By AiW Guest: Francesca Salvi.
Offering three presentations from different department across the University of Sussex, the second postgraduate Sussex Africa Centre event, “Emerging Research Landscapes II”, furthered its aims of showcasing Africa-focused postgraduate research from a variety of perspectives, illustrating the diversity of research being carried out in the University.
We were very lucky to have Jeremy Allouche (IDS) chairing this event, who has 14 years of experience in managing and designing projects in the fields of water governance, security and development, and international political economy analysis, recently focusing on West Africa and the Horn of Africa.
The afternoon kicked off with Wezi Mwangulube, based in the Department of Education. Through her paper entitled ‘Understanding HIV Education in a Developing Country Context: A case study of life skills based HIV (LSBE) curriculum in one Malawian junior secondary school’, Wezi discussed some methodological pre-fieldwork implications of her study on HIV education. Focusing on the development of the national curriculum, her analysis looks to issues such as consistency in methods of teaching children about safe sex across different classes and with different teachers, and the possibilities of open discussions of HIV and sex with kids from within Malawian society and culture, both at school and at home. Wezi’s presentation encouraged questions from attendees, which engaged with the conceptualisation of education and the age/gender differentials in the spreading of HIV/AIDS.
Wezi was followed by Caitriona Dowd (Geography), an expert in Islamic militancy with the ACLED (Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset) project, whose paper, ‘The Emergence of Violent Groups: Branding, Scale and the Conflict Marketplace in Sub-Saharan Africa’, argued that ethnic diversity and ethnic political power relations emerge as important interacting factors in religious identity conflict. Downplaying the cultural specificity of Islam as particularly prone to violence and moving beyond the pathologising of Islamist violence as transnational and, so, diffusional, Caitriona’s impressive quantitative data exposes the significance of competition and the ‘branding’ of groups in specific spaces and localities, where religion is mobilised to challenge marginalisation by other means. Her case studies are cross-national, violent Islamist groups in Kenya and Nigeria and though her analysis focuses more broadly on sub-Saharan Africa, its insights may be of value beyond this geographical field, as discussed via the numerous questions raised by attendees.
Lastly, Machiko Tsubura, from the IDS, presented her research, ‘Accountability and Clientelism in Dominant Party Politics: The Case of a Constituency Development Fund in Tanzania’, on why a Constituency Development Fund (CDF), was introduced in Tanzania in 2009. As a formal route for the previously privately funded patronage of MPs who, as Machiko demonstrated, acted as benefactors for a range of funding requests from their constituents – from letters asking for school desks and equipment to those of a more personal nature, such as the letter, with photo included, from a hospital patient seeking funds to purchase his own prosthetic legs – the CDF in Tanzania was implemented to centrally manage and restrict the power of MPs by law. With some other CDF programmes across the world closing after relatively short periods or being withdrawn completely due to the abuse of funds, Machiko’s paper also raised the spectre of corruption via Tanzania’s ‘List of Shame’ disclosed prior to the elections in 2010, raising further questions about the role of the CDF in Tanzania as an instrument of clientelism. Machiko presented just one week before her official Viva exam, and the roundness of her thesis was clear, so we have no doubts she will perform to the best of her abilities. Nonetheless, we wish her the best of luck!
The three presentations struck a chord with many of the attendees, who engaged in lively discussions by asking questions and raising different points, often bringing in examples and insights from their own work. SAC’s events continue to excel as informal spaces for interdisciplinary discussions of current doctoral research. Presence of attendees from both the University of Sussex and University of Brighton suggest SAC is quickly becoming a way to integrate the two institutions, and we look forward to increasing attendance from beyond academia as well.
After the discussion, the party left the Global Studies Resource Centre for the IDS bar, where Zimbaremabwe, a Brighton-based Zimbabwean musical collective led by Linos Wengara Magaya, played live. This offered the perfect chance to engage with yet another dimension of African identity, and relax in a very friendly environment. Although not all of the attendees were able to join, the social offered a pleasant surprise to other guests at the IDS bar, including a couple of young children, who very much enjoyed some African rhythm!
We hope that the openness and informality of this event, coupled with the high quality and diversity of the presentations offered, will have remained with those who took part beyond the end of the day, inspiring more meaningful research. We also look forward to our next event on Monday the 31st March, when the Sussex Africa Centre in collaboration with the School of English will be hosting an exciting and immersive interactive event exploring contemporary research into public spaces and popular cultures across Africa.
See #SACPhD @AfricainWords for live tweets from the event – with thanks to John Spall.
Images c. of SAC PhD Committee members John Spall and Sung Kyu Kim.
Francesca Salvi is currently completing her thesis on in-school pregnancy in Mozambique at the University of Sussex, Dept of Education. Her work explores meanings attached to pregnancy as it occurs among young people in education – considering in particular, how these meanings allow young people to navigate different normative frameworks and construct their identity in a context of multiple modernities.
Francesca strongly believes in multitasking, hence she grabs every chance of contributing to various aspects of university life, such as contributing to the Sussex Africa Centre.