African Studies Workshop

Mondays from 2:00pm - 4:00pm

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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 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 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




January 25 – Jacob Dlamini

Jacob Dlamini Profile Picture

Presenting: The Apartheid Psychiatrist: Individual Guilt and Collective Responsibility in South Africa.

Jacob Dlamini is Assistant Professor of History at Princeton. He is a historian of Africa, with an interest in precolonial, colonial and postcolonial African History. He obtained a Ph.D. from Yale University in 2012 and is also a graduate of Wits University in South Africa and Sussex University in England. Jacob held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Barcelona, Spain, from November 2011 to April 2015, and was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University from August 2014 to May 2015. Most recently, Jacob authored The Terrorist Album: Apartheid's Insurgents, Collaborators, and the Security Police (Harvard University Press, 2020), and Safari Nation: A Social History of the Kruger National Park (Ohio University Press, 2020). A qualified field guide, Jacob is also interested in comparative and global histories of conservation and national parks.

Discussant: Michael Ralph (New York University)



February 1 -  Jesse Weaver Shipley

Jesse Shipley Photo

Presenting: Violence, Media, and Remaking Sovereignty in Revolutionary Ghana.


Jesse Weaver Shipley is a writer, ethnographer, and artist whose work explores the links between aesthetics and politics. He focuses on how performance genres are shaped by political-economic regimes while at the same time providing tools for people to create new relationships to power. His work explores music, theatre, film, and media technologies, urban space, labor, race, gender, mobility, and sovereignty. He writes articles and books and makes films and multimedia art. His first book Living the Hiplife: Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music explores how the rise of African hip-hop. His second book Trickster Theatre: Poetics of Freedom in Urban Africa examines how modern pan-African theatre is crucial to the struggle for decolonization and independence. He experiments with forms of storytelling, portraiture, and theory to tie mundane details and spectacular events to broader principles of power, aesthetics, desire, and trauma. Shipley has held positions at Bard College, where he was the founding Director of the Chinua Achebe Institute for Global Africana Arts, and Haverford College and is currently the John D. Willard Professor of African and African American Studies and Oratory at Dartmouth College. He is currently the McMillan-Stewart Fellow at Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University writing a book on political and cultural revolutions of the 1970s entitled, Practical Guide to Coup d'Etat.

Discussant: Sandra E. Greene (Cornell University)



February 8 – Kathryn Takabvirwa

kathryn takabvirwa profile Photo

Presenting: Of Flags and Forebearers: Chimurenga and the Shape of Protest in Zimbabwe

Kathryn Takabvirwa is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Her research centers on policing and citizenship in Zimbabwe, as well as on migration, governance, and the state in Southern Africa. She is interested in the ways people reconcile themselves to the idea of the state and of citizenship in light of histories of state violence. She is working on a book manuscript on police roadblocks in Zimbabwe. The ethnography presents a close examination of encounters between the police and those they stopped along Zimbabwe’s roads between 2012 and 2017, the period during which official police roadblocks proliferated throughout the country. Before her work on policing, she conducted research on xenophobia and local governance with scholars at the African Center for Migration and Society, in Johannesburg. Her next project will examine the ways marriage and mobility are reshaping each other in contemporary Southern Africa. Through this, she will take up questions on the politics of representation and in the role of African fiction in interrogating and generating Africanist theories of power, intimacy, and citizenship. Takabvirwa received her PhD in Anthropology from Stanford, her MA in Forced Migration Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand, and her BA from Yale.

Discussant: Jeremy Jones (College of the Holy Cross)



February 22 – Christopher Ouma

Chris ouma photo

Presenting: Eskia Mphahlele, Chemchemi and Pan-African literary publics

Christopher Ouma is a Senior Lecturer in the department of English at the university of Cape Town. He is the author of Childhood in Contemporary Diasporic African Literature: Memories and Futures Past (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) and co-editor of The Spoken Word Project: Stories Travelling through Africa (Lektora,Verlag). Christopher is currently working on a second monograph that looks at how small magazines in midcentury Africa created platforms of Pan-African imagination that enabled the encounter between decolonization and anti-apartheid imagination within the polarizing context of the Cold War. Christopher is currently editor of Social Dynamics: A Journal of African Studies.

Discussant: Hlonipha Mokoena (WISER)


March 8 – Rebecca Tapscott

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Presenting: Arbitrary States: Social control and modern authoritarianism in Museveni's 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.

