Research at the intersection of material culture, creative production, and African studies
I am a cultural anthropologist interested in the politics of knowledge production – specifically knowledge about Africa and Africans – as made visible through objects (their making, using, and circulation). My current book project, based on my PhD dissertation, is a multi-sited ethnography tracing the trajectory of Dutch Wax cloth (aka wax hollandais, ankara, African print) from design and marketing in Holland to selling, buying, and tailoring in Lomé, Togo. Taking each of these ways of "doing" Dutch wax cloth as a different prism, the ethnography looks at how "The New Africa" (aka "Africa Rising," aka "The African Renaissance") is negotiated across European and West African sites. It argues that "The New Africa" is characterized by a tenuous play between absence and presence, visibility and invisibility, inclusion and exclusion in the world order.
My second project, currently in its early stages, focuses on the "return" migration of first-generation European and American West Africans to their (or their parents’) African homeland. I am curious about the extent to which this form of migration can be deemed a return, what that tells us about the notions of home and the homeland and about the interplay of nationality, citizenship, capital, and race in the making of contemporary African socialities.
In a former life (prior to anthropology and academia), I studied and worked in the field of global health, researching community-based responses to HIV/AIDS in Lusaka, Zambia as a Fulbright scholar, leading the development of a home-based care program for affected children in a township of the city, and developing curricula for socio-behavioral interventions in South Africa and the US.
In GSL, I teach courses in English and in French on “Africa” as an object of knowledge, on African material cultures and creative practices, and on African migration, with an emphasis on West and French-speaking Africa.