African Studies Workshop

Mondays from 6:00pm - 8:00pm

Please sign up to the African Studies Workshop listserv to stay updated and receive the weekly papers.

Register for the Spring 2022 workshops here.

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

The African Studies Workshop at Harvard 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 worldwide. 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

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 Emmanuel Akyeampong.

View previous workshops here:

ASW Poster Spring 2022


Professor Emmanuel Akyeampong
Oppenheimer Faculty Director, Center for African Studies Ellen Gurney Professor of History and of African and African American Studies (Faculty of Arts and Sciences)




January 31 - Ato Quayson

Ato Quayson Profile Photo

Presenting: Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature

Discussant: Monica Popescu (McGill University)

Ato Quayson is the Jean G. and Morris M. Doyle Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Chair of the Department of English at Stanford.  He graduated with a First-Class Honors in English and Arabic from the University of Ghana before proceeding to complete his PhD at the University of Cambridge.  He taught at the University of Cambridge (1995-2005), was Professor of English and inaugural Director of the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto (2005-2017), Professor of Postcolonial and African Literature at NYU (2017-2019) before coming to Stanford. He has published 6 monographs and 8 edited collections, with his latest book being Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature (CUP, 2021). He is an elected member of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of Canada, and of the British Academy.



February 7 - Marwa Ghazali

Marwa Ghazali Profile Photo


Presenting: City of Living-Death: Necropolitics, Urban Development, and Social Transformation in an Egyptian Cemetery

Discussant: Aalyia Sadruddin (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)


Marwa Ghazali is the 2021-2022: Genevieve McMillan-Reba Stewart Fellow in the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. She is also an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and Museum Studies at Central Washington University. Dr. Ghazali is a cultural and medical anthropologist with interdisciplinary training in African Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, and Human Biology. Her work combines longitudinal multi-sited ethnography with historical and archival research to examine the intersections of violence, displacement, transnational migration, trauma, subjectivity, health, and social movements in African and African-descended Muslim communities. During her fellowship at the Hutchins Center, she is working on her book project entitled, “City of Living-Death: Necropolitics, Urban Development, and Social Transformation in an Egyptian Cemetery.” Her current research explores transnational experiences of racism, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant xenophobia, policing, trauma, and social solidarities among African and African-descended Muslims. She has published her work in journals such as City & Society and in volumes including Medical Anthropology in Global Africa and Bodies and Culture. Dr. Ghazali has served as ethnographic research coordinator at the Kansas African Studies Center and is currently an editorial board member for the Sage Handbook of Cultural Anthropology and an executive board member at the Uplift Institute.



February 14 - Sebastian Jackson

Sebastian Jackson Profile Photo

Presenting: Interracial Publics: Representing Race, Intimacy, and Desire in Post-Apartheid Public Culture

Discussant: Neville Hoad (University of Texas)

Sebastian Jackson is a Ph.D. candidate in African and African American Studies and Social Anthropology at Harvard University. His ethnographic and art historical research examines how racial categories, identities, boundaries, and hierarchies were socially constructed and maintained through the fierce regulation of reproductive sexuality over the longue durée of the colonial encounter in South Africa. His dissertation research, conducted in Cape Town and Stellenbosch between 2012 and 2020, considers the social significance of Apartheid’s draconian “Immorality Laws”—which prohibited all marriages and sexual relationships between people categorizes as “European” and “Non-European” until 1985—but it also examines how the social legacies and cultural afterlives of these race/sex segregation laws and taboos continue to overdetermine discourses of sexuality, intimacy, and love in post-Apartheid public culture.



February 28- Jacob Olupona

Jacob Olupona Photo

Presenting: Secrecy, Knowledge, and Power in Indigenous African Society

Jacob Olupona, who joined the Faculty of Divinity and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 2006, is a noted scholar of indigenous African religions.

His current research focuses on the religious practices of the estimated one million Africans who have emigrated to the United States over the last 40 years, examining in particular several populations that remain relatively invisible in the American religious landscape: "reverse missionaries" who have come to the United States to establish churches, African Pentecostals in American congregations, American branches of independent African churches, and indigenous African religious communities in the United States. His earlier research ranged across African spirituality and ritual practices, spirit possession, Pentecostalism, Yoruba festivals, animal symbolism, icons, phenomenology, and religious pluralism in Africa and the Americas.

