Dr Kirsty Wissing’s research on Ghana

Kirsty Wissing is a recent ANU postgraduate from the School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia the Pacific, ANU. She received her PhD on July 16th, 2021, although the Graduation Ceremony has been postponed.

Specialising in anthropology, her topic was ‘Permeating purity: Fluid rituals of belonging in Ghana’.

Her research focused on customary rituals and socio-religious attitudes to and uses of water and other fluids in relation to ideas of cleanliness and purity, resource control and morality. For her PhD, Dr Wissing undertook 14 months of field research in the Akwamu Traditional Area of southern Ghana in 2016, 2017 and 2019. She considered how influences including colonialism, Christianity and the hydro-power industry have affected local attitudes and uses of these fluids and asked how multiple co-existing ideas of cleanliness and purity can become politicised. Through this research, Kirsty brought local Akwamu values into dialogue with larger national issues of energy production, environmental resource responsibility and socio-political power in Ghana.

Dr Wissing has also conducted research into and managed programs about the petroleum, mining and energy industries in Ghana for the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP). She is currently employed as a CSIRO Early Career Research Postdoctoral Fellow where she is researching Indigenous Australian biocultural knowledge and attitudes to the emerging field of synthetic biology as part of CSIRO’s Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform. During her PhD, Dr Wissing was the recipient of two Endeavour Leadership Awards, funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment, and was an Endeavour Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham’s Department of African Studies and Anthropology and the University of Cologne’s Global South Studies Center.

Dr Wissing’s research was brought to the attention of other ANU Africanists when she was awarded the AfSAAP/Cherry Gertzel Prize at the 2017 Conference of the African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AfSAAP).

The thesis abstract is available online by searching for ‘Kirsty Wissing’ in ANU Library Catalogue. Due to local governance sensitivities in her field site, full access to the thesis is currently restricted. However, Dr Wissing’s research can be publicly accessed in the following articles published during her PhD.

• Wissing, K. 2019, “Assistance and Resistance of (Hydro-)Power: Contested Relationships of Control over the Volta River, Ghana.” Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, Vol 37(7), pp.1161–1178. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263774X18807482
• Wissing, K. 2019 “Environment as Justice: Interpreting the State(s) of Drowning and Undercurrents of Power in Ghana.” Australasian Review of African Studies, Vol 40(1), pp.12-30. https://doi.org/10.22160/22035184/ARAS-2019-40-1/12-30
• Apoh, W., Wissing, K., Treasure, W. and J. Fardin 2017, “Law, Land and What Lies Beneath: Exploring Mining Impacts on Customary Law and Cultural Heritage Protection in Ghana and Western Australia.” African Identities, Vol.15(4), pp.367-386. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14725843.2017.1319752
• Treasure, W., Fardin, J., Apoh, W. and K. Wissing 2016, “From Mabo to Obuasi: Heritage and Customary Law in Ghana and Western Australia.” Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law, Vol. 34(2), pp.191-211. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02646811.2016.1133986

ASPI Podcast on Unrest in South Africa

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute‘s podcast “Policy, Guns and Money” recently interviewed the Humanities Research Centre’s Hans Mol Research Fellow in Religion and the Social Sciences, Dr Ibrahim Abraham, on the unrest in South Africa following the jailing of former South African President Jacob Zuma.

Dr Abraham’s book Race, Class & Christianity in South Africa: Middle-Class Moralities will be launched online on 30 August 2021.

Click here to listen to the podcast, which also features Dr Cassandra Steer from the ANU Institute of Space and the ANU College of Law discussing space tourism. The podcast is also available on Soundcloud, Apple podcasts, and Spotify.

ANU Humanities Research Centre Visiting Fellowships Program – “Mobilities”

Applications for the 2022 Humanities Research Centre Visiting Fellowship Program – on the theme of ‘Mobilities’ – are now open.

The Humanities Research Centre (HRC) was established in 1972 as a national and international centre for excellence in the humanities and as a catalyst for innovative humanities scholarship and research within the Australian National University. The HRC interprets the ‘humanities’ generously, recognising that new methods of theoretical enquiry have done much to break down the traditional distinction between the humanities, the creative arts, and the social sciences.

Our theme for 2022 is Mobilities.

Migration, asylum, tourism, transport, urban mobility, career mobility, social mobility, emotion and affect – our theme for 2022 registers the growing use of ‘mobility’ and ‘mobilities’ as key descriptive and theoretical terms in the humanities and social sciences, and offers an invitation to scholars to think about the concept in creative and interdisciplinary ways. In line with the suggestive multivalence of the word itself, proposals might consider ‘mobility’ socio-politically, physically, or mentally, as a local or global phenomenon, in different cultures and different historical periods – or they might want to investigate the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our social, physical, and psychological mobility, and the way we are likely to act and think about mobility and immobility in the future.

