Researching Africa Day provides postgraduates with the opportunity to engage with fellow researchers, exchange information, share experiences and discuss research strategies. The workshop is open to all graduates working on Africa within the disciplines of history, politics, development studies, geography, art and literature, anthropology, archaeology and the natural sciences. The theme of this year’s workshop is: ‘African Expertise: Knowledge and Power in Researching Africa?’ A key issue underlying this theme is the importance of the ‘voice’ or the agency of those being researched. The workshop aims to shed light on the roles and responsibilities of the researcher, as well as those of the ‘researched.’ To this end, we invite papers on, but not limited to, the following sub-themes:
Gaining access and acceptance
Researchers are sometimes considered ‘outsiders’ by the community they are researching, and as such, in-depth access to the life and resources of these communities may be restricted. Gatekeepers, such as official or self-appointed authorities may hinder access. Even the physical appearance of the researcher, their culture, gender or language may affect their research opportunities. To what extent do researchers have to ‘fit in’ with the communities they research and how does this impact upon the knowledge they produce?
Critical reflections on different research methods
Research in Africa employs a wide range of methodological ‘tools’, both individually and in an inter-disciplinary framework. Papers around this theme could include considerations of the use, validity and value of research methods and sources of information, including, for example, oral history, indigenous knowledge, archival research, participant observation, media and visual methods, as well as critical assessments of qualitative and quantitative research strategies.
Ethics and accountability of the researcher
Some of the questions that researchers reflect upon during and after the fieldwork process involve issues around ‘giving back’ to the communities or areas that are studied. Do we owe the research participants or gatekeepers anything? Do we have rights to the information we collect? Do gatekeepers have the right to control how data is used? Papers could include a discussion of alternative ways of disseminating research findings?
Reflecting on applied work in African countries
Researchers may sometimes enter the field prior to, during, or after involvement in the country in a different capacity, for example, as advisers to the government, as journalists, or as consultants. How does this influence the research process, if at all?
The workshop will be structured around these sub-themes, allowing for brief (15-20 minutes) presentations by postgraduates who have recently engaged in research on or fieldwork in Africa, followed by a discussion between the panellists and the audience.
We invite papers dealing with the issues outlined above, and all submissions should take the initial form of an abstract of 200 words to be sent to the organisers by 15 January 2007. While pre-circulated papers are not required, workshop proceedings would be a valuable resource to all those working on Africa. Should you wish to have your paper available electronically on the African Studies Centre website, please email a copy of the full paper to the organisers at least one week before the workshop.
We welcome participation from students outside of Oxford and while the cost of travel is not customarily reimbursed, appeals for assistance with travel expenses will be considered on the basis of hardship. Limited accommodation for those who wish to stay the night is available at certain colleges at your own expense. When sending your abstract, please indicate your needs with regard to a) financial support with transport costs, b) special dietary requirements and c) accommodation.
Please circulate details regarding the workshop as widely as possible.
Stacey Hynd (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Marcelle Dawson (email@example.com)
Organisers, Research Africa Day 2007
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