In his book City of 201 Gods: Ilé-Ifè in Time, Space, and the Imagination, he examines the modern urban mixing of ritual, royalty, gender, class, and power, and how the structure, content, and meaning of religious beliefs and practices permeate daily life. His other books include Òrìsà Devotion as World Religion: The Globalization of Yorùbá Religious Culture, co-edited with Terry Rey, and Kingship, Religion, and Rituals in a Nigerian Community: A Phenomenological Study of Ondo Yoruba Festivals, which has become a model for ethnographic research among Yoruba-speaking communities. In 2012, he was named one of Harvard's Walter Channing Cabot Fellows, for distinguished publications.

Olupona has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the Ford Foundation, the Davis Humanities Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Getty Foundation. He has served on the editorial boards of three influential journals and as president of the African Association for the Study of Religion. In 2000, Olupona received an honorary doctorate in divinity from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and in 2007 he received the Nigerian National Order of Merit, that country's prestigious award given each year for intellectual accomplishment in the four areas of science, medicine, engineering/technology, and humanities. In 2018 he received the Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion.



March 7- Louisa Lombard 

Louisa Lombard Profile Photo

Presenting: Rules of Cosmopolitan Engagement: Rwandan Peacekeepers and African Conflicts

Discussant: Timothy P. Longman (Boston University)

Louisa Lombard is an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University. She is writing a book about the moral dilemmas of contemporary “aggressive” peacekeeping in Africa, which is based on ethnographic research with Rwandan soldiers working for the United Nations. She is the author of State of Rebellion: Violence and Intervention in the Central African Republic (Zed/Chicago, 2016) and Hunting Game: Raiding Politics in the Central African Republic (Cambridge, 2020).



March 21- Wale Adebanwi

Wale Adebanwi Profile Photo

Presenting: Becoming a Big Man in Africa: Subalternity, Elitism and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria

Discussant: Andrew Apter (UCLA)

Wale Adebanwi is the Presidential Penn Compact Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He was until recently the Rhodes Professor of Race Relations at Oxford University, United Kingdom where he was also the Director of the African Studies Centre and a Fellow of St Antony’s College. Before then he was a Professor in the Department of African American and African Studies, University of California-Davis, and Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Ibadan. He was a Visiting Professor at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, and currently an Honorary Research Associate at the African Studies Center, Oxford University.

Adebanwi has been the co-editor of Africa: Journal of the International African Institute and the Journal of Contemporary African Studies. He is the author, editor and co-editor of twelve books including the forthcoming edited volume, Everyday State and Democracy in Africa: Ethnographic Encounters which will be published in May 2022 in the Cambridge Center of African Studies Series by the Ohio University Press.




March 28 - Mpho Matsipa 

Mpho Maphatsi Profile Photo

Presenting: Black Time

Discussant:  Olani Ewunnet (Harvard University)

Mpho Matsipa is a 2022 Loeb Fellow (Harvard GSD), educator, researcher and curator. She received her PhD in Architecture from UC Berkeley and teaches Advanced Studio, History and Theory of Planning and Architecture, in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. She is a researcher at WiSER and co-investigator on an Andrew Mellon research grant on Mobilities. She has written critical essays on art and architecture and curated several exhibitions and discursive platforms, including co-curating the South Africa Pavilion at the 11th and a collaborative art installation at the 14th International Architecture Exhibitions, Venice Biennale (2008; 2021); chief curator of African Mobilities at the Architecture Museum, Pinakothek der Modern in Munich (2018); and Studio-X Johannesburg, in South Africa (2014-2016).

As a curator of exhibitions and public discursive platforms about architecture and urbanism she has contributed to numerous other significant curatorial projects: at the Pompidou Centre (Cosmopolis II, 2019), Zeits MOCCA (Radical Solidarity Summit, 2020), and the Lubumbashi Biennale (Ultra-Sanity, Savvy Contemporary, 2019). She has served as a member of the WiSER podcast committee (2020-2021), the Lubumbashi Biennale curatorial committee (2022) and served as a critic and guest speaker at numerous institutions, including GSA, University of Johannesburg; the University of Lagos, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Canadian Center for Architecture, Tulane University, University of Pennsylvania, McGill University, University of Chicago, Columbia GSAPP, Harvard GSD, CAA-Getty and MoMA among others. Additionally, she has served on numerous advisory boards, including Ellipses Journal of Creative Research (South Africa) and forA on the Urban - a journal at the Institute of Architecture at the University of Applied Arts (Vienna), and the African Futures Institute (Ghana). She has authored numerous critical essays on art, urbanism and architecture, founded an African architecture podcast series, and written reviews on public art, culture, and space for e-Flux, Architectural review, SAVVY Contemporary and Art South Africa.

Mpho is currently a Loeb Fellow (2022) at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, and a Chancellor’s fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.




