CFP: Ethnographic Reflections on Conducting Fieldwork in Contemporary Urban Africa

Hi folks, maybe this could be a chapter of your thesis? Deadline 15 march XxN


Writing Fieldnotes on the Street: Ethnographic Reflections on Conducting
Fieldwork in Contemporary Urban Africa

Anna Jacobsen (Washington University in St. Louis, the Volkswagen Institute,
Max Planck Institute for the Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity) and Lynsey Farrell (Boston University).

Academic research in Africa has a long and rich legacy. While there were certainly early academic inquiries into the urbanization of the continent, disciplines such as anthropology and sociology mainly built their ethnographic and social research record in rural spaces on the African continent.

Continued research on the continent, in concert with contemporary media coverage and social, political, economic, and to a certain extent, academic agendas, have reified ³real² Africa as a continent of war, disease, and poverty if not savagery. While research that builds on these early foundations remains important, contemporary Africa is a rapidly diversifying
and transitioning continent. African countries are urbanizing and their cities are experiencing soaring growth rates and unprecedented development.  The majority of Africans will live urban lives before the year 2030 and it
is imperative that the myriad ways they design, construct and navigate urban places be the focus of ethnographic inquiry.

In Writing Fieldnotes, we wish to place contemporary urban Africa at the center of modern African social scientific research.  A new Africa is emerging and the contest over what constitutes nation, values and morality, policy, ³culture,² among other things is happening in its cities.  Further, by treating African cities as the protagonists in the course of ethnographic field research, African actors and the daily, mundane ways they interact with and imagine the city and their neighborhoods, emerge as central to the ways (new or changed) African societies and cultures will develop. This, in turn, allows us to look at the critical issues of migration (internal and international), urban planning and development, violence and security, ‘development’, resource allocation, and diversity in a more dynamic way. Further, in doing so, we are able to move beyond an ‘ethnic lens’ approach
to understanding the diversity and creativity of cities, in which processes and events are often reified as ‘tribal’. So, how do we go about operationalizing this kind of research and can we chart a path for more dynamic,  interesting and innovative urban research design?

We will select papers that reflect upon ethnographic fieldwork practices in Africa’s urban centers. Articles can be discussions about methodologies used in contemporary African cities, or be theoretical inquiries into the
legitimacy and significance of the contemporary city for research in Africa and among Africans, but all articles must include case studies and ethnographic vignettes.  We encourage interdisciplinary approaches to the topic, including socio-cultural anthropology, sociology, social geography, comparative political science and/or history. Some of the themes we would welcome are: urban security/insecurity; gaining rapport/entre; working with
assistants; navigating institutions/corruption; urban inequities; going native; reciprocity; minimizing risk and ethical dilemmas; mixed methods; migration; diversity; or the city itself as a protagonist in the research.
Papers highlighting ethnographic fieldwork in cities in North Africa or in other infrequently discussed African urban areas are particularly welcome.

Deadline for sending 250-500 word abstracts and working titles: March 15, 2012

If selected, papers of no longer than 20000 words will be due by July 1, 2012, the format for which will be sent once we have selected the abstracts.

Abstracts and articles should be e-mailed to and

Categories: Calls for & opportunities

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