SERSAS SEAN 2021 Abstracts

African Mobilities: the Means and Modalities of Movement(s)
Within and Beyond Africa

SERSAS/SEAN 2021 Presentation Abstracts, in Alphabetical Order



Author:  Danielle Boaz

Title:  Religious Freedom vs. Public Health: East African Responses to Religious Gatherings and Ceremonies during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Abstract:  In mid-March 2020, Rome-based Catholic priest Richard Onyango Oduor flew to Kenya for a family member’s burial. Between March 11 and 20, Oduor traveled throughout Kenya on public buses and planes, and participated in several Masses.  He also gave the Eucharist to attendees at his relative’s funeral. In late March, Oduor became ill and was hospitalized; he tested positive for Covid-19. Kenyan authorities identified at least 130 people who Oduor had potentially exposed to the virus. Due to his failure to self-quarantine following his arrival from Italy (which had recently become the center of the coronavirus outbreak), Kenyan officials arrested Oduor for “negligently spreading an infectious disease” as soon as he was well enough to leave the hospital.   Oduor’s arrest highlights a critical issue that countries throughout the globe have had to address during the 2020 pandemic. Many of the world’s religions center on the concept of collective worship, which places religious leaders and/or congregants in physical contact with large numbers of people. Due to travel and gatherings held on the cusp of or after the start of the global coronavirus outbreak, numerous religious communities have become so-called “super-spreaders” of the virus. Individual faith leaders or religious meetings have been linked to the infection of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people in a particular region or nation. This paper will explore how East African countries have balanced religious freedom against the threat that religious encounters will further spread Covid-19 in their policies about movement, gatherings, and public health.



AuthorJohn Cropper

Title:  Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI)

Abstract:  The Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI) began in 2005 as a plan to combat the “encroachment” of the Sahara Desert into pastoral areas. The plan involved planting a line of trees from Senegal to Djibouti as a means of promoting evapotranspiration and thus increasing levels of rainfall. From the start, the initiative attracted scrutiny from ecologist and climate scientists who argue, rightly, that the Great Green Wall Initiative was based on the notion of a universally advancing desert border. In reality, satellite images of the region’s vegetation show only small patches of the Sahel are degraded, and that some sections of the Sahara’s southern border have actually moved northward during the past 20 to 30 years. The project, therefore, has transformed the GGWI from an attempt to arrest desert encroachment to a multinational development project, focusing instead on promoting traditional land use practices to prevent land degradation.

This paper places the GGWI within the long history of colonial and neo-colonial efforts to transform Africa’s landscape through improvement projects. By upstreaming, or working back in history, this project will examine how longstanding narratives of environmental decline, deforestation, and soil erosion have been redeployed in efforts to construct the Great Green Wall. In focusing specifically on Senegal, which has already devoted labor and capital to building the GGWI, it will explore how government officials and development experts have relied on ‘declensionist’ tropes—deforestation, desiccation, food scarcity—to legitimize the project, even when the science undermined its initial aims. Put simply, this paper considers the ‘declining African environment’ as a commodity of development, and it investigates how this narrative has been continually rebranded to attract foreign investment and aid.



Author:   Holly Dunn

Title:  The Logic of Popular Justice in Response to Witchcraft in the Eastern DRC: The Unanticipated Outcomes of Disconnected Legality

Abstract:  In my book manuscript, I layout three manifestations of, what I have termed, contradictory legal consciousness. Contradictory legal consciousness is reflected in areas of subjectivity that are in tension with each other around legality, such as knowledge of the formal law and local worldviews. In this chapter, I examine two themes of contradictory consciousness that emerge in cases of witchcraft accusations in Uvira, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The first theme is a disconnect in harm-naming, whereby state law defines a harm in a way the contradicts local interpretations of the harm. The second theme of is different logics of justice, whereby the population’s underlying approach to justice for a dispute or harm differs from the state’s approach. Witchcraft acts and accusations are pertinent examples of both manifestations of contradictory consciousness. What emerges from these contradictions, however, is not necessarily an individual choosing one approach over the other, but emergent forms of legality that integrate the tensions in unique, context dependent ways. I label these outcomes, emergent hybrid legality. In the case of witchcraft accusations, the emergent outcome is popular justice. Although from a formal, liberal legal perspective this would solely be defined as extra-legal, emergent hybrid legality provides space to ‘make sense of’ acts that may be extra-legal but also reflect the population’s justice norms and goals. This research is based on nine months of immersive fieldwork in Uvira, DRC.