The Humanities Research Centre looks forward to welcoming scholars from across the world and across the disciplines as we explore a topic that will not stand still.

Full details of the application process are available on the HRC website here.

(Please note this fellowship is not open to ANU faculty or independent researchers, and as travel is strictly regulated during the pandemic, we cannot guarantee international visiting fellowships will be possible. The current application deadline of 31 July is likely to be extended, check the website for updates.)

Virtual Book Launch – Race, Class and Christianity in South Africa: Middle-Class Moralities

Monday, 30 August 2021, 5pm-6pm AEST

Free and online: register here via Eventbrite

This zoom webinar will launch the new book Race, Class and Christianity in South Africa: Middle-Class Moralities by Ibrahim Abraham. Exploring the relationship between race and class among middle-class Christians in South Africa, this book will be of interest to researchers of South African culture and society, as well as religion, anthropology, and sociology. The presentation will draw from the book’s concluding chapter “Covid-19 in Cape Town” reflecting on the ongoing crisis in South Africa in light of the book’s focus on the spiritual and material insecurities of the South African middle class, and the diversity of theological and political approaches among multiracial middle-class churches.

About the author: Ibrahim Abraham is the Hans Mol Research Fellow in Religion and the Social Sciences in the Humanities Research Centre of the Australian National University. A graduate of Monash University and the University of Bristol, he was previously a research fellow at the University of Helsinki. Ibrahim is the author of Evangelical Youth Culture: Alternative Music and Extreme Sports Subcultures (Bloomsbury, 2017), editor of Christian Punk: Identity and Performance (Bloomsbury, 2020), and co-editor of the Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, the publication of the Australian Association for the Study of Religion.

Tomorrow (20 May): Senegambian Rhythmic Traditions, Embodied Knowledge, and Adaptation

Senegambian Rhythmic Traditions, Embodied Knowledge, and Adaptation

Lamine Sonko and King Marong

Date & time: Thursday 20 May 2021, 3.30–5pm

Location: Kingsland Room, Level 6, ANU School of Music

In this research seminar, Lamine Sonko and King Marong will reflect on their longterm engagement with embodied knowledge of ancient rhythmic traditions in West Africa, as well as current research exploring the adaptation of traditional music, dance, and theatre in contemporary Australia. The seminar will include a discussion and live music demonstration.

Lamine Sonko is a composer, director and multi-instrumentalist, originally from Senegal and living in Australia since 2004. In his artistic practice he draws on traditional wisdom to create inter-disciplinary & multi-sensory arts experiences inspired by his cultural background as a Gewel (hereditary cultural role). His role as a Gewel is to be a keeper and communicator of history, customs, rituals and sacred knowledge through music, dance and oral storytelling. Through his work he has defined new ways to present and re-imagine the traditional African, contemporary and classical synthesis of music and theatre. As a composer he has arranged and recorded award-winning music including two compositions for Grammy Award-winning album ‘Winds of Samsara’ (2015). He has composed and directed large scale works including the Boite Millennium Chorus ‘One Africa’ (Arts Centre Melbourne) and has presented and performed throughout Australia and internationally.

Born in The Gambia, King Marong has been performing professionally since the age of 12. King developed his skills in the coastal fishing village where he grew up surrounded by the griots (hereditary musicians) and international musicians who were his mentors for Senegambian drumming and cultural priorities. In his late teens he formed his band Kunta Kinteh and consequently toured The Gambia, Senegal, UK and Europe. King has since built an international reputation as a master of many African drumming styles on instruments such as the Djembe, Boucarabou, Doundoun and Sabar, performing and teaching percussion to students from around the world.

 

Performance in the Studio – West African Percussion

ANU School of Music
Wed 19 May, 6–7.30pm

Join Gambian master percussionist, King Marong, Senegalese multi-instrumentalist, Lamine Sonko, music technology convenor Professor Samantha Bennett, and musicology convenor Dr Bonnie McConnell in ANU’s world class recording studio for a special performance/recording exploring Gambian and Senegalese culture.

Please note places are strictly limited to 25.

Click for details and registration.

God, Development, and Technology Transfer: Mediated Ethics between Chinese and Ethiopians

Dr. Liang Chen
Australian Centre on China in the World
Thursday, 22 April 2021, 4.00pm5.30pm

Online and in person, China in the World seminar rooms (Building 188), Fellows Lane, ANU

Details and link to registration here.

Abstract The rolling out of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and overseas projects provides a window to examine the intercultural dynamics between Chinese expats and local communities. Ethiopia, an East African country, has become a strategic partner of China and hosts a growing population of Chinese developers, business people and workers. In this contact zone, assumptions and misassumptions, tentative adjustments, and reevaluation of Chinese and local communities’ relations are abundant to the extent that any culturalist explanation is insufficient to grapple with the Chinese’s evolving ethical experience. This study shows how the Chinese and Ethiopians relate to one another ethically in different contexts and why the boundary between them becomes explicit or less so.

