“Concepts without borders”: Reversing the Gaze at the VAD Conference

Watch the roundtable and panels convened by our project members at the conference of the Association for African Studies in Germany (VAD) in Freiburg im Breisgau (7-10 June 2022).

Rose Marie Beck, Patricio Langa, Ralph Weber, Peter Ronald DeSouza and Elísio Macamo at the roundtable “Concepts Without Borders”, VAD Conference in Freiburg i.Br., 8 June 2022

Concepts without borders: Reversing the Gaze at the VAD Conference

Roundtable chaired by Elisio Macamo (University of Basel) and Ralph Weber (University of Basel)

Speakers: Patrício Langa (UWCUEM), Peter DeSouza (Retired Professor), Rose Marie Beck (University of Leipzig), Claudia Derichs (HU Berlin)


The politics and epistemic value of positionality

Panel convened by Lerato Posholi and Ralph Weber


Translating concepts from Africa to Europe

Panel convened by Winnie Kanyimba and Matthias Maurer Rueda


Research Colloquium, Spring Semester 2022: “Working with the state”

In this semester, the colloquium will focus on the ways in which academic and non-academic interpretations of the concept of ‘the state’ vary in different contexts. Drawing from case studies of the research project “Reversing the Gaze” as well as guest talks, the sessions will shed light on research endeavors involving the travel and translation of concepts across different regions, disciplines and research foci.


program

Mon 14.03.2022, 12:30-14:00
Is the state an ideological power?
Tebuho Winnie Kanyimba & Matthias Maurer Rueda (Centre for African Studies Basel/Department of Social Sciences, University of Basel)


Mon 28.03.2022, 12:30-14:00
The Postcolonial African State in Transition
Lerato Posholi (Institute of European Global Studies, University of Basel)


Mon 11.04.2022, 12:30-14:00
Retribalization and the State in Switzerland
Tebuho Winnie Kanyimba & Matthias Maurer Rueda (Centre for African Studies Basel/Department of Social Sciences, University of Basel)


Mon 25.04.2022, 12:30-14:00
A Colonial History of Pensions: The East India Company and One Genesis for the Welfare State
Geeta Patel (Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Cultures/Women, Gender & Sexuality, University of Virginia)


Mon 09.05.2022, 12:30-14:00
The State, Infrastructure, and Populism
Stephan Hochleithner (Department of Geography, University of Zurich)


Mon 23.05.2022, 12:30-14:00
Review session
Stephan Hochleithner (Department of Geography, University of Zurich)


The colloquium takes place online via Zoom. If you are interested in participating, please register via email to: rtg@unibas.ch.


PhD candidates and advanced MA students can earn credits (3 ECTS credit points). In order to do so, participants should write a report on one of the sessions.

PhD candidates and students at the University of Basel can register for the course via MOnA (course no. 64025-01).

PhD candidates and students at other Swiss universities can register via the University of Basel Student Administration Office.

4 QUESTIONS TO… Lerato Posholi

I hope for an engagement with ‘Southern’ critiques of global knowledge production that moves beyond a reductive understanding of the critiques as merely political.”

Lerato Posholi is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Basel. She is part of the working package ”Concept Travel, Comparison, and Area Studies” of the ”Reversing the Gaze” project.


Can you explain your research area in three sentences?

Part of my research looks at the politics of global knowledge production through engagement with Southern critiques of knowledge e.g. decolonial thought. I take seriously the idea that knowledge is socially constructed, and I explore the political-ethical implications of this idea as  brought up by notions of epistemic injustice and epistemic oppression. I also have a growing interest in the philosophical field of conceptual engineering.


What key questions would you like to answer in your case study?

Our sub-project considers two very broad questions. The first question is how concepts and concept travel is understood and critiqued especially in ‘Southern’ critiques of knowledge and eurocentrism. The second question we reconsider is how we can conceptualise comparison and reframe comparative studies in light of the method of ‘reversing the gaze’. 


What is your envisioned outcome of the overall project?

I hope for an engagement with ‘Southern’ critiques of global knowledge production that moves beyond a reductive understanding of the critiques as merely political. I hope that the project helps us better frame what is epistemologically at stake in the issues we take up and engage with. 


What are you most looking forward to in this collaboration?

I look forward to working with the diverse disciplinary experts on the team and seeing what insights come up when we look at the ‘North’ using concepts from the ‘South’. I also look forward to forming new networks and collaborations through the project.


Call for Papers “Post-Pandemic Mobilisation and Management of Social Welfare Funds”

Project members Sruthi Herbert and Deval Desai host a workshop on “Post-Pandemic Mobilisation and Management of Social Welfare Funds: Implications for Equity and Citizenship” at the annual conference of the Development Studies Association (6-8 July 2022). They discuss the fiscal and administrative practices that emerged in public welfare spending after the COVID-19 pandemic through the lens of equity and citizenship.

The workshop explores a matter of critical policy relevance and political importance: the fiscal and administrative practices that emerged post-pandemic to rapidly mobilise funds for the pandemic relief, and its implications for equity and citizenship. The case-study of special-purpose vehicles (SPVs) in India guides this discussion.