Author:  Yvette Essounga Njan

Title:  Africans Moving And Thriving Despite the Pandemic

Abstract:  The Covid-19 disease reignited many divides in our society; one could say the disease exacerbated these endemic divisions. This discussion addresses the divide between Africa and the rest of the world. The rest of the world has always looked at Africa with contempt, pity, and disdain. At times, Africa has simply been dismissed. This time, Africa, with the advent of the pandemic seemed doomed for the worst as the continent that was going to show to the world, once again, it had nothing to offer. African was going to bear the brunt of the pandemic: Many prophesied the end of the old continent. Yet, the continent, the African continent, kept moving. It seems audacious to offer a reason for such a strange and unexpected phenomenon and this discussion pursues this goal.



Author:  Benjamin Fishkin

Title:  Moving in the Wrong Direction: Francis B. Nyamnjoh’s A Nose for Money

Abstract:  A Nose for Money is art imitating life. In Cameroon, vast sums of money are pursued with feverish intensity to buy cars, clothing, and cosmetics that people do not need, almost all of them from France. Francis B. Nyamnjoh pulls apart what he calls the modern urban African psyche to reveal a character who rises socially, but falls behaviorally. Here we have a figure who moves dramatically, but in the wrong direction. Prospère is a figure who “long ago learned the map of Sawang prostitution, the various kinds available, how to recognize them, and where to find them…Regulars like Prospère knew the familiar parts of town where they hung out. Leaving a bar, walking down the street, Prospère would find them…” (22 – 23). Our hero is in hot pursuit, paying for lust with counterfeit money. The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic has changed things and made life difficult, but for Prospère this would be a game changer. After all, how can you have sex while social distancing? In this way, it would restrict his movement and, in an ironic twist of fate, keep him away from all sorts of bad behavior.



Author:  Elizabeth Fretwell

Title:  Seamstresses, artisan workshops, and mobility in central Benin, West Africa, 1960s-1980s

Abstract:  The paper explores the feminization of tailoring and fashion in central Benin during the late 1960s to the 1980s and how women used migration and the strategic occupation of workshop space to carve out female autonomy and new personas as “respectable” women. In the areas around Abomey during the mid-twentieth century, both tailoring and fashion were largely the domain of men. Beninois women wore mostly wrapped fabric with few sewn items, and only a small number of women engaged in needlework. These seamstresses were often the wives of middle-class men and traced their craft knowledge back to missions and colonial programs that sought to “domesticate” women. However, by the late 1960s, “orphans,” poor, and peasant women began to enter the craft in astonishing numbers, thoroughly feminizing the production and consumption of sewn clothing. These women often moved from rural areas and among the region’s towns to learn the craft. Once they settled in a workshop, seamstresses utilized the materiality of their own bodies, those of their apprentices, and especially the interiors and exteriors of urban workshops to assert their aspirations to middle-class respectability and their independence from fathers, husbands, and other men. The history of seamstresses’ mobility and workshops reveals how women crafted feminine spaces in an increasingly anonymous postcolonial city and how, despite economic insecurity, women enacted futures through the discussion, design, and production of clothed bodies and workshop space. This paper draws upon material and visual culture, newspapers, and over 80 oral histories collected from Beninois women and men.



