UCL African Studies Research Centre


UCL African Studies Seminar Series

UCL Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre

UCL African Studies Research Centre (UCL Institute of Advanced Studies) is pleased to announce the inauguration of a regular lunchtime seminar series. During the 2016/2017 academic year the series will explore Africanist research conducted by UCL staff. Seminars will cover a wide range of topics and disciplines.

Autumn/Winter 2017

Seminars will be held on Thursdays 1-2.30 pm pm, seminar room 20 at the Institute of Advanced Study (Wilkins building in the South wing, 1st floor).

11th October Murray Last (UCL Anthropology)

'The economics of insurgencies in pre- and post-colonial northern Nigeria'


The Waziri of Sokoto, ca. 1962. Photograph: Murray Last

Insurgencies, whether pre-colonial or post-colonial, require cash – without it, markets are closed to the insurgents; the grass-roots, so essential to an insurgency, turn against men (and their families) who, in their desperation for food, steal rather than buy. Yet insurgents are rarely rich: radical ideologies, unproven by victory (yet?), are not great money-spinners, at least not in northern Nigeria. And a skint preacher, no matter how charismatic, can’t always attract enough of the tough men he needs if he is to win.

In this seminar I will discuss some of the ways money has been raised, both in the 19th century jihad of Shaikh ‘Uthman dan Fodio and in today’s northeastern Nigeria. In both instances, there is currently a huge problem with data: insurgent accountants may have been there, but their notes tend not to survive.

25th October *Markku Hokkanen (University of Oulu)

'Quinine, malarial fevers and mobility in South-Central Africa: a biography of ’European fetish’, 1859-1949' 


‘Livingstone Rousers’ by Burroughs Wellcome, 1896 (Wellcome Library, London)

Quinine was an exceptional drug in the colonial era that offered both protection and cure against malaria (and many other ills). A biographical approach to quinine provides new perspectives on histories of colonial exploration and conquest, pharmaceutical production and medical culture involving both professionals and laypeople. The Malawi region was highly significant in the historical geography of quinine: David Livingstone’s Zambesi expedition experimented with the drug, the fortunes of which waxed and waned over the course of colonial conquest and rule. At first an expensive medicine reserved for Europeans, quinine gradually became available to some Africans (despite considerable fluctuations in its reputation and usage). This paper explores the invention, production, mobility and use of quinine in South-Central Africa. It highlights the contested question of quinine as an antimalarial, the myriad uses of this ‘European fetish’ (in Richard Drayton’s words) and changes in its availability.

1st November Keren Weitzberg (UCL History)

'Political work beyond the archives: poetry and the making of nationalism on the Kenya/Somali borderlands'


Photograph: Courtesy of Deghow Maalim Stamboul

22nd November Wolde Tadesse & Elizabeth Ewart (University of Oxford)

Sustaining one another: enset, animals, and people in the southern highlands of Ethiopia 


Photograph: Wolde Tadesse & Elizabeth Ewart

Enset (ensete ventricosum; Abyssinian banana), uniquely domesticated in Ethiopia, sustains upwards of 20 million people in southern Ethiopia. It also feeds a sizeable animal population and is in turn nurtured by both animals and people.

In this paper we trace some of the relations of co-dependence and mutual sustenance that characterize enset within Ethiopian highland agricultural systems. We further suggest that the idea of ‘sustenance’ be expanded beyond idioms of food and feeding, to incorporate aesthetics as well as relations to the earth and land.

6th December Elaine Unterhalter (UCL IoE)

Higher education & the public good in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria & South Africa – A comparative perspective 


Photograph: Matthew Davies

This seminar series is convened by the African Studies Research Centre/IAS:

Dr Matt Davies (matt.davies@ucl.ac.uk)

Dr Hélène Neveu Kringelbach (h.neveu@ucl.ac.uk)

Prof. Megan Vaughan (megan.vaughan@ucl.ac.uk)


Previous seminars

4th May Tim Gibbs (UCL History)

‘Taxation and Development: From The Peasants’ Revolt to the postapartheid delivery service protests’

11th May Robtel Neajai Pailey (International Migration Institute, University of Oxford)

‘Birthplace, Bloodline and Beyond: How ‘Liberian Citizenship’ Is Currently Constructed in Liberia and Abroad’

25th May Deborah Posel (University of Cape Town)

‘On the question of non-racialism in South Africa’

19th January, Jerome Lewis (UCL Anthropology)

Title TBC

9th February, Tamar Garb (UCL IAS) (Please note change of date from earlier versions)

Painting/Photography/Politics: Marlene Dumas and the Figuration of Difference

16th February, Marissa Mika (UCL IAS)

Cobalt Blues: The Half Life of Oncology's Technologies in Uganda"

2nd March, Christine Kelly (Epidemiology and Population Health, LSHTM)

School absenteeism in northern Malawi: trends, influences and the impact of cleaner burning biomass-fuelled cookstoves

16th March, Iwona Bisaga (UCL Centre for Urban Sustainability and Resilience)

Solar Home Systems and Performance Targets in Rwanda

20th October

Moses Oketch (UCL Institute of Education)

Cross-country analysis of youth opportunities and aspirations for TVET in sub-Saharan Africa

27th October: Sara Randall (UCL Anthropology)

The gendered trajectory to old age in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Please note: Exceptionally, the first two seminars will be in consecutive weeks.

17th November: Michael Walls (UCL Development and Planning Unit)

Gender, elections and representation: political settlement in Somaliland

1st December: Ben Page (UCL Geography)

‘Better men’: Late colonial ideas about African leadership at the Man O War Bay Training Centre, Cameroon 1952-61

15th December: Tim Colbourn (UCL Global Health)

Childhood pneumonia in Malawi: evaluating PCV13 vaccine effectiveness, and on-going work to further reduce disease burden and mortality

This new series is convened by the African Studies Research Centre/IAS:

Dr Matt Davies (matt.davies@ucl.ac.uk)

Dr Hélène Neveu Kringelbach (h.neveu@ucl.ac.uk)

Prof. Megan Vaughan (megan.vaughan@ucl.ac.uk)