CAS News Bulletin: Week of October 24th, 2016
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"Even in laughter, my heart feels the pain. If not me, nature will make you..."
Photo provided by N. R. Hunt in outskirts of Basankusu, DRC, 2007.
October 24th, 2016

Talks This Week

10/24- Chapurukha Kusimba,  American University: "The History and Archaeology of Slavery in East Africa." 2pm in 404 Grinter

10/27- NRM in Africa, Sadie Ryan
, University of Florida: "Implications of Climate Change for Zoonotic Disease Risk in Africa." 12:45pm in 471 Grinter

10/28- Baraza, John McCauley, University of Maryland: "Ethnicity and Religion as Sources of Political Division in Africa." 3:30pm in 404 Grinter


In this issue:









Awards and Publications

Please send citations for your recently published articles, book chapters, book reviews, or op-ed pieces to for their inclusion within the news bulletin.

MSc in Sustainable Urban Development

The Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford is pleased to invite applications fora  fully-funded scholarship worth over £34,000 to undertake the part-time MSc in Sustainable Urban Development for October 2017 entry. Scholarship deadline is January 20, 2017. Find out more about the MSc and scholarship here.


BLAXPLO-ITALIAN- 100 Years of Blackness in Italian Cinema: Film Screen and Q&A with Filmmaker-Activist Fred Kuwornu on Friday November 18th, 5pm, at 170 Pugh Hall. Blaxploitalian is a diasporic, hybrid, critical, and cosmopolitan dimension documentary that uncovers the careers of a population of entertainers seldom heard from before: black actors in Italian cinema. Blaxploitalian cleverly discloses the personal struggles classic Afro-Italian and African Diasporic actors faced, correlating it with the contemporary actors who work diligently to find respectable and significant roles. More than an unveiling of history, it is a call-to-action for increased diversity and esteem in international cinema. See the trailer here.

Oromo Protests and the State of Emergency in Ethiopia
According to Terje Ǿstebǿ, Associate Professor of Religion at UF, a great deal is at stake with the recent Oromo protests and the 6-month state of emergency issued in Ethiopia on October 9th, 2016. Ǿstebǿ recently returned from a 5-day trip to the country last week.
Some brief background: Ethiopia is governed by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), initially established by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front Party (TPLF), and which is an authoritarian ruling coalition governing the ethnic federal state. The Oromo are the largest ethnic group in the country, making up 34.5% of the population as of the 2007 census, while the Tigray only make up about 6% of the population. Within the Oromo territory sits the capital, Addis Ababa. In 2014, the government announced a plan to increase the size of the capital to about 20 times its current state, without any room for debate. This measure not only decreases the Oromia regional territory, but also means the displacement of farmers and others from their land.
Now, as Ǿstebǿ explains, the current protests are the result of a combination of factors in addition to the Addis Ababa “Master Plan”. At the most basic level, Ethiopia has consistently been one of the top 5 fastest growing economies among all African countries over at least the past 10 years and it has done this on the basis of massive public investments in infrastructure, rather than oil. This has generated heightened expectations for economic development among the population, yet popular perception is that only the Tigrayan is benefitting. One area in which economic funds have been put to public benefit is the building of a multitude of universities across the country. However, this also has had the adverse effect of creating a rapidly growing class of college graduates who cannot find work. Another more distant but a very significant factor is political pressure from an Oromo diaspora in what Ǿstebǿ describes as “long-distance nationalism”. A lot of dissent is thereby expressed via the internet, which the government has been cracking down on, most recently with a nation-wide shut down of social and broadcast media.
As a result of these issues, protests in both the Oromia and Amhara Regions have been widespread, mainly in the rural areas. The Ethiopian state has responded by opening fire on protesters and arresting and detaining protestors in detention camps. Current reports put the death toll at 500, though this figure is likely an underestimate given the absence of independent news reporting outside of the capital. It is also reported that at least 1,600 people have been detained. Though one American, a post-doctoral Biologist, has been killed as a result of the protests, this event is viewed as isolated and foreigners are not being targeted. Rather, protestors have burned factories, closed their businesses, and engaged in other forms of an economic boycott aimed at disrupting the flow of money to the elite and ruling party. The ongoing security situation is rapidly changing on a day-to-day basis with no clear end in sight.    

Emeritus Faculty Spotlight- Barbara McDade Gordon 

Barbara McDade Gordon, is a faculty member in the Geography Department; and affiliate of the Center for African Studies, and African American Studies Program.  Upon her retirement from UF in May 2016 she received the distinction of Emeritus(a) by a unanimous departmental vote.  She began her academic career in 1990 at UF which she described as a “perfect fit”: a dynamic Geography Department, a top-ranked Center for African Studies, and a progressive and diverse local population. She earned her Ph.D. in Geography and Planning from the University of Texas-Austin. 
Her academic disciplines are Economic & Cultural Geography, primarily in Africa. She studied the development and viability of traditional and modern African businesses.  She is author, editor, or co-editor of several refereed articles, book chapters, and the book, African Entrepreneurship: Theory & Reality (1998, University of Florida Press).  She has visited seven African countries; France, England, Italy, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
During 2013-2014 she returned to University of Ghana as a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Geography and Resource Development.  She first traveled to Ghana in 1985, and returned in 1987 as recipient of a Fulbright Dissertation Award. 
Dr. McDade Gordon was Director (2004-2012) of Upward Bound, a college preparatory program for promising students from low-income households.  She is a founding member of the African Studies Association of Africa and will attend its Second Biennial Conference in Ethiopia in 2017. She maintains an active interest in youth development and international issues and serves on the Board of Directors of the Cultural Arts Coalition (Gainesville, FL), the Africana Children’s Education Fund (Kansas City, Mo), and the United Nations Association-Gainesville (Gainesville, FL).
Her current research interest is the African Diaspora worldwide; she launched the course, Global African Diaspora, at UF in 2015.  She developed the course, Global and Regional Economies, for UF’s Online program – ranked among the top five online Geography B.A. programs in the U.S.  Other courses include Geography of Africa; Regional Development; Geography of World Economies; World Regional Geography; and Economic Development in Africa.  
She resides in Gainesville with her husband, Dr. Jacob U. Gordon, a historian, also an Emeritus Professor, University of Kansas.