Author:  Ampson Hagan

Title:  Enduring Temporalities of Material Non-Movement: Waithood and waiting for Covid-19 vaccines in Africa

Abstract:  The notion of materials moving into and out of Africa more easily than people fails to accurately capture this current moment of Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing and distribution. As the Western nations develop, manufacture, purchase, and send vaccines amongst themselves, African countries and poor nations around the world are to wait their turn, only acquiring vaccines via “humanitarian” donations from Western countries willing to gift a meager amount to the World Health Organization and several countries. In fact, the WHO estimates that vaccines will be globally accessible sometime in 2023, a full two years after Western nations will have had them to vaccinate their populations. Despite the globalized rhetoric around the pandemic in which “the entire world” is affected, the problem is globalized while the solution is materially isolated to/in the West. Relying on a reading of news reports from Europe/US as well as Francophone and Anglophone news outlets across Africa, I will tease out the ways in which socio-historical forces dictate that Africa essentially “wait” to receive Covid-19 vaccines because the West suffers from that same malaise and Africa cannot be first or even “at the same time” as Western nations. Africa and Africans continue to exist in negative and deadly relation to the West on a predetermined temporal axis, where they are existentially and materially waiting on the West. The movement of vaccines to and through Africa is temporally bound rather than spatially constructed, echoing a much broader condition of waiting instituted and maintained by neoliberal capitalism.



Author:  Chris Ippolito

Title:  Protest Movements in Today’s Africa: Towards an African Spring?

Abstract:  Immobility or immobilism do not exclude mobilization, far from it, protest movements in many African countries and elsewhere have recently showed it. African protest movements have taken new forms and used new tools including social networks and other communication tools associated with new technologies. With focus on protest movements in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia, this paper will look for new practices that may facilitate the emergence of an “African Spring,” and examine what could make it possible. While cell phones and new domestic and foreign investments in roads and digital networks make all sorts of movements faster, digital communication helps protest movements develop. We may witness more protest movements in some countries, and especially in some urban settings, but it should be noted that the current trend seems to point to a generalization of these new forms of protest movements. This paper will examine a new and fast-changing “pre-spring” digital landscape including emergent digital practices particularly popular with younger generations, including students and young workers in fast-developing metro areas. It will take into consideration the links these communities often have with similar communities in other African cities and countries, diasporas in Europe and elsewhere, and pre-existing social and political organizations and/or more traditional media. As is the case in North America and Europe, social media and related tools facilitate protests cities and States find difficult to control and may help to lead to an “African Spring.”



Author:  Moses Khisa

Title:  Countering Covid: Militarism, Securitization, and Regime Politics in Uganda

Abstract:  For countries with limited resources and underdeveloped civilian governmental institutions, mobilising the full force of the state became an overarching necessity in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. This included summoning the military and the armed forces to bear on the situation. In Uganda, the military and security agencies have played key roles in a range of responses including law enforcement including lockdown restrictions, relief supplies, and medical activities. These roles have to be placed within the broader context of Uganda’s political landscape and political economy where the military and securitization occupies a central position in societal processes and political configurations. In responding to pandemic, therefore, the Ugandan government reactivated the military’s historically oversized role as the foundation for regime politics and the primary source of elite power. This had gross implications for the January 2021 elections and the wider challenges to the incumbent president’s grip on power.



Author:  Hye-Sung Kim

Title:  Consequences of Oil Extraction and Competition over Resources: Conjoint Experiment in Turkana, Kenya

Abstract:  Since oil discovery in Turkana Kenya, conflicts over revenue sharing have exacerbated the already existing inter-communal, and inter-ethnic tensions, and negative environmental consequences have put a further constraint on scarce resources such as land, water, and pasture. Furthermore, because of the customary land tenure system, individuals whose access to land and resources are further limited by oil development, and individuals have not yet received proper compensation at the individual level. Based on an original conjoint experiment conducted in Turkana County, Kenya, this study examines the effects of various resource constraints limited by oil development, such as increased displacements, environmental pollution, and limited access to resources such as pasture and water among other many other consequences on the resistance to residents’ support or resistance to oil extraction and production. Despite various economic benefits the residents of Turkana county have experienced from oil development, the environmental pollution and limited access to resources have been the most effectively decreasing the residents’ support for oil extraction as well as their concern for future conflict. These results are observed only in the areas that are close to the oil wells, and the areas distant from oil wells did not show the resistance to oil extraction after being primed to environmental consequences of oil extraction. The results imply that the conflict of interests among the residents of Turkana can further exacerbate the existing inter-communal conflicts between those who only enjoy the economic development from oil extraction and those whose livelihoods were directly threatened by oil extraction.