Sruthi Herbert and Deval Desai (Edinburgh) will be the co-convenors. They welcome abstracts for papers from scholars, writers and activists engaged in monitoring and analysing the management and use of public/earmarked funds in India or other regions of the world.

The deadline for submissions is 4 March 2022. The conference is taking place online on 6-8 July, organised and hosted by University College London.

Research Colloquium, Fall Semester 2021: “Making concepts work”

The focus of this semester is on the translation and operationalization of social scientific concepts in specific historical contexts and socio-cultural environments. The colloquium will engage with methodological and theoretical issues bearing on the translation of concepts across regions, across disciplines, and across academic and non-academic contexts.


program

Wed 29.09.2021, 12.15-14.00
Retribalization across time and space
Tebuho Winnie Kanyimba & Matthias Maurer Rueda (Centre for African Studies Basel/Department of Social Sciences, University of Basel)


Wed 13.10.2021, 12.15-14.00
Translating Black-Boxes
Elísio Macamo (Centre for African Studies Basel/Department of Social Sciences, University of Basel)


Wed 27.10.2021, 12.15-14.00
Unspent Funds: Mobilisation and Accountability Post-COVID
Sruthi Herbert (University of Edinburgh), Christine Lutringer (Graduate Institute Geneva)


Wed 10.11.2021, 12.15-14.00
Chatterjee Revisited: Contextualizing Political Societies
Stephan Hochleithner & Benedikt Korf (Department of Geography, University of Zurich)


New date: Wed 01.12.2021, 12.15-14.00
Translating Forms of Knowledge
Maria Paula Meneses (Centro de Estudos Sociais e Económicos, Universidade de Coimbra)


Wed 08.12.2021, 12.15-14.00
Review session
Ralph Weber (Institute of European Global Studies, University of Basel)


The colloquium takes place online via Zoom. If you are interested in participating, please register via email to: rtg@unibas.ch.


PhD candidates and advanced MA students can earn credits (3 ECTS credit points). In order to do so, participants should write a report on one of the sessions.

PhD candidates and students at the University of Basel can register for the course via MOnA (course no. 62347-01).

PhD candidates and students at other Swiss universities can register via the University of Basel Student Administration Office.

Research Colloquium, Spring Semester 2021: “Comparison and Beyond”

The focus of this semester is on methodological and conceptual issues concerning comparison. In particular, the colloquium will discuss recent critical reflections on, and engage with new perspectives for, social scientific comparison.

After an introduction to the general topic in the first two sessions, four sessions will address current comparative research and reflect on the methodological and conceptual implications for different disciplines and research areas. The final session will pick up on questions raised previously and discuss new approaches in the social sciences in general and in Area Studies in particular.


program

Wed 10.03.2021, 12.15-14.00
Introduction to Comparison
Ralph Weber (Institute of European Global Studies, University of Basel)


Wed 24.03.2021, 12.15-14.00
Post-Comparison and Mid-Level Concepts
Ralph Weber (Institute of European Global Studies, University of Basel)


Wed 07.04.2021, 12.15-14.00
Reversing the Gaze: Anthropological Experiments – Steps towards Decolonization?
Peter Geschiere (Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology, Amsterdam)


Wed 21.04.2021, 12.15-14.00
Anthropology and the positivist legacy of comparative agendas. Theoretical concepts and their epistemological power
Till Förster (Institute of Social Anthropology, Department of Social Sciences, University of Basel)


Wed 05.05.2021, 12.15-14.00
What do (research ) objects stand in for? Sociological implications of comparison
Elísio Macamo (Centre for African Studies Basel/Department of Social Sciences, University of Basel)


Wed 19.05.2021, 12.15-14.00
Generating concepts for global urban studies: Reformatting comparative urbanism
Jennifer Robinson (Department of Geography, University College London)


Wed 02.06.2021, 12.15-14.00
Reversing the gaze as a response to Eurocentrism: some preliminary thoughts
Lerato Posholi (Institute of European Global Studies, University of Basel)


The colloquium takes place online via Zoom. If you are interested in participating, please register via email to: rtg@unibas.ch.


PhD candidates and advanced MA students can earn credits (3 ECTS credit points). In order to do so, participants should either present a paper on their ongoing research; discuss a core text in a reading session; act as a discussant on one of the sessions; or write a report on one of the sessions.

PhD candidates and students at the University of Basel can register for the course via MOnA (course no. 60720-01).

PhD candidates and students at other Swiss universities can register via the University of Basel Student Administration Office.

Student assistant (6 hours per week), research

The Chair of African Studies at the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Basel is looking for a student assistant (6 hours/week) as part of the research project Reversing the Gaze: Towards Post-Comparative Area Studies funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Tasks

The successful candidate will assist a research team consisting of two doctoral students and a professor organizing events, transcribing data, managing data, searching literature, copy-editing/proofreading and content management (website).

