How does this innovation interrupt habitual modes of doing STS?


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Angela Okune's picture
July 25, 2019

AO: This excerpt from the interview raises the argument that of the work that is published and distributed, there is little content of relevance to working class Kenyans. This is an important point especially for Open Data and Open Access advocates and scholars and STS scholars - both Kenyan and non-Kenyans alike who work in Kenya -- to mull over. Beyond opening up content (which is important indeed, don't get me wrong), how relevant is the information for everyday research participants? In what forms is STS work being disseminated and by and for whom? Well-known for offering important theoretical understandings of translation work, how actively are we ourselves involved in doing and facilitating that such translation of our own outputs? With whom does/should that responsibility lie?

...the key issue is the content of published material. While it was possible in colonial times for Mau Mau to publish over 50 newspapers, publishing such alternative material is not possible today in Kenya, so strong is the grip of the ruling classes on people’s freedom to exchange ideas and experiences. While there is an increase in the volume and print quality of published material, it is the content that has suffered. Little of relevance to working people, who are the majority of Kenyans, is published and distributed. Yet the availability of social media is forcing change in society. It remains to be seen how this translates into the publishing sector. New forms and content of books and other material can flow directly from such technological changes.

(Shiraz Durrani and Kimani Waweru)

Angela Okune's picture
July 19, 2019

AO: This block quote reposted from the conclusion of Isaacman et al. (2005) asks how the archive c/should become viewed as a site not of authority, but of democratic debate and reconfiguration beyond official histories.

"Historians of Africa, who seek out the continent’s post-colonial or post-apartheid futures, understand that the archive cannot merely be approached as a storehouse of historical raw materials: in post-colonial Africa, the archive is the site where the politics of history is rendered meaningful and effective. The image of a historian mining the archive at the beginning of writing therefore requires serious revision. What is equally critical is the form that the recomposition of the archive takes and the quality of historical narration it supports, against the power of inherited orthodoxies, when the historian is unexpectedly unmasked as the new archivist. The modalities of collecting that serve as the foundation of an archive of cadastral prose—of official documents relating to institutions of power—with its obligations to the state, or one that privileges a sense of history as hagiography, no longer adequately serve to answer the demands made on the archive by the public sphere. The question that emerges in the aftermath of the decentering of the archive as state institution is how the archive might work as a public institution—as a space, not of authority, but of democratic debate. By this statement, we do not merely mean to ask how the archive can be made more accessible, or how we might expand its purview to include the perspectives of those who are marked by a prior exclusion: we seek to understand how the reconfiguring of the archive is the point at which a postcolonial history might surpass the limitations of official histories. The question of digitization has to come to terms with the discussion of the archive that has emerged in histories of the struggles against colonialism (Guha 1988; Lalu 2000; Stoler 2002)." (page 75)