Author:  Molly McCullers

Title:  Paradise Drive-In:  Cars, Safari, and Imperial Imaginaries in 20th Century Southern Africa

Abstract:  Safari is a quintessential experience of African tourism. It is a journey into timeless nature, seemingly untouched by human encroachment and the bustle of modern life. Over the 20th century, as industrialization progressed at an astounding rate, the romantic ideal of the African safari gained tremendous popularity among both Western metropolitan and African colonial settler populations. This paper explores the paradoxical rise of safari, which allowed white tourists to create and enact colonial imaginaries of pristine wilderness, through the thoroughly modern invention of the car. As scholars of automobility have demonstrated, the car is a central but understudied feature of imperialism and globalization. The rapid 20th century expansion of national parks with networks of roads in southern Africa, most notably Kruger National Park, provided white South Africans opportunities to indulge in mythical historical reenactments by envisioning themselves as pioneers, blazing paths through the wilderness in rustic automotive luxury. The car afforded white elites with a sense of nostalgic “return” noted by scholars of imperial tourism and safari. Vacationing in these contrived pristine and unpeopled environments provided respite from the headaches, noise, and squalor of urban industrial cities in the heyday of segregation and apartheid, which were, ironically, considered imperialism’s crowning achievement. By examining the role of the car in the rise of safari tourism in southern Africa, this paper investigates the mutual constitution of imperial realities of human and environmental exploitation with the corollary colonial imaginary of unspoiled African nature, as connected by the car.



Author:  Kristen McLean

Title:  Exploring mobility and movement in pandemic times: the case of Sierra Leone

Abstract:  Just this week, beginning January 25, 2021 the Government of Sierra Leone imposed yet another round of lockdowns, virtually closing the Western Area, which includes the capital city of Freetown, and imposing a nightly curfew for all citizens. In the context of the current crisis—and in response to a much-criticized sluggish response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014—the government has acted quickly to institute strict containment measures to halt the spread of Covid-19. While on one hand, the country should be commended for the seriousness with which it is taking the pandemic, it is also important to consider how pandemics and their responses are –as Melissa Leach writes—“social and political phenomenon that involve much more than ‘disease.’” Current containment measures have created immense social and economic hardship for the majority of Sierra Leoneans, going in many instances beyond the suffering experienced during the Ebola outbreak. In this paper, which draws upon qualitative, phone-based interviews with individuals in the Kono District of Sierra Leone, I explore people’s daily experiences of living through the coronavirus pandemic. Broadly, the project seeks to assess individuals’ greatest challenges regarding the pandemic and how they are coping with the indirect ramifications of social distancing requirements and other restrictions to their movement. For the purposes of this paper, and in line with the conference theme, I will focus specifically on the ways in which the pandemic is impacting mobility and how people are creatively navigating novel daily landscapes in order to survive.



Author:  Francis Musoni

Title:  The Covid-19 Pandemic and the History of Illegal[ized] Mobilities across the Zimbabwe-South Africa Border

