African Studies Workshop

Mondays from 2:00pm - 4:00pm

Please sign up to the African Studies Workshop listserv to stay updated.

Sign-up HERE to join the Harvard African Studies Workshop listserv and receive presentation papers electronically before event.

The African Studies Workshop at Harvard was inaugurated in Fall of 2012, and continues this year with a new and exciting schedule of presenters. The presenters' papers explore Africa’s changing place in the world - and the new economies, legalities, socialities, and cultural forms that have arisen there. We shall also interrogate the claim that the African present is a foreshadowing of processes beginning to occur elsewhere across the globe; that, therefore, it is a productive source of theory and analysis about current conditions world-wide. At each workshop, a scholar presents a paper on one facet of the rapidly changing position of Africa in the global political economy and the impact of that change on global distributions of wealth, well-being, and power. Then a discussant provides commentary followed by an open discussion, in which students are given the floor first, followed by anyone else in attendance. Workshop presenters are scholars of high international repute as well as up and coming Africanist intellectuals.

The Workshop runs, simultaneously, as an undergraduate/graduate seminar, a professional apprenticeship for doctoral Africanists-in-training across the disciplines, and a laboratory for international scholarly exchange. The intellectual theme for the Workshop is: Africa Rising? New African Economies/Cultures and their Global Implications.  Under this theme, three major topic foci are addressed:

  • Changing Economies, Changing Politics, Changing Faces of Capitalism

  • State Transformations, Social Order, and the Problem of Crime

  • Health and Crises of Reproduction

The undergraduate/graduate seminar held in conjunction with the African Studies Workshop is led by Professor Jean Comaroff. The seminar explores Africa’s changing place in the world – and the new economies, legalities, socialities, and cultural forms that have arisen there.

At each Workshop, a paper, pre-circulated a week in advance through a mailing list, will be presented for critique and discussion. Students, post-docs and workshop attendees are then invited to engage in discussion, under the moderation of the Workshop Chair.

View previous workshops here:


Professor Jean Comaroff 
Alfred North Whitehead Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology, Oppenheimer Fellow in African Studies




September 13 - Jatin Dua

Photo of Jatin Dua

Presenting: Chokepoints: Temporalities of Navigation in the Red Sea

Discussant: Adrienne Mannov (MIT)

Jatin Dua is an associate professor of Anthropology and Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan. His research explores processes and projects of governance, law, and economy along the East African coast and the wider Indian Ocean world. His book, Captured at Sea: Piracy and Protection in the Indian Ocean, published with the University of California Press (December 2019), winner of the 2020 Elliot P. Skinner Book Prize is a multi-sited ethnographic and archival engagement with maritime piracy and contestations over legitimate and illegitimate commerce in coastal East Africa. Focusing on the ransom economy of Somali piracy, the book places protection as central to global mobility to see how a variety of actors from pirates and diya kinship groups in Somalia, to naval ships and Indian dhow captains at sea as well as insurance agents and security consultants in London create and regulate order and disorder within economies of piracy and counter-piracy. In addition, he has published a number of articles on maritime anthropology, seafaring, insurance, ransom economies, and property at sea. His current research projects continue this emphasis on maritime worlds and their entanglements with law, sovereignty, economy, and sociality in the Indian Ocean and beyond. 1) Navigating the Bab-el-Mandeb, focuses on the materiality of navigation, including technologies of risk calculation, credit extension, and the daily forms of circulation and governance that occur across the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, a key maritime chokepoint connecting the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. 2) Africa at Sea: Captivity and Care in the Global Shipping Economy, opens up a hitherto unexplored world of African mobility and its relationship to global shipping and maritime capitalism. In particular, this project explores the varied meanings of blackness and racial capitalism through a simultaneous focus on port-making and large-scale maritime infrastructure investment on land as well as following the regional and global itineraries of African seafarers onboard cargo ships at sea. Discussant: Adrienne Mannov (Aarhus University)



September 20 - Valentina Fusari

Valentina Fusari Photo


Presenting: From Interracial Sexuality to Mixed Kinship in (Post)colonial Eritrea

Discussant: Sebastian Jackson (Harvard University)


Valentina Fusari is currently postdoctoral researcher in the Dept. of Political and Social Sciences at the University of Pavia (Italy). Her research is broadly rooted in demographic anthropology, social history, and colonial demography, and promoted an interdisciplinary perspective. Her research interests include the dynamics of fertility, hidden population, mixed unions and people in the Horn of Africa, where she carried out her fieldwork (Eritrea and Ethiopia). Her current projects concern the social and geographical mobility of Italo-Eritreans and the agency of female missionaries in (post)colonial Eritrea. 



