This PECE essay helps to answer the STS Across Borders analytic question: “What people, projects, and products exemplify how this STS formation has developed over time?” This essay highlights prominant and upcoming individuals working on critical science and technology issues in Africa and is part of a broader exhibit on "STS in Africa."
A desire for putting together this exhibit was to not only destabilize the idea of “Africa” but also to take a broader understanding of what STS means across the world and normalize different modes of knowledge production that might not readily be recognized as STS work (e.g. iHub Research). As the exhibit creaters, we sought to show that “STS” means a great variety of different things. Despite time and capacity constraints, we therefore attempted to pull into one frame some of the wide diversity of projects being done on science and technology across diverse parts of the African continent. This diversity of scholars and scholarship means that we have a community included in the exhibit that widely differ in their understanding of science and its social contract even as they all work on topics related to STS.
In determining which subset of the broader community to include in this first iteration of the exhibit, we took as our starting point those who were likely to be participating in the forthcoming 2018 4S for which this exhibit was compiled. Thus we attempted to include as many as we could from the 2018 and 2017 program abstracts relevant to “STS in Africa” as well as the forthcoming STS in Africa pre-conference workshop attendees. We also sought to include those who may not usually be part of STS conversations. We did this by crowdsourcing for those who consider themselves to be doing critical studies of science and technology in Africa (see the call for participation here). To respect and appreciate the time of those who responded to our public survey as well as to work towards broadening what is considered “STS in Africa”, we decided to include all individuals from whom survey responses were received (eight total).
Scholars working on Science and Technology in Africa have worked on a wide range of project topics related to cultural astronomy (Holbrook; Segla); innovation and entrepreneurship (Wahome; Mavhunga; Avle; Densmore; Odumosu; Mwenda; Burrell); hardware “hacking” (Coban; Mboa Nkoudou); data (Biruk; Tichenor; Bezuidenhout); genomics (Okeke; Pollock); intellectual property (Foster; Osseo-Asare); urbanism (Adelusi-Adeluyi); health, healing and medicine (Livingston; Meek; Langwick; Pollock; Tantchou; Hamdy; Benton; Osseo-Asare); capital (Peterson; Breckridge); capacity (Tousignant; Okeke); energy (Osseo-Asare; Hecht); environment (Rarieya; Green; Solomon; Juma); imperialism (Tilley); scholarly mobility and infrastructures (Bernard; Auerbach; Okonkwo; Lachenal; Mwangola); humanitarianism and “development” (Peterson; Bernal; Biruk; Burrell; Benton); new media (Opeibi; Bernal; Avle); biometrics (Vally; Breckridge); race and gender (Pollock; Benton; Twagira; Okonkwo).
Categorization remains a challenge given that STS in Africa scholars’ work crosses diverse time scales, locations (including online/diaspora), disciplines, methodological approaches, and audiences. Given constrained time to compile the exhibit, we were not able to include all whom we would have liked to include. However, the intent of the exhibit is not to be comprehensive, rather, we seek to highlight some of the diversity of backgrounds, approaches, career paths, and project interests that make up the STS in Africa community. We hope this will be a starting point to think about who is, wants to be, and should be part of the conversation about what STS means in/on/from African contexts.