Abstract:  On December 22, 2020, the eNews Channel Africa (eNCA) reported that a woman had died in a Zimbabwe-bound bus that had spent more than 24 hours at the Beitbridge border post waiting for clearance to leave South Africa. For several days following this report, various media platforms published stories with images of long lines of vehicles waiting to be cleared on the South African side of the border between these two countries. By December 25, as some reports claimed, the line had stretched for more than 15km and some vehicles had spent more than five days at the border. A Reuters report, among others, also alleged that at least fifteen people had died while waiting at the border. Although the situation at Beitbridge “normalized” a few days after Christmas Day, the media once again became awash with stories and images of traffic congestion on the Zimbabwean side of the border beginning on January 2, 2021. Inevitably, some of the affected people resorted to using unofficial channels to cross the border, leading to the arrest and deportation of hundreds of them. While it is not unusual for long lines to form at Beitbridge around Christmas time, when thousands of South Africa-based Zimbabweans return home for the holidays, many commentators cited the covid-19 screenings that the two countries required travelers to undertake at the border as the cause of the delays this past holiday season. With that in mind, my paper will explore what this latest episode of traffic congestion at Beitbridge, and the manner in which officials on both sides of the border handled it, reveal about the history of illegal[ized] mobilities between Zimbabwe and South Africa.



Author:  Bill Ndi

Title:  Politics and COVID Pandemic Blend: A Recipe for Committed Literature

Abstract:  The COVID Pandemic having affected every sphere of human endeavor has changed the way people all over the world relate and how they perceive the world. In the area of literary creativity, writers as historians of a different genre, have had to document some of the perception and movements engendered by the COVID crisis. Some have been moved by the pandemic to explore the marriage of politics and misinformation regarding the virus. A critical reading of DJT: Directionless Jumping Train, shows how this marriage is reminiscent of nothing but an echo of the books title, viz. a directionless jumping train.



Author:  Kwaku Nti

Title:  Unrelenting Crisscrosses: Pandemic Imposed Restrictions and the Aflao (Ghana-Togo) Border

Abstract:  The modern era milling crowd that crisscrosses the various boundaries and borders, set in stone across the African continent as colonial creations, has forever been unrelenting. These traverses occur around social, economic, political, and even cultural considerations, hence adding to the sense of urgency attached to them. This paper discusses the Covid 19 restrictions on travelling and the consequent increased stream of people across unapproved routes along the international border between Ghana and Togo; with the resulting rise in calls from traditional rulers and youth political pressure groups upon the governments on either side to open the official routes despite the pandemic. These calls made upon economic urgency taking into consideration of the Aflao border on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) highway or the Trans West African Coastal Highway. Specifically wedge on the busy Abidjan-Lagos corridor; the enormity of human and vehicular traffic suffers great disruption with the slightest constraints. All these contemporary issues, especially for local communities have been aggravating given the lingering historical problems presented by the inconsiderate creation of that boundary. Specifically, the albatross of past issues surrounding this border include irredentism on the part of these modern states invoking precolonial authority, re-establishment of the original colonial states forcibly integrated or partitioned into others upon decolonization, ethnic cultural contiguities demands by affected local communities.



Author:  Wycliffe Njororai Simiyu

Title:  Migration destination patterns for East African Association Football Players

Abstract:  Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the migration patterns for association football players from East Africa including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda.

Methods: The study utilized archived data from CIES Football Observatory Performance Atlas ( The data was collected and published on 29.12.2020 showing the latest statistics on the number of football players from each country and the association in which they were playing professionally at the time of data collection. There were 146 leagues captured in 97 different associations. For this study, only players originating from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda were considered.  Results: There were a total of 53 players playing professional football in 25 countries including Egypt, South Africa, USA, Turkey, Sweden, Israel, Vietnam, Finland, Georgia, Algeria, Belgium, United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Albania, Belarus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, India, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia and Armenia. Kenya had 16, Uganda 18, Tanzania 8, Burundi 7, and Rwanda 4 professional players around the world. Discussion: Egypt, South Africa and USA are surprisingly the most popular destinations accounting for 32.1% of all destinations. The only countries that have at least one player from each East African country are Egypt and USA. Each of the countries of East Africa seem to have unique destinations that have no relationship to prior historical connections via colonization. East African players are seeking for opportunities regardless of cultural and political connections. Conclusion: East African association football players are widely scattered around the globe in places with minimal cultural and political ties. It shows the desire to find opportunities to earn a living from their sporting talent irrespective of any challenges they may encounter along the way.



