META: What discourses does the analyst consider/leverage to characterize/theorize science and technology in Africa?


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Angela Okune's picture
August 8, 2018
  • 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)

Angela Okune's picture
August 7, 2018

  • Tousignant leverages a loss narrative to think about what scientific capacity, both narrowly and broadly defined, means in settings of (threatened) peripheralization, scarcity, dependence, and stagnation. She cites Geissler’s work which describes a shared idea of working towards a better future in which the progressive principle of science fused with individual career ambitions and societal projects of development to argue that such forward-moving, synchronous, equivalent capacity has never been more than a promise that has grown increasingly elusive.

  • Tousignant looks at the loss of the plausibility of toxicology as equivalent both in its capacity to advance, or keep up, and in its capacity to protect in Senegal.

  • Tousignant also uses a vocabulary of temporality and rhythmn as her overall framing to describe and think about capacity.

  • Tousignant notes discourses about “Africanizing” science or “Senegalizing” science when cuts in both French assistance and Senegalese state funding in the 1980s led to lab leadership being handed over from French to Senegalese. She also notes a later period of “Sahelian” ecotoxicology when eco-toxicology’s methods were being  “Sahelianized” to durable relocation in Sahelian institutions.

  • She builds on work related to infrastructures to think through the relations between time, science, and the public good.


Angela Okune's picture
August 7, 2018

An Eritrean border war near the turn of the century created a tense climate of war, there existed harsh censorship, lack of free press, and firm punishment of dissenters. Bernal argues that these factors sparked the perfect foundation for the Eritrean diaspora to mobilize and affect politics in their homeland through cyberspace.

Angela Okune's picture
August 6, 2018
  • Pollock draws on the Comaroffs (postcolonial scholars from Africa). She puts herself in conversation with STS work on laboratories in the global South and argues for a material analysis of them, especially looking at how place figures into laboratory sciences.

  • Pollock includes a slogan that emerged from her interviews “African solutions for African problems” - this is something that also circulates VERY much in the Kenyan tech context as a justification for why Kenya (and Kenyans) are uniquely positioned to make tech in Kenya (851). Pollock notes that in this notion of ‘African solutions’, ‘African’ refers to African labs and scientists, not African plants or traditional healers. The endeavor of these scientists is not African in any ethnoscience sense, but it is rooted in place.”

  • Pollock draws on sociotechnical imaginaries (Jasonoff and Kim) as vital sites for imagining collective visions of society.

  • Pollock draws on the work about African botanical knowledge done by Osseo-Asare and Langwick); Alondra Nelson’s concept of bioculture brokers (688); Warwick Anderson’s “conjugated subjects.”

Angela Okune's picture
August 6, 2018
  • Tilley primarily situates the work in colonial British history. She also draws on postcolonial African studies like Mudimbe (The Invention of Africa) and Talal Asad. In contrast to arguments made by Mudimbe or Asad, Tilley makes it much more difficult to make the argument that there is a dominant colonial episteme imposed upon Africa -- that knowledge is made through many different modes and many actors, in conflict/tension with one another.

Angela Okune's picture
August 3, 2018

Biruk builds on scholarly discourse (called critical data studies?; sociology of quantification?) about how numbers, categories and statistics are produced by their social contexts and actors.