Call for proposals: Ethnographies of interconnection in contemporary Africa

Mid- and late-stage graduate students conducting ethnographic research on African contexts (broadly defined) are invited to submit abstracts for a paper workshop focused on “Ethnographies of Interconnection,” to be held April 19-21, 2018 at Cornell University. This is a wonderful opportunity to discuss key theoretical and methodological issues with students and faculty, and to receive feedback on work-in-progress. Funds are available to cover participants’ travel and lodging.

Ethnographies of interconnection in contemporary Africa: A writing workshop for graduate students
April 19-21, 2018 – Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Organizers: Ewan Robinson, Janet Smith (Cornell Development Sociology)
Faculty facilitator: Hannah Appel (UCLA Anthropology)

In his 2014 book “Emerging Africa,” Nigerian Central Bank Governor Kingsley Moghalu argues that the African Continent is the “Global Economy’s Last Frontier.” His claim is perplexing: how can a world region that played a central role in the constitution of modern states and trade systems be said to be a 21st century frontier? While historically inaccurate, this and other narratives that portray Africa as disconnected and non-global have important political effects, including rendering people, resources, and knowledge available for powerful global projects of resource extraction and/or humanitarianism. Responding to these narratives and to lacunae in conventional research methodologies, a burgeoning literature in has employed historical and ethnographic approaches to trace the ways that both Africa and “the global” have been and continue to be formed precisely through processes of interaction and co-constitution in multiple social domains, including capitalist exchange, inter-state relations, and the production of (social) scientific knowledge. In a critical methodological move, key analytics such as Anna Tsing’s “friction” (2005) show that projects become global precisely by connecting particular places, people, and rationale. Studying these articulations of difference in ethnographic and historical detail is a vital agenda for critical research on contemporary economic, cultural, and political forms in and of Africa.

This paper workshop – facilitated by Prof. Hannah Appel (UCLA Anthropology) and Lori Leonard (Cornell Development Sociology) – will bring together graduate students researching global projects using ethnographic, historical, and/or relational approaches. Through inter-disciplinary discussions and in-depth engagement with one another’s work, participants will seek to advance theoretical and methodological insights into the ethnographic study of global interconnections. Workshop sessions will focus on exchanging feedback, rather than lengthy presentations. Two weeks prior to the workshop, all participants will be required to submit an article or dissertation chapter, and all will prepare brief commentaries on one of their peer’s papers. In the second part of the workshop, we aim to work collectively to develop synthetic and comparative insights, with guidance from the faculty facilitators. We welcome applications from mid- and late-stage graduate students in any field of social inquiry, particularly those engaging with innovative methodological approaches to interconnection, including multi-sited ethnography, critical feminist methods, techno-ethnographies, studying up, etc.

Faculty facilitators           
The workshop will be led and facilitated by Hannah Appel (Anthropology UCLA) as well as Lori Leonard (Development Sociology, Cornell).

The workshop will provide meals and lodging for all participants, and will pay for flights/travel up to $450.

Potential Topics
By no means an exhaustive list, we anticipate this workshop would be valuable to graduate students researching some of the following topics:
–           Diasporas and migration
–           Entrepreneurship in discourse and practice
–           Finance, banking, and microfinance
–           Social movements
–           Religious networks
–           Investments in land, water, and infrastructure
–           Commodity/value chains
–           Mobile technology and IT platforms
–           Global governance mechanisms
–           Multilateral lending institutions
–           South-South cooperation

Submitting abstracts
Please submit an abstract of 250 words to Ewan Robinson at by Monday, January 22, 2018. All applicants will be notified of their participation status by February 2. Please include “CFP Global Ethnographies” in the subject line of the email. Feel free to get in touch with questions.

Appel, H. 2017. “Toward an Ethnography of the National Economy.” Cultural Anthropology 32(2):294–322.
Bear, L., K. Ho, A.L. Tsing & S. Yanagisako. 2015. “Gens: A Feminist Manifesto for the Study of Capitalism”. Fieldsights: Theorizing the Contemporary.
Ferguson, J. 2006. Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order. Durham, London: Duke University Press.
Gupta, A, and J. Ferguson. 1992. “Beyond ‘Culture’: Space, Identity, and the Politics of Difference.” Cultural Anthropology 7(1): 6–23.
Moghalu, Kingsley Chiedu. 2014. Emerging Africa: How the Global Economy’s ‘Last Frontier’ Can Prosper and Matter. London: Penguin Books.
Tsing, A.L. 2005. Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.