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.” ‘

‘Fear and race on the streets of Melbourne’

Four Corners on ABC TV

‘Crime and Panic, reported by Sophie McNeill and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 5th November at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 6th November at 1.00pm and Wednesday 7th at 11.20pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at ‘

‘For more than two years, the media has been reporting that Melbourne is in the grip of a crimewave, overrun by African street gangs responsible for a wave of violence and theft’

In contrast, Blacktown, where ANU PhD candidate Atem Atem  is doing his fieldwork on the Sudanese community, has a different reputation, one of social cohesion.

Mapping the distribution of maternal health and service delivery in West Africa

ANU School of Demography Seminar

Date and Time: Friday 9 November 2018 – 3.00pm – 4.00 pm

Location: Jean Martin Room, Beryl Rawson Bldg #13, Ellery Crescent, ANU

Presenter: Drs Bernard Baffour and Dorothy Ononokpono

Title: Mapping the distribution of maternal health and service delivery in West Africa

Improvement in maternal and new born health in developing countries has been a major priority in public health since the 1980s. In spite of efforts to increase access to reproductive health services and reduce maternal mortality, maternal health is still poor in most developing countries. Globally, about 830 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications every day, and it was estimated that in 2015, roughly 303 000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth (World Health Organization, 2016). Unfortunately, almost all of these deaths (99%) occurred in low-resource settings, and most could have been prevented with adequate access to health care. Although, in sub-Saharan Africa, a number of countries halved their levels of maternal mortality since 1990, mortality rates for newborn babies have also been slow to decline compared with death rates for older infants. In this study we examine spatial variability in the distributions of women of reproductive age, pregnancies and births in three West African countries (Mali, Liberia and Guinea) with a high burden of maternal and neonatal deaths.

Bernard Baffour is a lecturer in the School of Demography. Bernard holds a PhD in Social Statistics from the University of Southampton. His main interests focus on the use of his methodological expertise in survey methods and the analysis of complex data.

Dorothy Ononokpono is the 2018 Caldwell Fellow. Dorothy holds a doctorate degree in Demography and Population Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. She is a lecturer in the department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Uyo, Nigeria.

How bad government can ruin a country: the case of Zimbabwe


Speaker: David Gadiel is a Senior Fellow in the Health Program at The Centre for Independent Studies. He emigrated from Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) in the 1960s and is a former development economist.

Date & time:
Tuesday 30 October 2018
Seminar Room 2, Crawford School of Public Policy, 132 Lennox Crossing, ANU

“The history of Zimbabwe is a portrait of decay and mismanagement that ruined a once-thriving economy. With its sophisticated institutions, a stable banking system, a manufacturing base and a highly-capitalised farming industry, Zimbabwe inherited the richest, most developed land in Africa after South Africa. An economic history of Zimbabwe thereafter provides a classic example of how populism can trump reason; how readily world leaders who should have known better became so easily beguiled; and how a false god became a liberation icon to fellow African leaders. It is a sad story often neglected, partly because ‘optimists’ in the West, who had enthusiastically greeted the birth of Zimbabwe and the incumbency of Mugabe, became reluctant to accept their error.”

Ross McLeod, Seminar Convener

Australian aid stakeholder survey 2018

Australian aid stakeholder survey

For those who haven’t had completed it yet, the deadline for the ANU’s  Devpolicy  2018 Australian aid stakeholder survey has been extended to Monday 22 October. The survey focuses on the effectiveness of the Australian Government aid program and will provide suggestions for its improvement. The survey is open to anyone familiar with Australian aid, and will only take approximately 15 minutes. Responses are confidential. See

More information about the survey is available in the Participant Information Sheet.

If you have any outstanding questions about the survey or the procedures, you may contact Terence Wood on +61 2 6125 5693 or by email at


Examining Recent African Mining Conferences

Revised topic for the second talk in the  African Discussion Group series

“Examining Recent African Mining Conferences: Lessons learnt re Governments, the African Union, Corporates, NGOs and communities.

It will include a joint round table discussion of what are essentially Africa wide governance issues, with the students (and others) contributing from their own country’s experiences,

Date: Thursday 25th October, 6pm
Venue: Fenner Seminar Room, Building 141, Fenner School of Environment and Society
Linnaeus Way. This building is at the corner of Daley Road and Linnaeus way
Speaker: Margaret O’Callaghan (Visiting Fellow at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy)

Our presenter Margaret O’Callaghan will speak on the impact of mining in Africa and the role played by corporates, civil society, government agencies and other key actors using Zambia as a case study.
The presentation will provide an overview and analysis of conferences focused on mining in Africa, including those run by corporates, civil society, regional agencies and governments. It will highlight the resulting issues, especially those related to costs and benefits for both the continent and mining communities.

Margaret is a Visiting Fellow at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy. Formerly a teacher, community worker, researcher and writer, a major part of her career focused on international development assistance working with AusAID (1987-93) and serving as UN Population Fund Representative to PNG (1993-1998) and Zambia (1998-2005).
This second discussion series promises to be interactive and exciting for those interested in learning and contributing to discussions on mining in Africa.

Please RSVP through the link to secure your place:

There will be snacks and non-alcoholic drinks after the presentation.
Hope to see you all there!

The ANU’s Ceri Shipton named as Australia’s Leader in the Research Field of African Studies and History

The September 2018 issue of  the Research Supplement of The Australian was devoted to ‘The Stars of 2018’.

Pages 36-38 were devoted to Australia’s Australia’s Research Field Leaders and Institutions in the Humanities, Arts and Literature. Dr Ceri Shipton of the ANU was named as the Field Leader in African Studies and History, while Charles Sturt University was nominated as the Leading Institution.

