Studying Africa in Australia – Report and Public Lecture

Adjame Market, Abidjan, Eva Blue via Unsplash

The results of research into the current situation of African studies in the Australian Capital Territory, are available online. A lengthy report, contextualizing the past and present situation of African studies in Canberra, with reference to international developments, and a shorter article recently published in the Australasian Review of African Studies, focusing on changes in Australian universities and academic life, reveal the importance of research methodologies rather than regional specialization.

A reminder that this research project will also be the focus on the Future of the Humanities and Social Sciences Annual Lecture, delivered online via Zoom at 5pm on Wednesday 25 May (Africa Day).

Studying Africa in Australia: The Future of the Humanities and Social Sciences Annual Lecture

On Africa Day, May 25, Dr Ibrahim Abraham (Humanities Research Centre, ANU) presents the annual Future of the Humanities and Social Sciences Lecture, a critical overview of the study of Africa in Australia in the past and present, with an eye to the future.

In a time of increasing disciplinary fragmentation in the humanities and social sciences, and strengthening methodological and moral scrutiny around the study of a misrepresented continent of many cultures, this lecture suggests paths toward strengthening and promoting multidisciplinary research on Africa in Australia.

Register here.

About the presenter: Ibrahim Abraham is the Hans Mol Research Fellow in Religion and the Social Sciences in the Humanities Research Centre at the ANU. His most recent book is Race, Class and Christianity in South Africa: Middle-Class Moralities (Routledge, 2021).

This event is part of the Humanities Research Centre’s 2022 Distinguished Lecture Series.

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.

 

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.

“Now I am Dead”: Anthropological Encounters with the Other

WEDNESDAY 04 DEC 2019, 5:30pm–7pm, Lady Wilson Room (2.10)
Sir Roland Wilson Building (#120), ANU
(Note change of date to Wednesday 04 December at 5:30pm)

Now I am Dead (2018) dir. by Philipp Bergmann

“If anthropology is founded on the violence of speaking for others,” anthropologist Isabel Bredenbröker asks in the thought-provoking short film Now I am Dead (2018), “then how can I relate to this?”

Bredenbröker and film director Philipp Bergmann had planned an artistic video installation to explore the nature of the ethnographic encounter through the lens of her research on death in a small town in Ghana. But in the midst of filming, Isabel’s grandfather dies in Germany. Asking the people she encounters for advice about how to react to the death of a far-away family member whilst shooting a film on death in West Africa, the perspective of the foreign researcher is tragicomically inverted and incorporated into a local perspective. The distinctions between the other culture and one’s own, between the Other and the Self get blurred, just as the threshold between life and death becomes something that can be experienced in a playful way.

“This is absurd,” Bredenbröker declares, “but in its absurdity, it makes perfect sense.”

About the presenter: Isabel Bredenbröker is a PhD candidate in the Research Training Group of Value and Equivalence at Goethe University, Frankfurt. Trained as an anthropologist, her research considers the material and economic aspects of death in the Volta Region of Ghana.

Coinciding with the annual conference of the Australian Anthropological Association, the Freilich Project is pleased to host the screening of this unique short film, and a discussion on the perennial challenges of ethical encounters between individuals and cultures in social scientific research.

The film screening and discussion is free and open to all, and will be followed by light refreshments.

Please register for catering purposes.

Maxine Beneba Clarke in Conversation with Zoya Patel

Award winning author, Maxine Beneba Clarke (editor of Growing Up African in Australia), will be in conversation with feminist author and editor, Zoya Patel, about her leadership journey as an Australian born black writer of Afro-Caribbean descent, creating space for other African diaspora voices, and empowering those who’ve been historically sidelined in Australian literature to tell their stories.

Maxine Beneba Clarke is the ABIA and Indie award-winning author of the memoir The Hate Race, the short fiction collection Foreign Soil, the poetry collection Carrying The World, and several critically acclaimed children’s books, including the Boston Globe / Horn Prize award winning The Patchwork Bike, and the recently released Fashionista. She is the editor of Growing Up African in Australia, and Best Australian Stories 2017. Maxine is The Saturday Paper’s Poet Laureate.

Zoya Patel is the author of No Country Woman, a memoir of race, religion and feminism, published by Hachette Australia.

She Leads In-Conversation events aim to provide the community with the opportunity to hear from women leaders from different backgrounds and industries, in a conversational format, followed by a live Q&A session, book signing and networking. Men are actively welcomed to attend.

The In-Conversation with Maxine Beneba Clarke will be at the Ann Harding Conference Centre, University of Canberra on Friday 20 September 2019 from 6:15–8:15 pm.

More details and ticket information here.

Seminar: “Dual Exposure: Transcendental Harm in the Islamic Ontology of Pollution in Tunisia”

Wed 28 Aug 2019, 9.30–11am
Marie Reay Teaching Centre, Kambri/Room 3.03, Building 155

Exposure to harmful substances typically occurs through the entanglements of bodies and materials in late industrialism. How this exposure is measured depends as much on the sensory perception of these materials, as on knowledge and technologies that reveal unperceivable substances, and assess their effects on a given organism. In Western toxicology harm from exposure therefore emerges between perceivable and hardly perceivable worlds. This is also true of North African Islamic epistemologies of pollution. Here harm is constructed in the relationship between the physical world (alam al-shahada) of humanity, and the spiritual world (alam al-ghayb) inhabited by the angels and jinn. Based on 15 months of ethnographic research in Tunisia during a waste crisis in the aftermath of the revolution, this paper explores how exposure and harm are shaped by ontologies that organize the relationship between people, materials, and the unseen. It argues that certain materials can pierce the veil between the physical and sprit world in North African Islam, thereby removing the protecting of guardian angels, and attracting evil forces. Exposure from pollution in Tunisia can therefore be seen as ‘dual’ in that it renders the individual vulnerable to potentially harmful substances as well as vulnerable to the harmful effects emanating from the spirit world.

Dr. Siad Darwish is a sessional academic at the School of the Humanities and Social Inquiry at the University of Wollongong. He holds a PhD in anthropology from Rutgers University and an MA in the Anthropology of Development from the University of Sussex. His research traces waste flows and unequal chemical relations between cells, bodies, the micro-ecologies of his field sites, planetary ecology, and sometimes the otherworldly. Using this approach, his first book manuscript is an exploration of the environmental politics of the Arab Uprisings in Tunisia. Find out more on sdarwish.org.