the arrival of the gun, use of poison, tsetse plague and other diseases.
Mavhunga includes many figures that he created himself and also images from various archives (Black Bvekenyas Project (BBP), TKAV).
He notes in his references section: “The ethnographic material for this book is extracted from two projects I have conducted since 2008 that are dedicated to gathering (using digital cameras, camcorder, and computers) what ordinary people in the rural African countryside know and storing these resources within the communities for use in innovation. Brief histories of these projects are given below to orientate the reader on the nature of the archives, a fraction of which has been used in this book.” (257)
He also notes two respositories/archives he helps to run :
“Traditional Knowledge of African Villages (TKAV), Makuleke, South Africa: TKAV emerged in 2008 as an initiative to collect and record the indigenous knowl- edge of rural communities to address our day-to-day challenges. Thus far we have produced more than 1 terabyte of video and audio materials covering topics such as indigenous energy strategies, environment and ecology, medicinal plants, folklore, music, art, proverbs, as well as the history, culture, and economy of the Makuleke dating back to circa 1750. I oversee the project while Elmon Magezi Chauke, a member of the Makuleke community, conducts the day-to-day research activities.”
“The Black Bvekenyas Project (BBP), Chibwedziva, Zimbabwe: The Black Bvekenyas Project began in 2010. Its purpose is to document the life and afterlives of the famous ivory poacher Cecil Barnard, whom locals called Bvekenya, from the perspectives of his black children and grandchildren. Through it, his black grandchildren are trying to tell not only the stories of their lives, but also the his- tories of maTshangana. Thus the project has a 20 GB store of knowledge already collected since 2010. Solomon Bvekenya, a grandson of the famous “poacher,” is coordinating the interviews on a day-to-day basis, while I review material collected, identify gaps, and draft questions and potential leads for further interviews and site visits to ensure that the narratives are told as fully as possible.” (257)
Mavhunga uses “innovation” to mean the act of introducing something new, be it a method or a thing, either from scratch or from outside.(8)
Mavhunga introduces and refers to vaShona and maTshangana epistemologies to think about technology and telling African stories about innovation (19).
Mavhunga notes the social network of people who were key nodes of information sharing (e.g. Javuendava pg 155 and MaTshangana’s network page 180). He also notes some people as being key in shielding the information and protecting it (dying instead of sharing the info page 197) while others sold out and shared the information (page 204). The “data” and “info” therefore are not technical in this case but human. This evokes Simone AbdouMalique's idea of "people as infrastructure", esp. in the context of information sharing.
Mavhunga looks at the professoriate of the hunt in Zimbabwe, defined as “a spiritually guided institution and practice that educated boys in the chase through doing” (20). This is also against the contemporary phenomenon of “cynide poachers” (7). He frames the African villagers as the designers using cyanide as a resource to turn a large mammal into ivory for sale to markets and users in Asia and the rest of the world rather than to trace the journey of cyanide and firearms from their “designers” overseas to their “users” in Zimbabwe. Seeking to reveal the “everyday innovation” in Africa and counter the narratives about the continent, Mavhunga chooses a site from which to explore technology where the concept might “tell us something we do not hear often in prevailing narratives—the site of ordinary people and their innovations or creativities, things that few would consider technological.” (16)
He is keen to focus on a history of African technologies—and not just technology in Africa.
Mavhunga historicizes poaching as a historical example of the means and ways with which ordinary people engage in creative activities directed toward solving their problems and generating values relevant to their needs and aspirations. (7)
Mavhunga leverages a “capacities” approach to pay attention to the capacities people already have that enable them to import and deploy innovations.
Mavhunga frames an ecological topic (poaching) with innovation and design literatures and STS works. He notes that he is “starting from African vernaculars to establish dialogue with the designer-user interfaces explored in the works of Pinch and Bijker (1984), Woolgar (1991), Oudshoorn and Pinch (2003), and Edgerton (2007).” He flips the typical narratives about Western designers and African users to pay attention to African agency (8).
