African Studies Workshop

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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 6:00 pm, 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


January 30 – Juan Obarrio
Presenting Micropolitics, Matter and Magic in Mozambique’s transition from Socialism
Discussant: Casey Golomski

About the Presenter: Juan Obarrio is an Associate Professor of anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. He holds a PhD from Columbia University. He works in the fields of critical theory and political anthropology, focusing on issues of state, democracy, law, violence and has conducted extensive fieldwork in Mozambique and South Africa. He has received fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies. He has been a visiting professor in Paris, Johannesburg and Buenos Aires. He is the author of The Spirit of the Laws in Mozambique (2014), Corps Etranger (2014), A Matter of Time: State of Things and Secrecy in Northern Mozambique (forthcoming) and co-editor of African Futures: essays on crisis, emergence, possibility (2016).

February 6 – Carolyn Rouse
Presenting The Practice and Politics of Forgiveness: Theorizing Post-Colonial Pragmatism from Ghana
Discussant: Nina Sylvanus

About the Presenters: Carolyn Rouse is a professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology and the Director of the Program in African Studies at Princeton University. Her work explores the use of evidence to make particular claims about race and social inequality. She is the author of Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam, Uncertain Suffering: Racial Healthcare Disparities and Sickle Cell Disease and Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment. Her manuscript, Development Hubris: Adventures Trying to Save the World, examines discourses of charity and development and is tied to her own project building a high school in a fishing village in Ghana. In addition to being an anthropologist, Rouse is also a filmmaker. She has produced, directed, and/or edited a number of documentaries including Chicks in White Satin (1994), Purification to Prozac: Treating Mental Illness in Bali (1998), and Listening as a Radical Act: World Anthropologies and the Decentering of Western Thought (2015).

February 13 – Christian Crouch
Presenting Prince in Prints: Alamayu of Ethiopia and His “Photographic Capture”
Discussant: Kay Shelemay

About the Presenter: Christian Ayne Crouch is Associate Professor of Historical Studies and American Studies at Bard College and a 2016-2017 Hutchins Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Her first book, Nobility Lost: French and Canadian Martial Cultures, Indians, and the End of New France (Cornell University Press 2014), received the 2015 Mary Alice and Philip Boucher Prize of the French Colonial Historical Society for the best book in French colonial history, 1600-1815. Her other published work has looked at African Americans in colonial Detroit and in Native America, French military veterans, and epistolary experience in the Seven Years’ War. A scholar of the Atlantic world, borderlands, and intercultural exchange, she is currently researching and writing Queen Victoria’s Captives: A Story of Ambition, Empire, and a Stolen Ethiopian Prince, centered on the human consequences of Ethiopia’s intersection with European and Ottoman imperial aspirations from the 1850s to the 1880s.

February 27 – Abdoulaye Gueye
Presenting Reaching Out to the Homeland: The African Academic Diaspora and Universities in Africa
Discussant: Jacob Olupona

About the Presenter: Abdoulaye Gueye received his Ph.D. from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences  Sociales. He is currently professor at the School of Sociological and Anthropological Studies at the University of Ottawa.  He was a resident fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University and more recently at the Institute for Advanced Studies, and the Foundation de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme. He has authored several books, including Aux Negres de France la patrie non reconnaissante, and Les intellectuels africains en France. His articles have appeared in DuBois Review, Transition, Comparative Studies, Canadian Journal of African Studies, Cahiers d’etudes africaines and Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

March 6 – Zebulon Dingley
Presenting Fisi ra Kaya: “Elders” in South Coast Sorcery and Sacrifice
Discussant: Jo Helle-Valle

About the Presenter: Zebulon Dingley is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Departments of Anthropology and History at the University of Chicago. He is currently an Exchange Scholar with the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University and Teaching Fellow in the Department of African and African American Studies. His dissertation, “Ndani: An Historical Ethnography of Kinship, Capital and the Occult on the South Coast of Kenya” examines the dialectical interplay between a constellation of images and metaphors drawn from precolonial myth and ritual and a South Coast repertoire of defensive and speculative modes of engagement with the hidden thoughts and intentions of others.

March 20 – Melusi Nkomo
Presenting “Abantu basekhaya”: Cultural difference and representation of social order on the South African platinum belt
Discussant: Susan Cook

About the Presenter: Melusi Nkomo is Visiting PhD at Harvard University's Department of Anthropology. He recently finished fieldwork on South Africa's platinum belt amongst migrant mineworkers and other migrants in South Africa's North West province. Nkomo's  research is broad on culture and protest in the context of labor, but specifically on the cultural practices and organization of social life amongst migrants coming from the Eastern Cape in Marikana. Nkomo is pursing doctoral studies at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva Switzerland. He obtained his Master's Degree Political Science (“Demokratisches Regieren und Zivilgesellschaft”) from the University of Osnabrueck in Germany, where he worked briefly as a research assistant on issues of 'Organised Interests and civil society'. Nkomo also briefly worked as a research officer at one of Germany's political foundations operating in South Africa, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. He obtained a bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Zimbabwe. Nkomo was born and bred in the small mining town of Kwekwe in central Zimbabwe.  

