KIrsty Wissing on Water in Africa and on African Studies in Europe

Kirsty is Wissing is an anthropology PhD student  researching the cultural politics of cleanliness and purity in relation to water in Ghana.  Building on work in other areas of the ANU by  Professor Quentin Grafton from Crawford School of Public Policy, as well as by Associate Professor James Pittock and PhD Candidate Adegboyega Adeniran, both based at the School of Fenner School of Environment and Society, Kirsty sees water as a key site to explore economic, environmental, social as well as political impacts within and between countries in Africa as well as globally in a changing climate.

Below is an item  by Kirsty Wissing first published in the November  2018 issue of Habari Kwa Upfupi, the newsletter of AFSAAP, the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific.

2018 AFSAAP Travel Grant – ASAUK – Kirsty Wissing post-conference report

Kirsty is a recipient of the 2018 AFSAAP Travel Assistance Grant. This grant from AFSAAP assisted her attend the African Studies Association of the United Kingdom (ASAUK) conference in the United Kingdom a couple of months ago. Below is her report on her successful trip.

” A Canberra winter. Far removed from the warmth, the church/mosque/information centre/trader/traffic/goat/rooster noises of postgraduate fieldwork in southern Ghana. There, the mind can defrost if not also, in my case, perhaps overheat a little. To converse, suggest and interchange ideas with community members and university colleagues alike that would inform my thesis and also my general outlook.

In pursuit of more such conversations, to freshen the mind and regain feeling in my literally and metaphorically numb thumbs, I was lucky to attend, convene a panel and present at the biannual African Studies Association of the United Kingdom (ASAUK). This conference was hosted by the University of Birmingham’s Department of African Studies and Anthropology (DASA), formerly known the Centre for West African Studies.

To me, the collegial cross-disciplinary approach of DASA – combining anthropology, history, human geography development, literature, media, popular culture and religion – seems to reflect the values that the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AfSAAP) holds of bringing the diverse training and employment experiences of its members into dialogue as focused on the African continent and its diaspora. It was also a chance to reconnect with academics and students at DASA that had hosted me as an Endeavour Research Fellow in 2016 to discuss research progressions.

The ASAUK conference drew participants from across the African continent, Europe, the United States and Canada and far flung places like that island called Australia to interchange ideas and find common ground in research and policy. From the analysis of African first ladies, to extractives, the arts, and assertions of traditional and electoral legitimacy, topics were diverse and dynamic.

With Barbara Carbon (KU Leuven, Belgium) and Stephan Miescher (University of California, Santa Barbara, the United States), I co-convened and also presented in a panel that considered anticipated and unexpected infrastructural impacts of dam-building in relation to the power of water, comparing Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I also unpacked how theatre can promote inter-faith dialogue in Ghana in a presentation convened by Eric Otchere (University of Cape Coast, Ghana). Thanking AfSAAP at each presentation for enabling attendance at the conference, and also using informal conversation opportunities, I was able to share AfSAAP’s work, mission, and promote the upcoming conference in New South Wales.

While in Europe, I also presented research and discussed AfSAAP as an organisation in Sweden at the European Association of Social Anthropologists conference at the University of Stockholm, and elsewhere in the United Kingdom at the Association of Social Anthropologists of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth conference at the University of Oxford, and at the Royal Anthropological Institute in London.

Feedback from these forums will directly feed into my PhD dissertation as well as related articles. I am grateful to AfSAAP for the chance to learn from and contribute to scholarship about the African continent in and its diaspora, and in doing so to promote AfSAAP and bring diverse experiences and disciplines together.” ‘

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