African Studies Workshop

Please sign up to the African Studies Workshop listserv to recieve call-in details to join the African Studies Workshop virtually.

Due to ongoing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, our upcoming events are subject to change and/or cancellation.  For updates on Harvard's response to the virus visit

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The African Studies Workshop at Harvard was inaugurated in Fall of 2012, and continues this year with a new and exciting schedule of presenters.  This workshop is convened by Professors Jean and John Comaroff.  Each Monday evening, starting at 6:15 pm at the History Department Conference Room, Robinson Hall (35 Quincy Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138), 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.  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 and the World at Large: Or, What the New Global Order Has to Learn from the Contemporary African Experience.  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 Professors John and 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.


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

Professor John Comaroff
Hugh K. Foster Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology, Oppenheimer Fellow in African Studies

Professor George Paul Meiu
John and Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of African and African American Studies




February 3 – George Meiu

George Meiu Photo

Presenting: Under-layers of Citizenship: Queer Objects, Intimate Revelations, and the Rescue Rush in Kenya.

George Paul Meiu is John and Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. His research and teaching focus on sexuality, gender, and kinship; belonging, citizenship and the state; race and ethnicity; and the political economy of postcolonial Africa. In his book, Ethno-erotic Economies: Sexuality, Money, and Belonging in Kenya (University of Chicago Press, 2017), Meiu explores how the tourist commodification of ethnic sexuality shapes collective attachments and relations of age, gender, and kinship in Kenya. Combining ethnographic and historical methods, he investigates how young Samburu men perform their ethnic identity through colonial images of the "primitive," sexual warrior, in order to initiate intimate relationships with European women, acquire wealth, and build futures. Meiu's book received the Ruth Benedict Prize of the Association of Queer Anthropology and is a finalist of the Elliot P. Skinner Book Award of the Association for Africanist Anthropology. Currently, Meiu works on a second book, entitled Queer Objects of Rescue: Intimacy and Citizenship in an African Nation, to address a growing trend, in Kenya, that involves political and religious leaders, non-governmental organizations, and the citizenry in securing collective morality from the so-called “perversions of globalization.” Exploring panics over various objects deemed troublesome, Meiu approaches sexual citizenship in relation to pollution, materiality, sociality, desire, and fear. His work appeared in the American Ethnologist, Ethnos, Anthropology Today, the Canadian Journal of African Studies, and in edited volumes on tourism, sexuality, and the history of anthropology. Meiu holds a BA in anthropology from Concordia University in Montreal and an MA and PhD from the University of Chicago, where he won the Daniel F. Nugent Prize for the best dissertation in historical anthropology.



February 10 – Daniel Agbiboa

Dan Agbigoa Photo

Presenting: Crisis as Context: Transport, Labor and Predatory Politics in Lagos, Nigeria.

Daniel E. Agbiboa is Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. He earned a PhD in International Development from the University of Oxford and an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge. Before joining Harvard, he was Assistant Professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House. Professor Agbiboa’s research and teaching straddles non-state governance; mobility and mobilization; and the spatialization and materialization of corruption, power and inequality in African cities. He is the author of Transport, Transgression and Politics in African Cities: The Rhythm of Chaos (2018), and of more than 50 articles in leading journals, including Journal of Modern African Studies, African Affairs, Third World Quarterly, and the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.



February 24— Lys Alcayna-Stevens

Lys Alcayna-Stevens Photo

Presenting: Ebola Business: Surfeit and suffering in the Democratic Republic of Congo 

Lys Alcayna-Stevens is a Fellow in the Department of Anthropoloy at Harvard University. Previously, she was a post-doc researcher in socio-cultural anthropology at the Laboratoire d'Anthropologie Sociale (Collège de France) and Institut Pasteur, Paris. Between 2012 and 2018, she conducted over 26 months of fieldwork in rural Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in the forested central provinces of Tshuapa, Equateur and Maï Ndombe. Her research is at the interface of medical, environmental and political anthropology. For her PhD (Cambridge University), she conducted ethnographic research in scientific communities studying wild great apes (bonobos), and in the rainforest villages of their local collaborators, to examine the relationships between scientists, local communities, state actors, poachers and the great apes being studied. For her post-doc, she works on two new projects: one examining the relationships between local development NGOs and international environmental conservation NGOs in the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape, and the other examining epidemic economies and alternative etiologies in the context of the 2014 and 2018 Ebola outbreaks in Boende and Bikoro territories. Her research interests include: Central Africa; embodiment; environmentalism; epidemic economies; human-animal relations; inequality; medical anthropology; postcolonialism; sensory ethnography; social change; STS.