Profile

Candidates must be registered students at the University of Basel, ideally in the final stages of their BA or beginning of their MA studies. We are looking for a reliable and motivated student with an interest in the broader politics of migration and a commitment to research. Good English language skills (oral and written) are required, good language skills in German and/or French are desirable.

Position

We offer a position in an interdisciplinary project and in a vibrant and open work environment.This student assistant position with six hours per week is scheduled to start on 1 October 2020 and is limited to one year. The general University regulations for student assistants apply.

Application/Contact 

Applications should include the following documents:

  1. Motivation letter (maximum two pages);
  2. Curriculum vitae (maximum two pages);
  3. Certificates, references, diploma;
  4. A writing sample in English.

Deadline for submission: 31 August 2020

Student assistant (6 hours per week), coordination

The Centre for African Studies Basel and the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Basel look for a student assistant (6 hours/week) as part of the research project Reversing the Gaze: Towards Post-Comparative Area Studies funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Tasks

The successful candidate will assist the project coordinator in administration, research management and communication. The tasks include travel management, organizing events, data management, copy-editing/proofreading and content management (website).In addition, the successful candidate will support the team of the executive office of the Centre for African Studies in its daily business.

Profile

Candidates must be registered students at the University of Basel, ideally in the final stages of their BA or beginning of their MA studies.We are looking for a reliable and motivated person with quick comprehension and good working knowledge of common office software. Very good English language skills (oral and written) are required, good language skills in German and/or French are desirable.

Position

We offer a position in an interdisciplinary project and in a vibrant and open work environment.This student assistant position with six hours per week is scheduled to start on 1 October 2020 and is limited to one year. The general University regulations for student assistants apply.

Application/Contact

Applications should include the following documents:

  1. Motivation letter (maximum two pages);
  2. Curriculum vitae (maximum two pages);
  3. Certificates, references, diploma
  4. A writing sample in English

Deadline for submission: 31 August 2020

Two PhD positions in the subproject “Citizenship, Migration and Retribalisation in Switzerland”

The Chair of African Studies in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Basel is looking for two PhD candidates to work within a SINERGIA Collaborative Research Project on “Reversing the Gaze: Towards Post-Comparative Area Studies” funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The Chair is in charge of a work package with the title “When There are Strangers in our Midst – Citizenship, Migration and Retribalisation in Switzerland”.

Project description

The work package foresees two qualitative studies to be carried out in Switzerland on two distinct civil society groups in the field of migration and citizenship. Drawing upon the concept of “retribalisation” developed in the context of anthropological research in Africa during the colonial period, the study will inquire into two distinct groups in Switzerland in order to test the relevance of using concepts developed in Africa to an understanding of phenomena in Europe. One group campaigns for an independent Switzerland, i.e. for a country that stresses a national identity unconstrained by transnational institutions such as the European Union and the United Nations, whereas the other group claims allegiance to liberal democratic values and emphasises a liberal definition of Swiss identity. In relation to immigration, both groups position themselves in contrasting ways and appear well-suited to test the relevance of the concept of “retribalisation”.

The study will focus on the life-worlds of these activists as they are shaped by the dynamic socio-cultural change brought about by immigration. The issues to be pursued are:

  • (a) The social profile of activists
  • (b) Their places of contact and social intercourse
  • (c) Their definitions of themselves in relation to their respective nation, immigrants and the political establishment
  • (d) Their overall understanding of political values.

Knowledge of German for the purpose of conducting research in Switzerland is a must.

Tasks

Successful candidates will develop an individual research design examining the research question of the above mentioned subproject; engage in the project workshops and colloquium; contribute to the project’s research output; present their own research inside and outside the University; complete their PhD theses.

Profile

Candidates should have a Master’s degree in any discipline in the humanities or social sciences. Ideally, they should have some experience in research in postcolonial contexts, especially in Africa. Good English and German language skills are required. 

Candidates have to fulfil the conditions for admission as a PhD student in the faculty of the Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Basel.

Position

These are two full-time research positions funded for four years and scheduled to start on 1 October 2020. The salary allows the successful candidates to cover living and tuition expenses, and to commit themselves fully to their research project. The place of work is Basel.

We offer the successful candidates membership in an interdisciplinary research group sharing a common interest in theoretical and methodological issues regarding knowledge production in a postcolonial context. The Department of Social Sciences and the Centre for African Studies at the University of Basel provide a vibrant and friendly research, teaching and study environment supporting emerging scholars in connecting with academic colleagues and institutions across the world. 

Application / Contact

Applications should include the following documents:

  1. Curriculum vitae (maximum two pages)
  2. Two academic references
  3. Copies of Master’s diploma and transcripts
  4. Copies of Bachelor’s diploma and transcripts
  5. A 3-5-page exposé discussing your views on the use of social scientific concepts in different cultural contexts and how you would make those views relevant to the study of phenomena in Switzerland drawing from concepts developed and first applied in Africa
  6. A writing sample (an article or a seminar paper)

Deadline for submission: 31 August 2020