CALL FOR PAPERS
15th Annual Researching Africa Day Workshop
Wednesday, 12 March 2014
St Antony’s College, Oxford
Researching Africa Day provides graduate students with the opportunity to network with fellow researchers, exchange information, discuss research strategies, and develop ideas in a constructive, stimulating, and engaging environment. The workshop is open to all graduates working on Africa within the disciplines of history, politics, economics, development studies, literature, anthropology, sociology, social policy, geography, public health, and the natural sciences.
The title of this year’s workshop is:
‘It’s Complicated’: Critical Reflections on the Lived Experience of Research in Africa
Conducting research in Africa is never straight-forward. Whether you’re conducting ethnographic fieldwork, large-scale surveys, or archival work, research is often experienced as a series of challenges, compromises and, if you’re lucky, small victories. False starts, distractions, and detours often define the process as much as insight and accepted methodologies. Yet, these moments of tension or even failure can turn out to be productive, encouraging theoretical or methodological innovation, and may even become the focal point of research.
The conventional understanding of the research process – design, implementation, analysis, writing up, then publishing – does not adequately account for the lived experience of research in all its complexity. This year’s workshop explores the complications of research and potential strategies to negotiate them. We are particularly interested in the production of knowledge, politics, gender, and in defining new research questions and methodologies for the future.
We invite papers that speak to any of the following themes and sub-themes:
1) Managing Risks and Expectations
Theme one examines the risk-taking, compromise, and improvisation that are sometimes required of researchers in Africa. How did the specific challenges you encountered in the field inform your research methodology, and how did you work around or through them, or not? How did you build relationships with research partners? How did you manage conflicting expectations (i.e. your own versus those of other stakeholders)? How were you forced to compromise in ways that you hadn’t expected and/or for which you were not prepared?
2) Fictions and Frictions
Theme two considers research in terms of performance and politics. How is research a performance, how is knowledge produced, and what are the politics and ethics involved? Can the validity of our data ever be guaranteed? How was the ‘truth’ variously constructed by different actors and how did this affect your understanding and the way you now present your research? What are the implications of this for policy-making? How did you negotiate any ethical frictions and/or ambiguities you experienced?
3) Gender Trouble
Theme three discusses the gendered experiences of research – from constructions of masculinity, femininity, and LGBT identities, to local understandings of sexuality, intimacy, and even gender-based violence. How did gender inform, challenge, restructure, or restrict your research? How was your gender identity constructed by those around you, and how did you negotiate this? How did gender politics play out in your research? Was gender a ‘problem’?
4) New Research Horizons
Theme four explores new approaches and theoretical frameworks for researching Africa. Is there something unique about conducting research in Africa rather than, say, in Europe or East Asia? Is current research pushing boundaries and moving beyond the conventional frameworks and biases that have come to dominate research in Africa? What new research questions and methodologies will come to define future research in and on Africa? How is your research speaking to this? What are the unresolved issues and new horizons?
* * * * *
We invite papers on the themes outlined above. Presentations should be between 12 and 15 minutes, followed by a discussion between the panellists and the audience. Please send an abstract of your paper of 200 words by 14th February 2014.
We particularly welcome participation from students beyond Oxford. While the cost of travel is not normally reimbursed, appeals for assistance with travel expenses will be considered in exceptional circumstances. We have limited funding and encourage speakers to pursue funding opportunities at their home institutions first. Accommodation for those who wish to stay the night may be available at your own expense.
Please circulate this announcement to colleagues as widely as possible, and address your submissions and enquiries to:
Adam Gilbertson and Andrea Grant
Organisers, Researching Africa Day 2014
Adam Gilbertson and Andrea Grant
African Studies Centre
University of Oxford
13 Bevington Road
Oxford Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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