September 27 - Selina Makana

Selina Makana Photo

Presenting: É Maluqueira!: Thinking Through Madness in the Age of Neoliberalization in Post-War Angola

Discussant: Nana Osei Quarshie (Yale University)

Selina Makana is an Assistant Professor of African history at the University of Memphis. Her research and teaching focus on African women’s social history, gender and militarism,

transnational feminisms, and African diaspora studies. Her current monograph uses oral interviews with former women combatants and archival records to probe the relationship between gender and militarism in contemporary Angola. This research explores how nationalist projects and armed insurgent organizations utilize gender—in particular ideas of masculinities and femininities —to consolidate power and perpetuate violence. In 2017-2020, she was a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality and a lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. She holds a Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies and a Graduate Certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of California-Berkeley. Makana has been a Fulbright Fellow at Stanford University.

Her recent publications have appeared in Meridians: Feminism, Race, and Transnationalism, Gender & History, and The Oxford Encyclopedia of African Women’s History. Selina Makana is a member of the African Feminist Initiative and serves on the editorial advisory board of Feminist Africa.



October 4 - Renugan Raidoo

Renugan Raidoo Phot

Presenting: Counterinsurgent Citizenship

Discussant: Steven Robins (University of Stellenbosch)

Renugan Raidoo is a PhD candidate in social anthropology at Harvard University. His research concerns lifestyle estates in the Gauteng city region, their political economic origins, and their social and spatial consequences. Previous research has focused on secrecy and homophobia in urban Sierra Leone. His dissertation research has been funded by awards from various sources at Harvard University, an Emslie Horniman Scholarship from the Royal Anthropological Institute/Sutasoma Award, and the Fulbright-Hays program. He holds an MPhil in social anthropology from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, as well as a BA in anthropology and a BS (with honors) in chemistry from the University of Iowa.



October 18 - Noah Tamarkin

Noah Tamarkin Photo

Presenting: Locating Controversy in Established Technoscience: Debating National DNA Databases in South Africa

Discussant: Kaushik Sunder Rajan (University ofChicago)

Noah Tamarkin is an assistant professor of Anthropology and Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University and a research associate at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. His research examines how DNA transforms power and politics as it becomes unevenly part of everyday life through technologies like ancestry testing and criminal forensics. He is the author of Genetic Afterlives: Black Jewish Indigeneity in South Africa (Duke University Press 2020). His work has also appeared in Cultural Anthropology, American Anthropologist, Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, History and Anthropology, and Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.



October 25 - Hannah Appel

Hannah Appel Photo

Presenting: Pan African Capital

Discussant: James Smith (University of California, Davis)

Hannah Appel is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Global Studies at UCLA, where she also serves as the Associate Director of the Institute on Inequality & Democracy. Her work focuses on transnational capitalism; finance, debt and debtors’ unions; the African continent’s place in global capitalism; the economic imagination; anti-capitalist and abolitionist social movements. She is also co-founder and organizer with the Debt Collective. Her first book, The Licit Life of Capitalism, is both an account of a specific capitalist project—U.S. oil companies working off the shores of Equatorial Guinea—and a theorization of more general forms and processes that facilitate diverse capitalist projects around the world. She is currently working on a second long-term ethnographic project—Pan African Capital: Finance, Banking, and Economic Self-Fashioning—to continue her inquiry into the licit life of capitalism, and the displacement of how and from where we think about global capitalism. Pan African Capital is a multi-sited project based on ethnographic work with transnational, African-owned banks and financial institutions on the continent.