March 27 – Jesse Shipley
Presenting A Practical Guide to Coup d’État
Discussant: Lorena Rizzo

About the Presenter: Jesse Weaver Shipley is Professor of African and African American Studies at Dartmouth College. He an ethnographer and artist whose work explores the links between aesthetics and politics by focusing on performances and popular cultures in the midst of changing economic regimes and forms of sovereignty. He has conducted field research in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Britain, and the United States focusing on the complex realities of urban life, labor, race, gender, mobility, and new media technologies. He is the author of two books Living the Hiplife: Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music and Trickster Theatre: The Poetics of Freedom in Urban Africa. His writings appear in journals including Public CultureAmerican EthnologistJournal of Popular Music StudiesAmerican Anthropologist, Cultural Anthropology, and Social Text. He has contributed to, Chimurenga, and His film work includes feature documentaries Living the Hiplife: Musical Life in the Streets of Accra, Is It Sweet? Tales of an African Superstar in New York; multi-channel video installations Black Star and High Tea; and (in collaboration with Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll) the multimedia installation Investigated. He is currently finishing two books, one on political aesthetics and another on the relationship between parody and violence.

April 3 – Derek Hook
Presenting Petrified life – post–apartheid temporality
Discussant: Mark Geraghty

About the Presenter: Derek Hook is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh and a Extraordinary Professor of Psychology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. He is the author of several books, including (Post) apartheid Conditions (2013), A Critical Psychology of the Postcolonial (2011), Foucault, Psychology and the Analytics of Power (2007) and the forthcoming, Six Moments in Lacan (2017). He has acted as an editor on a series of texts, including Race, Memory and the Apartheid Archive (with Garth Stevens and Norman Duncan) and Critical Psychology. Prior to his move to the U.S. in 2015, Derek was a lecturer in Social Psychology at the London School of Economics (2004-2011) and a Reader in Psychosocial Studies Birkbeck College, University of London. He was a fellow of the International Social Research Foundation for the duration of 2014, during which time he worked on a research project entitled ‘Post-apartheid libidinal economy’. Derek trained as a psychoanalyst between 2007-2013 at the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research in London and maintains a small practice. His current work draws largely on Lacanian psychoanalysis to explore facets of post-apartheid culture.

April 10 – Myles Osborne
Presenting Rastafari and Reparations: Nation and Community in Jamaica and Kenya
Discussant: Lowell Brower

About the Presenter: Myles Osborne is Associate Professor of History at the University of Colorado Boulder. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 2008, where he studied with Emmanuel Akyeampong and Caroline Elkins. He is the author of Ethnicity and Empire in Kenya (2014), Africans and Britons in the Age of Empires (with Susan Kent, 2015), and editor of The Life and Times of General China (2015). Myles’s new work looks at connections between Africa and the Caribbean. He spent four months in Jamaica and Trinidad in 2016 conducting research, and comes to this seminar following two months in Guyana and Grenada in early 2017 (plus a long weekend skiing in North Korea in March). Myles will be a fellow at the Hutchins Center during the 2017-2018 academic year.  

April 17 – Abidemi Babalola
Presenting Centering Africa in the global history of technological innovation and change: The Pre-colonial glass production in Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Discussant: Matt Liebmann

About the Presenter: Abidemi Babalola received his B.A. and M.A. from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Ibadan, Nigeria in Archaeology and Historical Archaeology respectively. He earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Rice University Houston, Texas with specialization in African Archaeology. He is currently the 2016-2017 McMillan-Stewart Fellow at the W.E.B Du Bois Institute, Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University. Prior to his fellowship at Harvard, he was a doctoral visitor and visiting researcher at the University College London, Qatar campus in 2013 and 2016 (January – August) respectively. Babalola’s areas of interest include early technologies and technological change, urbanism, African Arts, Atlantic Africa, African and African Diaspora studies, and cultural heritage. His work focuses on situating the forest zone of West Africa within the global history with particular emphasis on innovation, technology, and development in the precolonial time. He is currently completing a book monograph entitled “craft production in early West Africa Societies: Archaeological and historical perspectives on glass making/working in Ile-Ife Nigeria, 1000-1500AD. He has conducted archaeological investigations in Nigeria, Tanzania, and the United States. Babalola’s works have appeared and/or are forthcoming in peer-reviewed journals such as Antiquity, Journal of African Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological science, and Journal of Black Studies.

April 24  – Casey Golomski
Presenting Race and Joking Relations in a South African Alzheimer’s Home
Discussant:  Elizaveta Fouksman

About the Presenter: C. Golomski is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Hampshire and affiliate faculty in Africana and African American Studies, Religious Studies and Women’s Studies. He is a cultural and medical anthropologist working primarily in Swaziland and South Africa. Professionally, he is an Associate Editor for the African Journal of AIDS Research, an ongoing researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand, and a board member of the Northeast Workshop on Southern Africa. His book manuscript, Funeral Culture: AIDS, Work and Cultural Change in an African Kingdom, is currently under review. Golomski has related research published in journals like American Ethnologist, Material Religion, Social Dynamics, and Culture, Health & Sexuality. Golomski received his Ph.D. from Brandeis University, with additional graduate training at Harvard Divinity School and Boston University’s African Studies Center.