Author:  Seth Palmer

Title:  Pan-Africanism and Malagasy Nationalism in the Marketing of Covid Organics

Abstract:  In 2020, Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina’s marketing campaign for Covid-Organics (CVO) was regularly featured on international news outlets, from BBC to Jeune Afrique. While Anglophone coverage of the island nation typically prioritizes narratives centered on anthropogenic environmental crisis and the fragile livelihoods of lemur species, these sensational news stories focused on Rajoelina’s promotion of an untested cure for the novel coronavirus. The herbal infusion (tambavy), principally composed of sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua) and ravintsara (Ravensara aromatica), appeared rather abruptly on the world stage. Yet CVO’s emergence is actually part of a much older nationalist project tied to the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA), which aims to document the island’s botanical diversity and produce affordable, local, plant-based medical remedies for the Malagasy population. In contrast to much of the small but rapidly growing scholarship in global public health that has both addressed and decontextualized the Malagasy “miracle cure,” in this paper I attempt to place CVO within its proper social and cultural context. By considering the deeper historical origins of the remedy―including earlier neo/post-colonial Malagasy political projects centered on the exceptionalism of endemic botanical lifeforms―and, furthermore, sifting through those Malagasy discourses employed by CVO’s promoters, including pop singer Tence Mena, one is provided with a richer understanding of Covid-Organics beyond the eye- catching headlines.



Author:  Ashley Parcells

Title:   ‘Our Language and Customs are Swazi, but we are Zulu’: Chieftaincy, Ethnicity, and Sovereignty in Ingwavuma

Abstract:  This paper uses newly available archival records to reconstruct the apartheid government’s attempts to transfer Ingwavuma, a multi-ethnic district in northern KwaZulu, to Swaziland. It argues that the convergence of Swazi independence and the creation of KwaZulu ushered in a new politics of ethnicity in which people in Ingwavuma sought, and at times were forced, to appeal to Zulu or Swazi affiliations to navigate new political crises. These crises were all the more acute with the growth of Zulu ethnic chauvinism and a fear of breakaway ethnic groups in KwaZulu. The chapter begins in the 1970s, when a succession dispute in the Mngomezulu chiefdom in Ingwavuma sparked new struggles over land and identity. The two claimants, Khethwayo and Ntujna Mngomezulu, framed their legitimacy through attachment to either the KwaZulu government or the Swazi king. The violence of this succession dispute forced the hardening of the categories of Zulu and Swazi identity, sparking initial discussions about the potential transfer of Ingwavuma to Swaziland. By the 1980s, the land transfer— and treating the district as Swazi – became a way for South Africa to gain Swaziland as a buffer zone against the threat of the ANC and other anti-apartheid forces. In the face of an unpopular land transfer, local chiefs and residents, many of whom were at times ethnically ambivalent, suddenly embraced historical narratives tying their land and people to the Zulu kingdom in order to oppose their loss of South African citizenship.



Author:  Chris Paul

Title:  Capacity and Complications: Understanding how the Ebola Crisis Affected the Function of Civil Service in Liberia

Abstract:  Disasters and epidemics test leadership and civil service, but how do the impacts of such events linger in the function of the state? Ebola infected many health workers, directly limiting treatment and care of the ill. Further, however, service provision by the government more broadly was disrupted as offices and schools closed, and civil servants themselves were threatened with the disease. With attention on disease control, there has been limited consideration of the secondary effects from the crisis of priority shifting, personnel changes, and risks. This study investigates the capacity of the Liberian Civil Service following the Ebola crisis of 2014-2015 using data from the Civil Service Agency of Liberia and textual data from the Government of Liberia and foreign aid sources. Although medical and public health initiatives ostensibly fall under the domain of specific agencies, the wide- reaching impact of Ebola both directly on the personnel of the agencies, and indirectly on the policy priorities and fiscal flows among agencies. Specifically, foreign aid disbursement, programming, and policy shifted the function and priority of services in government agencies. These policy shifts may have unintended consequences on government function and services in anticipation of future epidemics or risks.