Mavhunga draws on postcolonial scholars like Fanon, Njamnjoh, Mbembe, etc. to situate his work against narratives about Africa as dark chaos (10)
Mavhunga in some ways is responding to informatics and development work on “users” to point out that instead of being “mere users” Africans are designers. They are not just appropriating technology but actually making it. (16)
Mavhunga cites Hecht and builds on her concept of nuclearity and its multiplicity of meanings in different contexts to argue that technnology also is not the same for everyone and at different moments in time (16).
Mavhunga leverages vaShona and maTshangana epistemologies to think about mobility as a “methodology for exposing technologies of everyday innovation and the productive value and role of movement.” (20)
“national park or game reserve in Africa as a colonial relic struggling to adjust to a postcolonial reality” (5)
Mavhunga reasserts critiques of top-down development writing that “development continues to be for them, but not with them” and that the “partnership” between rich and poor countries, politicians and “their” people, (non)governmental organizations and villagers, overseas and local universities, and the university and communities, becomes merely a partnership between a rider and a horse, the one enjoying the ride and directing the itinerary, the other shouldering the burden and doing as ordered (Mavhunga 2007b).
“This is why development, conservation, technology, and innovation projects fail, not only in Africa or the global south, but universally. The view of partnership as a relationship between “us” as riders and ordinary people as horses also forecloses a view to ordinary people as creative beings in their own right.” (relevant for the collaboration doc as well). (7)
Mavhunga is pushing against global narratives about Africa (as dark chaos, helplessly poor, always importing expertise and innovation from the West) to highlight instead how Africans are themselves initiating the movements—of technology, capital, commodities, and other cultural goods. He is keen to highlight the creative agency of Africans, noting that “they are not necessarily appropriating modernities external to them, but are involved in a process of exchange, emitting their own things in exchange for those of the outside world. The goods are not just coming to them; they are actively constructing transnational networks through their own mobilities in the world—or those of their goods” (11)
Clapperton wonders how to avoid ordering the story in such an “already appropriated” register and decides to do so by beginning with African technology and its itineraries, on the one hand, and incoming technology and its itineraries, on the other. He draws on STS work (Latour and Woolgar 1979; Akrich 1992) to understand “where an incoming artifact is coming from and how its originators think they can delegate to a thing, by virtue of its interpretively flexible materiality, the power to configure users.” (15)
Clapperton’s main questions are: “what happens to these properties when the incoming thing comes into contact with Africans? Does it come already as a technology and configure the Africans as users, or do Africans assign it meanings and functions as a means (if that’s what we mean by technology) of performing specific projects of their own?
“What happens if we also extend the register of “designer” (or its equivalent) so that it is no longer just the scientist or engineer who invented the thing that then travels, but also the African who is coming into contact with, or importing, it? What if the “laboratory” is no longer the Western building where science is practiced, but the crop field, the forest, and other “open” and (en)closed places where knowledge is made and turned into tangible practical outcomes? What if we invert the subject of analysis, such that it is no longer just incoming things that are “interpretively (in)flexible,” “(im)mutable mobiles,” or “inscription devices,” but also African technologies? The “African” here refers to what might otherwise be called “indigenous”—by which I specifically mean things derived from within and by African societies.” (16)
Mavhunga is also keen to address the assumption of the village and rurality as “backwards” (and with it indigenous knowledge). He argues that “the urban focus of Africanist scholarship, both as represented by the research topics of faculty as well as students, and the tendency to prioritize the colonial and postcolonial periods, reinforces this. Thus, he turns to the village space to illustrate how guided mobility was also, at core, a mobile workspace.” (40)
Mavhunga is particularly strong in his techno and eco level of analysis, focusing on the historical materiality of poaching and hunting technologies. He focuses less on the meso (organizational) level.
Mavhunga pushes back against the humanitarian desire to help Africa (leveraging postcolonial scholarship) to highlight African agency and the creative capacity of Africans innovating everyday. By doing so, he seeks to bring about a change in perceptions about the continent as helpless and in need of assistance and rather as creative and desiring of partnership/business (11).