Posts tagged ‘British Institute in Eastern Africa’

Seminar: Safaricom – Technopolitics & Subjectivity in Kenya, Nov. 14 2014 @ BIEA/IFRA

Date: Friday, 14 November 2014
Venue: British Institute in eastern Africa, Laikipia Road, Kileleshwa
Time: 11h00

About
A friend recently reflected that, like catholic priests, safaricom is everywhere in Kenya. The wirelessness of safaricom’s cellular mobile networks is compounded by institutional ubiquity, making it the most profitable corporate company in the east African region[1]. This project intends to explore how safaricom, as Kenya’s biggest mobile phone operator due to its market share and subscriber base, engenders particular notions of subjectivity. Its networks operate immediately as intimately particular and ultra-global in ways that challenge any conceptualizations of ‘a context’ or ‘the subject’. It is in the wide spectrum between how on the one hand, complete surveillance enabled by the omnipresence of networks and on the other, emancipation made possible by the imminence and volumes of its reach, that analyses of social networks have emerged. And it is within these wider narratives that I place safaricom as manager of networks; a profit driven agent straddling this spectrum. My research will view wireless networks not as empty conduits or modes of transmission but as actors that frame the possibilities of social and political engagement, and question how this wirelessness is articulated institutionally by safaricom, located in the current Kenyan neoliberal political history. This project wonders about the project of wireless limitlessness by exploring whether notions of subjectivity like temporality, intimacy and consumption are refashioning older historical categories like gender, class and citizenship. It is precisely in the interstice of historically resilient categories and new political formations that this project will question subjectivity, itself a theoretically contentious notion.

The primary research method is ethnographic, which includes participant observation at Safaricom offices including the R&D, marketing, call operator departments and shareholder meetings as well as M-Pesa outlets in Nairobi; semi-structured interviews with personnel at the organization, operators and users at the M-Pesa outlets, and other related agencies like the Communications Authority in Kenya and the Kenyan ICT Action Network. It will also consult newspaper and other textual archives.

Noosim Naimasiah is a graduate student at the Makerere Institute of Social Research.
Her work in mainly on political theory and culture. Noosim’s presentation is on her PhD proposal with her field work starting in January 2015.

For more information and to RSVP please contact seminars@biea.ac.uk

November 12, 2014 at 12:12 pm Leave a comment

BIEA Seminar: Rain, Power, Sovereignty & The Materiality Of Signs In Southern Zimbabwe, Apr. 16 2014 @ BIEA / IFRA

Rain, Power, Sovereignty and The Materiality Of Signs In Southern Zimbabwe

Date: Wednesday 16th April 2014
Venue: British Institute in Eastern Africa, Laikipia Road, Kileleshwa, Nairobi
Time: 11.00 am
Entry: Prior RSVP. For more information please contact seminars@biea.ac.uk or call +254 735 260 004

Seminar by: Joost Fontein, University of Edinburgh
Chair: Sinoxolo Neo Musangi, British Institute in Eastern Africa

Abstract
In 2010 a government meteorologist revealed that for much of the last decade, the Zimbabwean weather forecast had been censored on a daily basis by agents of the President’s Office. ‘This information’ he said ‘was seen as sensitive’. What this ‘sensitivity’ amounts to is the subject of this paper. It is hard to make sense of the government’s impulse to censor the weather forecast in the 2000s without reference to the localized re-configurations of authority over land and ‘re-making’ of the state that fast track land reform provoked. To the extent that fast track offered new opportunities for the realization of a diversity of localised aspirations and imagined futures that turned on access to land and fertile soils in divergent ways, the recurrent droughts and failing harvests of the early 2000s were politically significant because they called into question the legitimacy of land reform, and the broader ‘thirdchimurenga’ project constituted around it. But across Zimbabwe, and the region, rainfall and drought have long been measures of contested political legitimacy in more complex ways not limited to the politics of food, famine and agricultural production. In southern Zimbabwe, this is true not just for spirit mediums, chiefs and other ‘traditionalist’ authorities for whom rainmaking practices are well-established means of demonstrating ‘autochthony’, sovereignty and legitimacy, but also for war veterans, new farmers, government technocrats and others involved in land reform during the 2000s. This is what I examine here. Whilst I focus particularly on rainmaking practices, encounters with njuzu water spirits, and national biras that took place in the 2005-6 when research was carried out, the larger point I pursue is that water acts as an index of power – of the entangled but contested play of legitimacy and sovereignty – across many different registers of meaning and regimes of rule. In making this argument I engage with Keane (2003; 2005) and Engelke’s elaboration of Peirce’s theory of signs (1955), and build upon others (James 1972; Jedrej 1992) who have long argued that rainmaking ‘traditions’ across eastern, central and southern Africa are less a form of applied meteorology and more an idiom of politics and power, in order to argue that they are necessarily both at the same time.