Author:  Matthew Pflaum

Title:  Immobilization among the mobile: Coerced sedentarization of pastoralists through securitization, pandemic, and post-colonial policies

Abstract:  The COVID pandemic proved daunting for all groups in the world, disrupting typical patterns and livelihoods of employment, social relations, travel, education, and other domains of society. However, the disruption to inherently mobile populations like pastoralists is profound. The orders and policies for confinement, cessation of travel, and further border restrictions were yet another disruption to mobile pastoralists in the Sahel. The sedentarization of pastoralist groups has persisted for decades, provoked by colonial and post-colonial policies favoring settled and sedentary agriculture and industries, and increasing tensions with other groups occasionally resulting in eruptions of communal violence. The devastating impacts of rising competition for land and resources regularly excludes and marginalizes pastoralists, who are insufficiently protected through rural, pastoralist, and other land codes and policies, and often reside in fringe or peripheral zones with weak governance. The COVID pandemic – which globally restricted borders, mobility, and travel – would be most severe for groups that have to travel for their livelihoods. This paper explores some of the theoretical dimensions of pastoralist livelihoods in terms of mobile space and examines the potential ramifications of COVID restrictions on these highly mobile populations who depend heavily upon mobility for trade, grazing, and social relations.



Author:  Adrien Ratsimbaharison

Title:  Political Stability: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Abstract:  This paper is the introductory chapter of a project that I am currently writing. The book is entitled The Elusive Quest for Political Stability in Post-Cold War Africa and addresses the crucial question of why so many African countries are still trapped in endless or cyclical political instability since the end of the Cold War. This research project is both significant and timely as these African countries are struggling to solve this grave problem, and most of the studies that have been conducted on this issue thus far contain some serious flaws. Combining quantitative and qualitative research methods, this book identifies the major conditions and triggers of conflicts, which are the primary sources of political instability in Africa. The collection of the quantitative data (covering most countries in the world for the period of 1996-2016) and their partial analysis were completed during a sabbatical leave I took in the Fall semester 2018. I am currently collecting and analyzing the data on the most unstable African countries, using qualitative research method. The chapter I would like to present at this conference is entitled “Political Stability: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?” It deals, first of all, with the controversial definition, conceptualization, and measurement of political stability and/or instability. Next, it discusses why political stability and/or instability still matters and should be taken seriously not only by policy makers but also by scholars. Finally, it explains the approach and research methods used in the book.



Author:  Victoria Rovine

Title:  The Mobility of the Pith Helmet: A Colonial Accessory in France and French West Africa

Abstract:  The pith helmet, in French the casque colonial (literally “colonial helmet”), retains its associations with Europe’s colonial cultures into the present, extending its reach far beyond the demise of the colonies themselves.  While its most prominent association is with the Europeans and Americans who administered, explored, missionized, traded, and visited the sunny—and, in their view, dangerous—climes of the colonies in Africa and Asia, I demonstrate that its attachment to white bodies made this headwear a ready tool for West Africans who sought to partake in or subvert French power.  I follow the white dome of the helmet as it moves between colony and metropole, from the heads of administrators and other French sojourners in the colonies, to their compatriots in France, and to their affiliates among West African colonial subjects where it served as an extension of that power.  Yet, as I will describe, the same garment marked the limits of that power, as the pith helmet slipped from French control to become the subject of creative reimagining in the hands of West African consumers.