CAS Director Brenda Chalfin introducing Dr. Anita Hannig.

Last Week’s Recap

On Friday October 21st, Anita Hannig gave a Baraza presentation titled “Mistaken for Strangers: Injury, Kinship, and Belonging Among Fistula Patients in Ethiopia.” Dr. Hannig is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. The talk focused on obstetric fistula, a condition which develops as the result of an obstructed delivery, as it affects Amhara women in Ethiopia.
About one million women are affected by obstetric fistula globally, a majority of which live in sub-Saharan Africa. Obstetric fistula is a condition where, as the result of an obstructed delivery, a hole develops between the vagina and either the bladder or rectum and typically requires surgery to repair. Hannig’s research investigates the experiences of Amhara women affected by this condition, and particularly the roles of the clinics, community, kin, and family on these women’s lives. First and foremost, Hannig’s talk presented the difficulties women face after an obstructed delivery results in an obstetric fistula. In the majority of cases, the baby does not survive. The women face difficulty in integrating back into their normal lives for a number of reasons: the level of care required; shame felt if parents are the ones to care for the woman; the possible effects on a woman’s future fertility; possible increased marital stress; these conditions are largely unknown and often women are embarrassed to be found out; women’s social lives are typically restricted because of fears that they will leak or smell when outside their own home, and so on.
Secondly, however, Hannig finds that the development narrative surrounding this condition is not representative of Amhara womens’ experiences. Exploring the concepts of kinship and family in Amhara, care and providing for others’ bodily well-being is critical to the understanding of kin. Women were not typically ostracized by their families or, when their condition was known, by their communities. Hannig links the misleading development narrative to a harmful, yet common, narrative of conservative or backward African cultures’ willingness to abandon the sick. Similarly, a large part of the narrative emphasizes early marriage or FGM as risk factors for fistula (as an example, see the WHO statement on fistula here), yet there is no evidence supporting this claim. Emphasis on these false risk factors, as compared to women’s inadequate access to obstetric care, spreads misinformation and distracts from increasing OBGYN care clinics and hospitals around the country.
On Monday, October 17th, Ferdinand de Jong gave an African Migrations talk titled “Cultural Festivals: Archives of Tradition for Global Migrants.” Dr. de Jong is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Art, Media and American Studies at the University of East Anglia, UK. The talk presented de Jong’s chapter (available here) from a recently published edited volume, Performing Pan-Africanism (2016, Liverpool University Press).
Paper Abstract: Cultural Festivals in Senegal are staged in various contexts. Ranging from village reunions to tourist attractions, these festivals serve a wide array of local, national and international audiences. Most remarkable, however, in their variety, is the range of purposes these cultural festivals are mobilised for. By staging cultural performances ranging from sheep-herding, capoeira, and gigs by world music stars, cultural festivals are said to promote peace, development, cultural metissage and a host of other modernising tropes. In all of these contexts, culture is performed as cure. As these cultural performances claim to have their origins in tradition and are presented as panacea against the ills of modernity, culture is here represented as both source and resource. As the tensions that might be expected to arise from such a dual conceptualisation of culture remain largely disavowed, cultural festivals are uninhibited to call upon local cultural archives and embed their uses in a range of modernising discourses. Paradoxically, these cultural performances often owe their format to the performances that the colonised staged at colonial exhibitions. But by presenting the cultural performances as having their source in local culture, this established origin in colonial relations is carefully disavowed. Thus, acknowledging a genealogy of cultural performance that openly claims to have its origins in ‘tradition’ in order to cure the ills of modernity, this article demonstrates how these cultural festivals draw upon a cultural archive of performances and present them in different repertoires for a range of modernising purposes. The article argues that the Senegalese independent state has reclaimed the format of the colonial exhibit for a modernist agenda by deliberately forgetting the colonial origins of its cultural archive.

Graduate Student Spotlight

Mamadou Bodian (PhD Candidate, Political Science): My dissertation topic is: “The Politics of Electoral Reform in Francophone West Africa: the Birth and Change of Electoral Rules in Mali, Niger, and Senegal”.  

A summary of his work, in his words: This dissertation examines the origins of and changes in electoral systems in Francophone West Africa: Senegal, Mali, and Niger. It addresses the following question: why are alternative electoral rules considered and implemented in certain countries at certain times and, once they have been established, how are they altered or replaced with new ones?

It argues that electoral systems can be chosen or changed for various reasons. The existence of electoral threat is partly and not exclusively what drives political actors to choose or change electoral systems. For the most part, electoral reforms in francophone West Africa have occurred as a result of a choice made by the incumbent regime to secure political tenure in the face of a mounting extra-institutional threat. Such a threat emerges when the overall performance of the political system fails to meet some standards of electoral inclusiveness and when opposition groups, unable to influence any change through formal channels, mobilize masses and use extra-institutional pressure to threaten the survival of the ruling regime. My findings suggest that in times of normal politics, incumbent politicians are likely to change the rules of the game when electoral threat is high and extra-institutional threat low. However, in times of extraordinary politics—especially during periods of democratic transition when extra-institutional threat is high—politicians are likely to negotiate over electoral reform to secure their tenure.

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