Okune, Angela. 2018. "STS in Africa: Deutero." In PhD Orals Document: Querying Science and Technology Studies in Africa, created by Angela Okune. PhD Orals Document. UC Irvine Anthropology. October.
This essay answers the analytic question: "How is this analyst denoting and "worrying" about “Africa”?. Within the annotated set, STS scholars working with diverse epistemic communities in “Africa” have indicated concerns with how transnational scientific partnerships and agreements are reproducing colonial power dynamics (Crane 2010; Coban 2018) and how to move beyond oversimplified (Tichenor 2017; Bezuidenhout 2017), deficit models (Wenzel and Tousignant, 2016) towards more agential ways (Mavhunga 2014) to decolonizing the production of scientific knowledge (Foster 2017, Wahome 2018) and thinking about Africa’s contribution to the world (and global theory) (Breckenridge 2015, 2018; Tousignant 2018).
This essay is part of a broader orals document by Angela Okune querying Science and Technology Studies in Africa. Sub-essays within the orals doc can be accessed directly through the following links: Discursive Risk; Deutero; Meta; Macro; Micro; Nano; Techno; Data; Eco.
Bernal, Victoria. 2014. Nation as Network: Diaspora, Cyberspace, and Citizenship . University of Chicago Press.
Bezuidenhout, Louise, Ann H. Kelly, Sabina Leonelli, and Brian Rappert. 2017. “‘$100 Is Not Much To You’: Open Science and Neglected Accessibilities for Scientific...Read more
Within the annotated set, STS scholars working with diverse epistemic communities in “Africa” have indicated concerns with how transnational scientific partnerships and agreements are reproducing colonial power dynamics (Crane 2010; Coban 2018) and how to move beyond oversimplified (Tichenor 2017), deficit models (Wenzel and Tousignant, 2016) towards more agential ways (Mavhunga 2014) to decolonizing the production of scientific knowledge (Foster 2017, Wahome 2018) and thinking about Africa’s contribution to the world (and global theory) (Breckenridge 2015, 2018; Tousignant 2018).
Breckenridge (2014) was animated by questions related to Africa’s contribution to global (intellectual) histories. In 2015’s “Biometric State,” he asked: “Why does South African history matter?” and in a 2018 paper, he asked what happened to theories about African capitalism. Tousignant also wondered: "what, if anything, is distinctive about toxicology in Senegal?” as a way to move away from "have/have not" binaries of "resource rich" and "resource poor" and instead assuming that toxicology everywhere is unprotective.
Laura Foster (2017) noted: “The mere recognition or inclusion of indigenous knowledge will not be sufficient to unsettle those relations in today’s market-based hierarchies that differentially value certain ways of knowing and being over others nor is a truly just and prosperous nonracial future likely to be forged within scientific and legal practices that remain tied more to market than to social justice principles” (130). Similarly, Anne Pollock (2014) asked: "What if postcolonial Africa were to become a prominant place of not just raw materials and end users but of the basic science of pharmaceutical knowledge-making?" (849). Both of these questions denote a concern with decolonizing the production and ownership of scientific work in Africa, moving beyond "extractive" models towards more agential models.
Despite sharing a scholarly desire for more egalitarian scientific production (e.g. Foster 2017; Densmore 2018), Green cautioned the turn to pit "indigenous knowledge" in opposition to "Science", which she holds does not advance an important conversation that still needs to be had (see this sub-essay and this video for greater detail of the South African context from which Green writes).
As also noted in the meta sub-essay, Crane (looking at global health partnerships) and Coban (looking at hardware "making") share an interest in how transnational scientific partnerships and agreements produce new relationships, groups, languages, and technologies even as they reproduce colonial power dynamics. They are both worried about how funding bodies determine whose science travels (Crane, 2010: 852) and also how it structures the work produced (Coban 2018). Whereas Coban (2018)'s interest in the politics of innovation focused on the politics of funding agendas and the replication of colonial inequalities, von Schnitzler (2013) is interested in the techno-politics of innovation and how technical devices themselves are assembled and re-assembled in relation to particular ethical regimes and political projects.
Tichenor (2017) is worried about the use of data to over-simplify the complex realities of global health in Africa in order to develop technocentric fixes to Africa's "problems." Mavhunga (2014) is concerned by global narratives about Africa (as dark chaos, helplessly poor, always importing expertise and innovation from the West) and is interested in highlighting the creative agency of Africans, noting that “they are not necessarily appropriating modernities external to them, but are involved in a process of exchange.” He is grappling with finding broader ways to denote innovations than terms like "scientist" or "engineer" or "laboratory," animated by the question: “What do Science, Technology and Innovation Mean from Africa?” He lands on a definition of innovation as “the act of introducing something new, be it a method or a thing, either from scratch or from outside.”
Tousignant (2018) is interested in similar questions related to the politics of scientific infrastructures in Africa, but she is approaching the topic from a different perspective, worrying more about the public characteristic of "capacity", which she and Geissler (2016) define as “the skills, technologies and infrastructure that are transferred, built or sought out.” Given her ethnographic focus on public science organizations (rather than Coban and von Schnitzler who work with private companies), Tousignant notes the various valences to the notion of capacity: material but also affective and temporal. Related to Tousignant's interest in capacity in Africa, Okeke (2011) is specifically interested in how diagnostic practices can be improved in Africa through increased laboratory capacity. This is largely informed by her own work as a practicing genomic scientist and her experiences working in local clinics in Nigeria. In response to growing calls for open data in Africa, Bezuidenhout et al. (2017) are worried about the lack of capacity (although they do not explicitly call it such) of making science "open" (or using science that has been made "open") in African contexts. They identify the often unmarked labor of contextualizing, cleaning and curating data so it can be searched and utilized online. This echoes a point made in the techno sub-essay that, as Geissler and Tousignant (2016) explained, capacity is meant to last, but to do so it must be “remembered, accumulated, repaired and protected.”
Michel Wahome (August 20, 2018): "Continued work in the development of decolonial epistemology so that Africa can speak about and for itself." Read more