Author:  Cathy Skidmore-Hess

Title:  In the Grasp of the Lion: Twentieth Century Hunting, Economic Mobility and Development in Northern Botswana

Abstract:  In environmental studies, hunting has been a much-contested topic.  In North America and within southern Africa, it has been associated with extinctions, and even efforts at genocide. Likewise, studies of hunting have often focused on the ways in which hunting and poaching divided along lines of race and class.  Other works have approached hunting from the perspective of local knowledge, substance, and trade.   However, few studies have approached hunting as a lens for understanding the intersection of global development, local employment, and local practice.   This paper focuses on hunting in northern Botswana as an occupation at the intersection of globalization, development, and multiple environmental perspectives and avenues of knowledge.  As such it considers, colonial and post-colonial hunting and poaching policies.  It also explores hunting as a form of employment in development projects focused on tsetse fly control, plague, river clearance, and the development of national parks.  Based on memoirs, archival research, and interviews conducted in northern Botswana, it argues that development schemes at the local level often involved hunting as employment for local men and a lens through which development officials perceived local people and local landscapes.



Author:  Matthew Unangst

Title:  Mapping Mobilities in Precolonial and Colonial Africa

Abstract:  This paper analyzes the mapping of precolonial and colonial Africa, particularly the use of digital tools for the creation of those maps. I construct a critique of existing efforts to use Historical GIS for Africa before recent decades. The basis of any digital map is the translation of information into data to be classified and categorized, meaning that Historical GIS repeats the work of the colonial state to make African societies legible to European audiences. They fix African people and societies at a moment in time, making them appear static and classifiable. In the second half of the paper, I begin to develop ideas for a different mode of mapping that captures the complexities and mobilities of precolonial African societies; as Audre Lorde argued, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. By centering mobilities instead of the political states at the core of the European mapping tradition, I argue, we can develop a more productive means of mapping Africa that highlights African experiences and not colonial categories.



Author:  Denis Waswa

Title:  Reconstructing Black Humanism: “The Becoming Black of the World”

Abstract:  In Critique of Pure Reason, Kant classifies Western epistemologies about the human and the world as the sovereignty of reason and establishes Westernized rationality as the pure, untainted position of reason. To keep the status of reason pure and untainted, Kant’s model of rationality excludes Black people from attaining and accessing pure reason. While reducing Black people to the status of unreasoning, Kant engages in a familiar Western ontology that often erases and dehumanizes Black bodies from being. This colonial anti-Black rhetoric is what often grounds modernity, liberalism, and globalization that systemically reduces Black bodies and lives to commodities and/ or ruins (Kline 53). The Kantian model renders Blackness to a category that is exterior to the human of the world. By denying Blackness access to reason, Kant’s Western metaphysics stripes off Black bodies their individuality. While engaging Achille Mbembe’s Critique of Back Reason, this paper examines contemporary Western ontology that continues to unleash neoliberal epistemes that dismember Blackness from the category of the human. The questions that the paper explores include: Who and what makes up the category of the human? And why isn’t the Black body human like others in Western reason? I argue that there is a need to rehabilitate Blackness from the Kantian Western ontology which is founded on the history of colonial brutalism and global capitalism. Until such liberation is achieved, “Black humanism” that is free from the historical violence of enslavement, consumerism, and colonialism remains elusive.



Author:  Beth Whitaker

Title:  Border Proximity and Support for Free Movement: Evidence from Africa

Abstract:  Although borders often are conceptualized as barriers, they also represent opportunities. By crossing an international border, people can seek refuge from persecution, get higher prices for their crops, take advantage of better services, or pursue employment. People who live in border areas are better able to take advantage of these opportunities than people who live farther away and thus are more likely to recognize the benefits of an open border. At the same time, though, people in such areas are more likely to be negatively affected by any risks associated with the border, including possible refugee influxes and security threats. In this paper, I seek to understand how proximity to a border influences attitudes toward the free movement of people and goods in Africa. Using geocoded Afrobarometer survey data from nearly 54,000 respondents in 36 African countries, I examine whether proximity to an international border influences respondents’ level of support for the free movement of people and goods. The analysis shows that respondents who live in closer proximity to an international land border are significantly more likely to support free movement than those who live farther away. These findings hold when controlling for a range of other possible influences on attitudes toward free movement. Although the data were collected prior to the pandemic, the conclusion considers how the public health threat may influence public opinion.