/ Research

New Publications from BAB Publishing House

Mirjam de Bruijn's 2017 Carl Schlettwein Lecture Digitalization and the Field of African Studies has been published as part of our Carl Schlettwein Lecture Series. The latest addition to the Basel Southern Africa Studies Series is Renzo Baas's Fictioning Namibia as a Space of Desire.

Mirjam de Bruijn: Digitalization and the Field of African Studies

Carl Schlettwein Lecture 2017
Carl Schlettwein Lecture Series, Vol. 12
March 2019
44 p.

You can purchase the book here

On the book:
Urbanization in Africa also means rapid technological change. At the turn of the 21st century, mobile telephony appeared in urban Africa. Ten years later, it covered large parts of rural Africa and – thanks to the smartphone – became the main access to the internet. This development is part of technological transformations in digitalization that are supposed to bridge the urban and the rural and will make their borders blurred. They do so through the creation of economic opportuni­ties, the flow of information and by influencing people’s definition of self, belonging and citizenship. These changes are met with huge optimism and the message of Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D) for Africa has been one of glory and revolution. Practice, however, reveals other sides. Increasingly, academic publications show that we are facing a new form of digital divide, in which Africa is (again) at the margins.These technological transformations influence the relation between urban and rural Africa, and between ‘Africa’ and the World, and hence the field of African Studies both in its objects as well as in its forms of knowledge production and in the formulation of the problems we should study. In this lecture, Mirjam de Bruijn reflects on two decades of research experience in West and Central Africa and discusses how, for her, the field has changed. The author was forced to decolonize her thinking even further, and to enter into co-creation in knowledge production. How can these les­sons be translated into a form of critical knowledge production and how does the study of techno­logical change inform the redefinition of African Studies for the 21st century?

Mirjam de Bruijn is Professor of Contemporary History and Anthropology of Africa at Leiden University (The Netherlands). As an anthropologist she has done much interdisciplinary research on the interrelationship between agency, marginality, mobility, communication and technology in West and Central Africa, especially Cameroon, Chad and Mali, leading major research projects on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). In this connection, she published numerous articles in scholarly journals and edited the volumes “The Social Life of Connectivity in Africa” (with Rijk van Dijk, Palgrave Mac Millan 2012) and “Side@Ways: Marginality and Communication in Africa” (with Inge Brinkman and Francis Nyamnjoh, ASC Leiden and Langaa 2013).

Renzo Baas: Fictioning Namibia as a Space of Desire. An Excursion into the Literary Space of Namibia During Colonialism, Apartheid and the Liberation Struggle Basel

Southern Africa Studies 12
March 2019
286 p.

You can purchase the book here

On the book:
Modern-day Namibian history has largely been shaped by three major eras: German colonial rule, South African apartheid occupation, and the Liberation Struggle. It was, however, not only military conquest that laid the cornerstone for the colony, but also how the colony was imagined, the 'dream' of this colony. As a tool of discursive worldmaking, literature has played a major role in providing a framework in which to 'dream' Namibia, first from outside its borders, and then from within. In Fictioning Namibia as a Space of Desire, Renzo Baas employs Henri Lefebvre's city-countryside dialectic and reworks it in order to uncover how fictional texts played an integral part in the violent acquisition of a foreign territory. Through the production of myths around whiteness, German and South African authors designed a literary space in which control, destruction, and the dehumanisation of African peoples are understood as a natural order, one that is dictated by history and its linear continuation. These European texts are offset by Namibia's first novel by an African, offering a counter-narrative to the colonial invention that was (German) South West Africa.

Renzo Baas is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, where he is working on African-American and African speculative fictions as a response to exclusionary and alienating politics. He has conducted research on (post)colonial literatures, Afrofuturist and African speculative fictions, graphic novels, as well as historic colonial novels.