March 2– Daniel Magaziner

Daniel Magaziner Photo

Presenting: Available Light: Intimacy and Media, Apartheid and After

Dan Magaziner  a Professor of History at Yale University. He is a historian of 20th century Africa. He received his PhD in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and taught at Cornell University before coming to Yale in 2011. An intellectual historian specializing in South Africa, he published his first book, The Law and the Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968 – 1977, in 2010. The Law and the Prophets is a history of political thought in 1970s South Africa, focusing especially on the ways that young South African activists deployed radical Christian, indigenous African and global 1960s ideas to reinvigorate resistance to the apartheid state. The Law and the Prophets grew out of his dissertation research at Wisconsin, for which he was awarded a Fulbright Hays, and various other awards.

He is currently working on two book projects. The first is about the intellectual history of art education in 20th century South Africa, focusing especially on black teachers who were trained and employed by the white minority apartheid. His book, The Art of Life in South Africa, will be published in South Africa and the United States in 2016. The book reframes our image of black cultural and intellectual life under apartheid; it is a meditation on the nature of creativity and about how historical actors work with the possible to fashion beauty from their time and place. Dan’s second ongoing project, tentatively entitled A History of Post-Colonial Style, considers the history of architecture, design and urban planning in post-colonial Africa.

At Yale, Dan teaches courses on South Africa, modern Africa, religion, political thought, popular culture and the African Diaspora. In 2016, he was awarded Yale College’s Sarai Ribicoff ’79 Prize for teaching excellence.




(CANCELLED) March 9Brittany Meché 

brittany meche photo

Presenting: Light Touch: Surveillance, Intelligence, and Spectatorship in the Sahel

Brittany Meché is a doctoral candidate in Geography at the University of California, Berkeley. She also currently serves as the Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow in Environmental Studies at Williams College. Trained as an interdisciplinary scholar, Brittany received her B.A. from New York University, with a major in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and a double minor in Africana Studies and Politics. Brittany also holds an M.A. in International Affairs from The New School. Brittany’s research interests include French and US empire, postcolonial West Africa, networks of expert knowledge, political ecology, environmental history, and narratives of disaster/catastrophe. Her teaching includes courses in critical development studies, postcolonial geography, African studies, and the politics of climate change. Brittany’s work has appeared in Antipode, Society and Space, and on the blog Africa is a Country. Her research has been supported by the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the Social Science Research Council, the Human Rights Center at the UC Berkeley School of Law, and the International Studies and African Studies Centers at UC Berkeley.



March 23 – Ramah Mckay

Ramah McKay Photo

Presenting: Local pharmaceuticals? Race, regulation, and medical industry in more-than-global medicine

Ramah Mckay is assistant professor in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, she has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Mozambique, India, and the US. She is the author of Medicine in the Meantime: The work of care in Mozambique (2018).



(CANCELLED) March 30 – Rebecca Tapscott

Rebecca Tapscott Photo

Presenting: Arbitrary governance in modern authoritarian regimes: Informal security and social control in Uganda

Rebecca Tapscott is an Ambizione Research Fellow at the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy and a visiting fellow at the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa at the London School of Economics. Her research interests include political violence, security, and authoritarianism; gender—particularly masculinities—and the state; and institutions of ethical review as they pertain to knowledge production and global governance. She is completing a book on arbitrary governance in Uganda through a study of the informal security sector (under contract with Oxford University Press). Her current project examines the transnational diffusion of ethics research regulations and the political consequences of this emergent regulatory framework for conflict studies. Rebecca holds a PhD from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. She is the recipient of the Alfred Rubin Prize from the Fletcher School and the International Studies Association’s Carl Beck award.



