4 QUESTIONS TO… Peter Geschiere


Peter Geschiere is Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology (University of Amsterdam). He is a fellow in the “Reversing the Gaze“ project.

Can you explain your research area in three sentences?

I am an anthropologist, but also a historian. I undertake field-work in various parts of Cameroon and elsewhere in West Africa. Central topics in my work include local ways of dealing with state formation, decolonization, ’’witchcraft’’ and lately my focus lies on homophobia and freemasonry. 

How did you become involved in this project as a fellow ?

I got to know Elísio Macamo from collaborating with him at the International African Institute (SOAS University of London), but also through his lectures and publications. I very much like his subtle approach to complex issues such as decolonization and reversing the gaze. It was therefore a pleasure to join this project and to get an insight into the various case studies.

Elísio asked me to participate in this project as my book on issues of citizenship, belonging and exclusion (Perils of Belonging: Autochthony, Citizenship and Exclusion in Africa and Europe, 2009) was based on this idea of reversing the gaze – looking at the Dutch suddenly using notions like autochthony, or allochthony from the longer history of these concepts in Cameroon and elsewhere in Francophone Africa. Generally speaking, I was intrigued by the concept of ‘reversing the gaze’, especially how it relates to power-relations. 

What are you most looking forward to in this collaboration? 

I look forward to seeing how this idea of ‘’reversing the gaze’’ will be related to empirical research, and also how this will connect to debates on decolonization. The idea of ‘reversing the gaze’ can be very helpful, if it is related  directly to global and local power relations, also for highlighting the ambiguities around decolonization. At first, decolonization seems to be a self-evident notion, but it is important to go deeper into the ambiguities and complications that emerge as soon as we try to make it concrete in specific contexts.

What is your envisioned outcome of this project?

Anthropology should be about giving others a voice, which is why it is critical that diverse perspectives and positions in global networks are reflected. This is undoubtedly the case within this project. A danger for especially anthropologists is that “reversing the gaze“ inspires an obsession with self-reflexivity which can end up ‘muting’ the voice of the Other. “Reversing the gaze“ must be most explicitly in making other voices to be heard.

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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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