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Global Africa and Ethnographies of Interconnection: A writing workshop for graduate students

Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 8:30am to 12:00pm

Mann Library 100, Mann Library 100 (Friday), Warren B73 (Saturday)

organizers: Ewan Robinson and Janet Smith

In his 2014 book “Emerging Africa,” Nigerian Central Bank Governor Kingsley Moghalu argues that the African Continent is the “Global Economy’s Last Frontier.” This claim is perplexing: how can a world region that has been central to international trade systems since the 17th century be said to be a 21st century frontier? While historically inaccurate, the narrative of “Africa as frontier” is part of an important modern discursive project. Framing Africa as “disconnected” elides the ways Africa and Africans have developed in connection to and have helped to constitute “the global” (viewed as global capitalism, inter-state relations, or universalistic knowledge, to name only a few instantiations). Its histories erased, Africa is rendered available for contemporary acquisition and transformation. In response to such narratives, a wealth of contemporary research - informed by historical and ethnographic approaches - has traced the specific processes of interconnection that have constituted social forms in and beyond Africa. This body of work reminds us that would-be global projects depend upon the particularities of the places in which they take shape, whether these are board rooms in Washington D.C. and Addis Ababa, marketplaces in Touba, or oil platforms in rural Chad. This Polson-funded workshop aims to contribute to this emerging literature, building on Anna Tsing’s (2005) famous use of “friction” to describe how projects become global precisely by connecting specific places, people, and rationale - without resolving their differences. The workshop brings together early-career scholars who are actively studying global projects in and of Africa using ethnographic, historical, and/or relational approaches. Through critical exchanges and constructive engagement, participants will trace the ways that ethnographic approaches to interconnect can elucidate African agency in the contemporary moment and challenge conventional accounts portraying Africa as disconnected, passive, or marginal.

Members of the Cornell Community are welcome to attend the workshop sessions. Please note that authors will not give formal paper presentations at the workshop. Instead, sessions will be organized as in-depth discussions, with the assumption that attendees have already read the papers. The workshop papers will be available beginning April 6 – please contact Ewan Robinson ( for access to them.

Friday 4/20, 8:30am-5pm, Mann Libryar 100
Saturday 4/21, 8:30am-12pm, Warren Hall B73

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Event Type

Conference/Workshop, Seminar


Department of Development Sociology (DSOC)


dsoc, polson, polson events




Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Ewan Robinson

Dept. Web Site

Open To

the public

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