Bio Dr Liang Chen’s research interests involve migration, urbanisation, and intercultural encounters in China and Africa. He has been studying the trans-continental business network of African expatriates in China, the Chinese working in Ethiopia, and Afar pastoralists’ urbanisation in Ethiopia and Djibouti since 2016. He is currently visiting the School of Culture, History, and Language of ANU.

Truth and Reconciliation: South Africa and Victoria

Date and time: Thursday 08 Apr 2021, 1–2pm

Speaker: Ibrahim Abraham 

Event series:  Freilich Research Network Event

Location: online zoom webinar, register here

Victoria’s recently announced Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) draws inspiration from the famous TRC initiated in South Africa in 1995. Both initiatives endeavour to reveal historical truths and heal broken and unjust relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous communities. Whereas South Africa’s TRC was limited to political violence taking place between 1960 and 1994, excluding the broader sweep of South African history, the willingness of Victoria’s TRC to investigate events as far back as European colonization makes it a conceivably more radical and potentially more contentious initiative. Offering an overview of South Africa’s TRC, drawn from the presenter’s forthcoming book, this lunchtime talk will also draw out some of the likely similarities and differences between the South African and Victorian initiatives, and highlight some of the challenges inherent in any TRC, including the implicitly religious nature of narratives of confession and reconciliation, and the difficulty of finding a common moral language in diverse societies.

Ibrahim Abraham is the Hans Mol Research Fellow in Religion and the Social Sciences in the Humanities Research Centre of the Australian National University, and a former Convenor of the Freilich Project for the Study of Bigotry. His book Race, Class and Christianity in South Africa: Middle-Class Moralities will be published by Routledge in 2021.

Register here

Books that Changed Humanity: J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace

Date and time:  Friday 19 Mar 2021, 5.30–6.45pm

Speakers:  Dr Ibrahim Abraham (Humanities Research Centre, ANU)

Location:  Zoom (registration required)

Series:  Books that Changed Humanity

Dr Ibrahim Abraham explores this controversial masterpiece of post-apartheid South Africa at the turn of the twenty-first century. Disgrace is the novel that not only earned Coetzee (another) Booker Prize but guaranteed him the Nobel Prize awarded in 2003.

Register here.

The Individual Deprivation Measure South Africa Country Study Results

Helen Suich, Senior Research Fellow, Crawford School of Public Policy (ANU)

The Individual Deprivation Measure, or IDM, is an individual-level, gender sensitive measure of multidimensional deprivation—it measures deprivation at the individual rather than household level, and is designed to discern differences in the experiences of poverty between men and women. The IDM program was a partnership between the ANU, the International Women’s Development Agency and the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade. The ANU led a studies in Indonesia in 2018 and in South Africa in 2019. The IDM programme ran between 2016 and 2020, and related research is being taken forward as the Individual Measurement of Multidimensional Poverty at ANU.

In South Africa, 14 dimensions of deprivation were measured (shown in the figure below). Some of these are already partially covered in some existing surveys (e.g. food security and access to drinking water), but the IDM includes a range of economic and social aspects which are not usually covered (e.g. the relationships, clothing and footwear and voice dimensions). Further, several IDM dimensions include aspects beyond that which is typically assessed. For example, the work dimension covers not only issues around paid work, but also includes themes on unpaid domestic and care work and on the double labour burden that can arise when both paid and unpaid work are done.

The South African country study had two parts:

  • a national-level main sample, that interviewed 8,652 individuals, 16 years and older;
  • a purposive sample that interviewed 826 individuals with disabilities and their household members (2,311 individuals in total), in Gauteng and Limpopo provinces.

There are a wide range of resource available for those who are interested in the results of the survey and the methods used for the analysis.

A revised analysis of the data was undertaken, using slightly different methods, and a series of briefing notes and documentation was produced. There are six briefing notes, describing the results for the main sample, as well as the analyses by gender, by age group, by disability status and by rural/urban locality. The sixth summarises the South African country study and the revised data analysis methods. Accompanying documentation includes reports describing the revised methods in detail, as well as providing all of the revised results. A comprehensive report published in May 2020 summarises the initial analysis of both the main sample and the purposive sample, which is available here.

There is also a series of videos, one summarising the South African country study, one for the overall results of the main sample, based on the revised analysis methods, and one each describing the results by gender, age, rural/urban locality and disability status.

A launch of the report was held in early August 2020, with Australia’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Ms Gita Kamath, and the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in South Africa, Nardos Bekele-Thomas, which you can watch below.