November 1 - j. Siguru Wahutu

Siguru Wahutu Photo

Presenting: African Journalism in the Shadow of the Global North: How Postcolonial New Organizations Frame Human Rights Violations

Discussant: Christopher Ouma (University of Cape Town)

j. Siguru Wahutu is an Assistant Professor at NYU's Department of Media, Culture and Communication and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard. His primary scholarship examines media constructions of knowledge in Africa, focusing on genocide and mass atrocities. His research interests include the effects of ethnicity and culture on the media representations of human rights violations, global and transnational news flows, postcolonial land claims, and the political economy of international media, with a regional emphasis on postcolonial Africa. His primary book project offers an extensive account of media coverage of Darfur between 2003 and 2008 within various African states (including Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt). When not studying media and genocide, he works on data privacy issues and media manipulation in African countries. This secondary research stream is the subject of his second book project currently under contract with MIT Press. Wahutu's research has appeared in African Journalism Studies, African Affairs, Global Media and Communication, Media and Communication, Media, Culture, and Society, and Sociological Forum.


November 8 - António Tomás

António Tomás Photo

Presenting: Urbanism interrupted: Informal Economy, National Reconstruction and Luanda's Urban Morphology

Discussant: Finn Brandon (Harvard University)

António Tomás is an anthropologist trained at Columbia University. He is the author of various publications, in Portuguese and English, namely a biographical study on the life of the African nationalist Amilcar Cabral, Amílcar Cabral; the life of a reluctant nationalist (Hurst, 2021) and on Luanda (Angola’s capital city), In the skin of the city, Luanda or the dialectics of spatial transformation (Duke University Press, 2022). He is currently an associate professor in the Graduate School of Architecture, at the University of Johannesburg (South Africa).


November 15 - Victoria Massie

Victoria Massie Photo

Presenting: A Gift of Autochthony: Rerooting the Future through Genetic Reconnection in Cameroon

Discussant: Peter Geschiere (University of Amsterdam)

Victoria M. Massie (she/her/hers) is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rice University. Her research focuses on biocapitalism and belonging, with particular interest in the reconfiguration of sovereignty in contemporary West and Central Africa through emerging biotechnologies. Her first book project examines how an emerging genetic diaspora is mobilized to rewrite the legacy of the postcolonial nation building project in Cameroon. Massie received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociocultural Anthropology with a designated emphasis in Science and Technology Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, and her B.A. from the University of Rochester.



November 29 - Maxwele Chumani

Maxwele Chumani Photo

Presenting: #RhodesMustFall: An Intellectual Protest Movement in Post-Apartheid Academia.

Discussant: Xolela Mangcu (George Washington University)

Chumani Maxwele is a political science graduate from the University of Cape Town (UCT). During his tenure at UCT, Maxwele was the recipient of prestigious scholarship awards such as the Andrew W. Mellow Scholarship, National Research Foundation Scholarship, and the Afro-Asia Re-Centering Africa Scholarship. Maxwele currently holds a Chevening Scholarship and is reading towards an MA in African Studies at the University of London. As a National Secretary for South African Chevening Scholars, Maxwele is responsible for organising international dialogues and forums for Chevening Scholars with eminent world leaders. His involvement in the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) at a tender age of 19 as National Youth Leader led to his deep appreciation of education and active citizenship for socio-political and socio-economic rights. Maxwele’s interest are in activism, with a particular focus in Higher Education and Community Development. On the 9th of March 2015, Maxwele threw human excrement on the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, an act that gave birth to the #RhodesMustFall and subsequently the #FeesMustFall Student Movement in South Africa. Maxwele uses national and international platforms to tackle issues around the socio-political and socio-economic challenges facing South Africans and Africans in general. He has presented at several national and international platforms such as the Oxford Africa Summit and the Universite Populaire De L’Engagement Citoyen in Senegal where he explicated on the state of political activism, Blackness, Black academics and students in the “post” Colonial and “post” Apartheid era. Maxwele has been appointed by two National Ministers to serve in National Task Teams in South Africa. During his spare time, Maxwele writes opinion pieces for national and international newspapers and academic journals. Maxwele is currently working on his book titled “#RhodesMustFall: An Intellectual Protest Movement in Post-Apartheid Academia”.