Dr Shipton has worked on research projects in East Africa, Arabia, India, and Polynesia, and on periods from the Lower Palaeolithic to the Neolithic.

 He is a researcher at the School of Culture, History and Language at the ANU. In article entitled ‘Kenyan cave sheds new light on dawn of modern man’ he said that ‘the Panga ya Saidi cave sequence dates back 78,000 years and is the only known site in East Africa with an unbroken archaeological record of human habitation.’

Just one example of his African work is ‘Taphonomy and Behaviour at the Acheulean Site of Kariandusi, Kenya’, African Archaeological Review, 2011. Acheulean refers to a range of Paleolithic tool-making traditions spreading from Africa to the Middle East and Asian.


ANU African Discussion Series: Energy in Kenya

This is the first of the ANU’s African Discussion Series

Topic: Lighting the way? Understanding energy and development in Kenya

Date: Friday September 28, 2018

Speaker Dr Edwina Fingleton-Smith.

Edwina is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Fenner School of Environment and Society. Prior to starting her PhD at Fenner, Edwina completed a Masters of Environmental Law and Sustainable Development at SOAS (University of London) and a Bachelor of Development Studies at the Australian National University Edwina previously held a position as a research associate with international development NGO Practical Action working on the development of market-based energy access projects and the links between women’s economic empowerment and energy access.

Venue: Fenner Seminar room 1.01, Building 141, Fenner School of Environment and Society   Map

Time: 6pm – 7.30pm. Light refreshments will be served around 7pm.

Of the 1.06 billion people who don’t have access to electricity globally, nearly half reside in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 60% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity and in many rural areas that number can be as high as 95%. This makes energy access one of the most critical areas for development across the continent if it wants to meet its development targets. Over the past several years, energy access has risen as a global priority, most notably evidenced in its status as a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 7). Despite the increasing importance on energy for development we have little understanding of how to use it effectively to maximize development outcomes. Based on qualitative research conducted in Kenya, this presentation will ask if we need to reassess our assumptions about the value of energy for improving development outcomes. This includes areas such as the capacity of energy to improve productivity and economic development, the role of energy in improving women’s lives, and what theoretical models around energy use in developed countries can tell us about energy use by the billion people who don’t have access to electricity and the 2.7 billion people who still cook over traditional fuels.


Professor ‘Fumni Olonisakin to attend ACFID Conference

The ACFID NATIONAL CONFERENCE 2018 will be held 30-31 October 2018 at USW, Sydney.

ACFID is the Australian Council for International Development and this year’s theme i is People, Planet Peace. For more details see

It is always a pleasant surprise when Africa gets a mention, and this year Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta , ‘Known internationally for his advocacy to defend the rights of the people of Timor-Leste’ will be joined by Professor ‘Fumni Olonisakin of King’s College London for a facilitated discussion on conflict, security and development. See

From the King’s College website

‘Professor ’Funmi Olonisakin is Vice-President and Vice-Principal International and Professor of Security, Leadership & Development at King’s College London. She is also founding Director of the African Leadership Centre (ALC), which aims to build the next generation of African scholars and analysts generating cutting edge knowledge for conflict, security and development in Africa. Prior to this, she was Programme Director of the ALC King’s College London MSc programmes on Security, Leadership and Society and MSc Leadership and Development as well as the Postgraduate Research Programme on Leadership Studies with Reference to Security and Development.’

‘Prior to 2013, ” ..she worked in the Office of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict overseeing the Africa work of that Office. In this role, she facilitated the establishment of the National Commission for War Affected Children in Sierra Leone and the Child Protection Unit in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). She previously held research positions in the Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College London, where she co-directed the African Security Unit; and at the Institute for Strategic Studies in the University of Pretoria, South Africa and the Department of Political Science, University of Lagos Nigeria.” ‘

‘Trained in Political Science (Bsc. Ife, Nigeria) and War Studies (PhD, King’s College London), Olonisakin has positioned her work to serve as a bridge between academia and the world of policy and practice. Her academic research and writing has contributed to strategic thinking in post-conflict contexts and in the work of regional organizations such as ECOWAS and the African Union.’

Postnatal Care in Nigeria: Does it Really Matter Where Women Live?

2018 Caldwell Fellow Seminar
Postnatal Care in Nigeria: Does it Really Matter
Where Women Live?

Speaker: Dr Dorothy Ononokpono, University of Uyo, Nigeria

Date: Thursday 20 September 2018, 12.30-1.30pm

Venue: Bob Douglas Lecture Theatre, Building 62a
Research School of Population Health, 62 Mills Road, ANU

Enquiries to Ellie Paige and
Rachael Rodney Harris via

Dr Dorothy Ononokpono has a doctorate degree in
Demography and Population Studies
from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg,
South Africa, and currently lectures in the Department of
Sociology and Anthropology, University of Uyo, Nigeria.

Dorothy is Caldwell Visiting Fellow and her research
interests span Reproductive Health, Gender Based
Violence,  Forced Migration, and Spatial Demography.

‘Although postnatal care is one of the major interventions recommended for the reduction
of maternal and newborn deaths worldwide, most women in Nigeria do not receive
postnatal care. Attempts to explain this situation have focused on individual-level
attributes, and the role of community characteristics has received less attention. This paper
utilized 2008 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey data to examine the influence and
moderating effects of community factors on the receipt of postnatal care. Multilevel logistic
regression analysis was performed on a sample of 17,846 women of reproductive age
nested within 886 communities. Findings indicate that women’s likelihood of receiving
postnatal care in Nigeria is a function of where they reside. There is need for region specific
policy and reforms that ensure appropriate distribution of need-based resources.’