April 6 – Brad Weiss


Presenting: The Vision Thing:  An Exploration of Perception, Comparison, and the Ethnographic Method

Brad Weiss is Professor of Anthropology at William & Mary, where he has served on the faculty since 1993.  He received his doctorate with distinction in Socio-Cultural from the University of Chicago.  Weiss’s research projects have included ethnographic studies of both rural and urban Tanzanian communities; archival work on missionization in Tanzania; as well as ethnographic research in the southern United States.  Weiss is the author of four books, and the editor of an additional volume.  He has served as the Executive Editor of the Journal of Religion in Africa (2005-09) and is currently part of the Editorial Collaborative of Cultural Anthropology (2019-22), the journal with the highest of impact factor of all journals among the sections of the American Anthropological Association.  Weiss previously served as President of the Society for Cultural Anthropology (2012-13), as well as the Treasurer of the SCA (2006-2010).  He has twice been chair of his department at William & Mary.  Weiss’s research has focused on theories of value; the constitution of socio-cultural space; and the embodiment of socio-cultural practice.  His work has been recognized with fellowships from the Fulbright-Hays; the American Council of Learned Societies; The National Humanities Center; the School of American Research (now School for Advanced Research); and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.  Weiss has also been awarded Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude for his undergraduate degree; his book, Real Pigs, was awarded the Book Prize for 2016 by the Association for the Study of of Food and Society.




April 13 – Eugene Richardson

Eugene Richardson Photo

Presenting: Pandemicity & On the Coloniality of Global Public Health

Eugene Richardson, MD, PhD. is a physician-anthropologist based at Harvard Medical School. He previously served as the clinical lead for Partners In Health’s (PIH) Ebola response in Kono District, Sierra Leone, where he continues to conduct research on the social epidemiology of Ebola virus disease. He also worked as a clinical case management consultant for the WHO’s Ebola riposte in Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo. His overall focus is on biosocial approaches to epidemic disease prevention, containment, and treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. As part of this effort, he is chair of the Lancet Commission on Reparations and Redistributive Justice.




April 20 – Hannah Appel

Hannah Appel Photo

Presenting: The Licit Life of Capitalism: U.S. Oil in Equatorial Guinea

Hannah Appel is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Global Studies at UCLA, where she also serves as Associate Faculty Director of the Institute on Inequality and Democracy. Her first book – The Licit Life of Capitalism: U.S. Oil in Equatorial Guinea— (forthcoming with Duke UP, 2019) - is both an account of a specific capitalist project—US oil companies working off the shores of Equatorial Guinea—and an exploration of more general forms and processes—the offshore, contracts, infrastructures, “the” economy—that facilitate diverse capitalist projects around the world. These forms and processes constitute the licit life of capitalism, and they take shape within the raced and gendered histories of colonialism, empire, and white supremacy out of which capitalism emerged. Continuing this inquiry into the licit, Hannah is at work on a second long-term project, Pan African Capital—based on multi-sited ethnographic and archival work with transnational, African-owned banks and financial institutions on the continent. Finally, Hannah is a co-founder of The Debt Collective ( The Debt Collective works to build debtors unions through an emancipatory activation of household debt under finance capitalism: What if mass indebtedness is not simply a liability, but also a potential collective asset or leverage point in the fight to enact the new and radical economic forms we need?




April 27 – Nancy Rose Hunt

Nancy Rose Hunt Photo

Presenting: Veins of Madness in a Turbulent Congolese Border City

Nancy Rose Hunt, Professor of History & African Studies at the University of Florida since 2016, is undertaking new research on psychiatry and mental health in Africa, with a focus on diagnostic categories and care in zones of war, migratory politics, and securitization. Awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2018 for “Ideation as History,” as well as receiving a Fulbright Specialist Award to an STS global health laboratory in Paris and migratory corridors in Niger that year, she has also been writing for History and Theory while spearheading with Achille Mbembe and Juan Obarrio a new book series at Duke University Press: Theory in Forms. Hunt received three year-long residential fellowships in Europe: to the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, the Institute of Advanced Study in Paris (with EURIAS), and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies, as well as grants from the Social Science Research Council, Fulbright-IIE, Fulbright-Hays, the Ford Foundation, and NSF.  She has a PhD in History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1992 and a BA from the University of Chicago, 1980.