Discussant: Nicholas Smith (CUNY)


March 15 – Claudia Gastrow

Claudia Glastrow Profile Photo

Presenting: Musseque City: Urban Autochthony in Luanda

Claudia Gastrow is an anthropologist of Southern Africa specializing in issues of land, urbanism, housing, informality and governance, with a special focus on Angola. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2014, and currently an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. She has published on the politics of the urban redevelopment of Angola’s capital, Luanda, with particular focus on tensions over land, housing and architecture. Her current research project explores the role of informal institutions in producing citizens’ relationships to the state in Angola.

Discussant: Delia Wendel (MIT)



March 22 – Nana Osei Quarshie

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Presenting: The Archives of False Prophets: Delusional Worldmaking in a West African Psychiatric Hospital

Nana Osei Quarshie is Assistant Professor at the Program in the History of Science and Medicine. His current research examines the place of psychiatric care in processes of social stratification and in the production of national, regional, and ethnic diversity in West Africa. His first book manuscript, An African Pharmakon, brings together a history of urban social control, psychiatric care, and changing patterns in regional migration to Ghana. This research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council and the French National Research Agency, among others. Quarshie received his doctorate in 2020 from the Interdepartmental Program in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan. At Yale, he teaches courses on the global history of psychiatry and confinement, African systems of thought, and on historical methods beyond the archive.

Discussant: Jesse Weaver Shipley (Dartmouth College)


April 5 – Yayra Sumah

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Presenting: Notes on Two Cities

Yayra Sumah is a doctoral candidate in the department of Middle Eastern South Asian and African Studies. She holds bachelors and masters degrees in Political Science with a minor in African Studies from Boston University, magna cum laude. She is an interdisciplinary scholar with a research focus on the history of colonialism in Congo (DRC), Kimbanguism, African Christianity and Central African spirituality. Her dissertation brings together history, anthropology, religion, philosophy and political theory in an original interpretation of Simon Kimbangu's movement in Belgian Congo. It considers the stakes of the meaning of Kimbangu for the postcolonial African debate on what it means to be 'decolonized' and 'African'. Her interests also include poetry, art, activism and cultural criticism. She has written for Borderlines (Journal of the Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East) and SUNU: Journal of African Affairs, Critical Thought + Aesthetics.

Discussant: Jia Hui Lee (MIT)



April 12 – Olivier Van Beemen

Olivier Van Beemen Profile Photo

Presenting: Heineken in Africa: an Island of Perfection in a Sea of Misery?

Olivier Van Beemen is a Dutch investigative journalist specializing in Africa. For his book in Heineken in Africa, he won De Tegel, the most prestigious award in Dutch journalism, and got several nominations for other prizes. His work has been translated in English, French and (soon) Italian. He has presented his book in many different countries (including Australia, Nigeria and South Africa...) and at prestigious locations, such as the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Royal African Society in the UK, Sciences-Po in France and at a TEDx event in the Netherlands.

Discussant: Daniel Agbiboa (Harvard University)



April 19 – Danai Mupotsa

Danai Mupotsa Profile Photo

Presenting: Breathing Grief

Danai S. Mupotsa is a Senior Lecturer in African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. She specialises in gender and sexualities, black intellectual traditions and histories, intimacy and affect and feminist pedagogies. She is a member of the editorial collective of Agenda, sits on the editorial board of the Brill series in youth cultures and serves on the executive board of the International Girlhood Studies Association. In 2018, she published her first collection of poetry entitled feeling and ugly. The Portuguese translation, feio e ugly was published in 2020 by Editora Trinta Zero (Maputo). Danai is a 2020 Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equality.

Discussant: George Paul Meiu (Harvard University)


April 26 – Natacha Nsabimana

Natacha Nsabimana

Presenting: Harvesting the Future in Rwanda: Transitional Justice, moral extraction and the promise of the law

Natacha Nsabimana is an assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Nsabimana is currently working on a book manuscript examining the everyday aftermath of violence in post-genocide Rwanda. This project focusses primarily on the ways in which the 1994 genocide against Tutsi occupies the spatial memory of the country’s landscape and the kinds of individual and national narratives such memory allows and disavows.

Discussant: Sindiso Mnisi Weeks (UMass-Boston)