April 12, 2014 at 2:42 pm Leave a comment

Seminar: Digital Kitambo—Taking the Past into the Future, Jan. 30 2014 @ the National Museum

The BIEA in Collaboration with The National Museums Of Kenya Joint Seminar: Digital Kitambo—Taking the Past into the Future at the National Museum with Dr. David K. Wright and Kristina Dziedzic Wright.

Chair: Dr. Edward Pollard, British Institute in Eastern Africa

Date: Thursday, 30 January 2014
Time: 02.00 pm
Venue: The National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi

Abstract
Lake Turkana has long been recognized as a critical incubator of human cultural evolution. Although much attention has justifiably been placed on researching the nature of our early hominin ancestors, the region also hosts a rich record of fishing and early cattle herding cultures as well. Due to the long and storied traditions of archaeological research near Lake Turkana, a rich collection has been accumulated in the Nairobi National Museum. However, legacy archives need to be digitally curated and integrated into computer databases as the pace of archaeological research in Kenya accelerates. The “Digital Kitambo” project has begun developing an integrated archaeological database using early food producers of northern Kenya to develop the template for future digitization efforts within the museum. The project involves conversion of analogue collections into a relational database, photographing archaeological artifacts and creating 3-dimensional scans of selected artifacts. The Nairobi National Museum hosts one of the deepest records of the human past in the world, but will lead the way into the future in access and usability of collections databases.

Dr. David K. Wright
David K. Wright is Assistant Professor of African Archaeology in the Department of Archaeology and Art History at Seoul National University in South Korea. Dr. Wright is a geoarchaeologist with specialties in human-environment interactions, sedimentology, evolutionary archaeology and prehistoric African cultures. He has conducted research in eastern Africa and the American Midwest, Plains, and Southwest. He is co-PI on the Malawi Early and Middle Stone Age Project (MEMSAP) studying the behavioral transitions in hominids and early modern humans in northern Malawi. Dr. Wright also conducts research near Lake Turkana, Kenya and in the Mandera Mountains, Cameroon on human adaptations to Holocene environmental change and is the lead PI on a project in the middle Gila River Valley, Arizona called “The Archaeology of Dust.”

Kristina Dziedzic Wright
Kristina Dziedzic Wright teaches art history and writing at Seoul National University in South Korea, and works as a freelance curator. She is the author of Art, Culture, and Tourism on an Indian Ocean Island: An Ethnographic Study of Jua Kali Artists in Lamu, Kenya (2009) and recently co-curated the exhibit Sanaa ya Makaratasi (African Paper Art): Process, Substance and Environment at the Nairobi National Museum. Her academic research ranges from informal sector art and cultural commoditization in Africa to media art and the international biennale phenomenon. Over the last ten years, she has participated in a number of archival and digitization projects for the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission in Illinois, USA

For more information please contact seminars@biea.ac.uk or call +254 20 815 5186

January 24, 2014 at 11:44 am Leave a comment

Seminars: Embers of Empire – Towards A World History Of The End Of Britain, Dec. 6 2013 @ BIEA

Embers Of Empire: Towards A World History Of End Of Britain

Date: Friday, 6 December 2013
Venue: British Institute in Eastern Africa, Laikipia Road, Kileleshwa
Time: 10.30 am
Entry; prior Reservation

Abstract

Since the 1970s, writers, historians and journalists have reflected widely on the impending “Break-up of Britain“, a theme that has acquired new momentum in the light of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Equally, there has been a tendency to link the crisis of Britishness with the decolonization of the British Empire, as though these two processes were somehow intrinsically linked. But rarely, if ever, is this link established in any coherent or convincing way. These papers offers new perspectives on an old problem by looking at Britishness as the world’s first global civic idea, which ran into increasing difficulties after WWII as the credibility of its transnational reach was increasingly called into question by the pressures for global decolonization. By studying the fate of British civic culture around the world, from Africa to Australasia, the Caribbean, South Asia and Canada since the 1950s, we can gain a new purchase on the problems of national cohesion and civic purpose that have erupted periodically in Britain and elsewhere since that time.

This seminar focuses on two talks by Prof. Stuart Ward and Christian Damm Pedersen, both historians from Copenhagen University, Denmark. Both speakers are part of a collaborative research project at Copenhagen University on ‘Embers of empire: The receding frontiers of post-imperial Britain’, funded by the Velux Foundation.

For more information on this project please visit: embersofempire.ku.dk

Seminar by: Professor Stuart Ward & Christian Damm Pedersen, University of Copenhagen
Chair: Professor Ambreena Manji, British Institute in Eastern Africa

December 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm Leave a comment


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