April 4- Chidi Ugwu 

Chidi Ugwu Profile Photo

Presenting: Governance, personality cult, and sacred enchantment – negotiating failed public aspirations in prebendalist Nigeria

Discussant: Daniel Agbiboa (Harvard University)

Chidi Ugwu has a background in cultural anthropology and a PhD in medical anthropology. He has taught anthropology and qualitative methods in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka since 2011 and has guest-lectured in the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health since 2017. His works have earned him support from such bodies as the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), The Werner-Gren Foundation, the International Development Research Center (IDRC) and the Nigerian government, some of which he has published in The Lancet, American Anthropologist, Ethnography, The Qualitative Report and World Archaeology. In 2018, a consortium comprising the African-German Network of Excellence in Science (AGNES), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH), and the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) selected him as one of the seven most promising early career scholars in Africa. For one of his ongoing works, titled “Indigenous ethnography of subaltern agency,” the Harvard Radcliffe Institute has granted him a research fellowship position where he is spending the 2021-2022 academic year. The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) has selected him for a research cooperations visit to the University of Hamburg, which he will take up soon after his Radcliffe Fellowship in 2022. Dr Ugwu’s research interests circulate around the asymmetries of knowledge and power; and, to highlight these, he casts nuanced glances at the landscapes of public health, politics, and religion. In this presentation titled "Religion and personality cult as motifs in the negotiations of prebendalism in Nigeria," he draws from his ethnographic emersion in southern Nigeria to narrate how prebendalism, failure of modern governance, personality cult, and religion intersect in ways that remain mutually reinforcing.



April 11 - Sarah Balakrishnan

Sarah Balakrishnan Profile Photo

Presenting: Colonizing the Underworld: Cemeteries and the Necropolitics of Property in Colonial Ghana

Discussant: Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch, (Dartmouth College)

Sarah Balakrishnan is an incoming Assistant Professor of History and African & African American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She has held a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship from the University of Minnesota, a postdoctoral fellowship from the Carter G Woodson Institute at the University of Virginia, and a residential research fellowship from the University of Cambridge. She received her PhD in African History from Harvard University in 2020, with a secondary concentration in Anthropology. Her research analyzes the imperial encounter in Southern Ghana through changes to land, space, and the political imagination, focusing on the emergence of carceral complexes, enclosures, and confining structures. Her essays have featured in The Journal of African History, The Journal of Social History, The International Journal of African Historical Studies among other venues.



April 18- Katharina Gartner

Katharina Gartner Profile Photo in black and white

Presenting: "It's too local." Young Instrumental Musicians from Ghana, and some Paradoxes of Globalisation

Discussant: Nate Plageman (Wake Forest University)

Katharina Gartner is a researcher and lecturer on youth and expressive cultures (especially music), following an interdisciplinary approach. She works as a Visiting Researcher at Harvard University’s AAAS in spring 2022, after a research semester at the University of Ghana. She is an IFK_Junior Fellow Abroad with the International Research Center for Cultural Studies ( Based in Vienna, Austria, Gartner regularly lectures at the University of Vienna, and at Vienna University of Economics and Business, amongst others. Her Ph.D. dissertation focuses on young instrumental musicians in and around Accra, Ghana, and explores questions on “prolonged youth” and creativity in a setting of rapid urbanization, increased precarity, digital revolution and accelerated global flows. It is based on multi-sited fieldwork between the years 2013 and 2020. Katharina Gartner’s work stems from an interdisciplinary background. She studied in Vienna, Paris, and Accra: African studies, anthropology of music, and psychoanalysis of childhood and youth (specializing in transculturality). In addition to Ghana and Austria, research has led her to four African countries (in West and Southeast Africa). Her academic work is inspired by her practical experience as a counselor for youths and their families, and as a performing musician.




April 25- Fiori Berhane 

Fiori Berhane Profile Photo

Presenting: Imagining the Euro-African Mediterranean: Eritrean Counter-Discourses to EU Human Smuggling and Trafficking Rhetoric

Discussant: Michael Ralph (NYU)

Fiori Berhane is an Assistant Professor in anthropology at the University of Southern California.

She is a socio-cultural anthropologist whose research interests span global Black studies, critical refugee and border studies, and the anthropology of Europe. Her current book project, Prisoners of Our Dreams, argues that the substance of current debates amongst Eritrean refugees of disparate political generations hinges upon an aborted or incomplete decolonization from Italian colonial rule, and that these discourses impact upon how the migration crisis in Europe is imagined and in turn what potential solutions could be enacted. Her work has been featured in Anthropology Now, Africa is a Country and Lavoro Culturale and has been supported by the Wenner Gren foundation, the Fulbright IIE and the American Academy in Rome.