for Papers, therefore, is to seek contributions to a special issue of ROAPE or another journal of similar standing and emphasis, focusing on oral testimonies and life histories of work and economic lives (jobs, earning a living etc.) during this era from across the continent. This is an open call to see what is 'out there'. We are aware of colleagues who should/do have material on contemporary life histories, and it is this pool of available data we target with this call. We envision scholars who have data/analysis to offer to apply with their papers. Once we have collected enough interest, we will formulate a Special Issue proposal, with the aim of getting papers submitted for review by autumn, or thereabout, for publication in mid to late 2020. Interested researchers can submit their abstractsby 20.03.2019 to, and / co-organisers: Jörg Wiegratz (Leeds), Joost Fontein (Johannesburg) and Joseph Mujere (Harare)
Beyond the Special Issue the organisers have other ideas in order to help revive critical oral history studies: for example, to publish oral histories of economic life in contemporary Africa, in blog format, on a rolling basis, on a suitable, journal-linked or other academic website. An edited book, or another Special Issue might follow down the line. Please contact them if you like to discuss any of these ideas (e.g. if you have a tip regarding the website space etc.).

Further information:Call "Oral histories of economic life in Africa during the neoliberal-capitalist era"