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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Knowledges



Principal Investigators:

  • Eric Anchimbe, English Linguistics
  • Susan Arndt, Anglophone Literatures
  • Christine Hanke, Media Studies
  • Katharina Schramm, Anthropology

Ongoing research projects:


The RS Knowledges will investigate knowledges and their global and local impacts. It will study the trajectories and politics of processes of knowledge, with respect to a) the un/doing of knowledges, b) the scopes and scales of knowledges, and c) the politics of knowledges.

By contributing to the methodological framing and theoretical sharpening of the concepts of reflexivity and relationality, this RS challenges us to reflect on the situatedness of our own knowledge production in the cluster.

Objectives

The main objective in this RS is to study the production, enactment, dissemination, and effects of knowledges. We draw attention to the relational ways in which knowledges are constantly formed and transformed, shape-shifting social and political configurations. Thus framed, this RS will investigate the multiplicity of knowledges along three interconnected lines:

First, in the (un)doing of knowledges, we will be interested in the ways various knowledges in and about Africa are generated, understood, classified, and (re)ordered. Emphasis will be on contingent practices: How are knowledges performed, stabilised and validated in concrete material relations and discourses? How are they unlearned, silenced or ignored, how are they made (ir)relevant? How do different forms of evidence-making, interpretation and knowing relate to each other? Which agencies do matter, and how?

Second, in analysing the trajectories, scopes and scales of knowledges, we will consider knowledges as ongoing projects brought forth in transregional and transtemporal encounters: What happens when knowledges migrate and relocate or are displaced? What is added, truncated or substituted to fit a new setting? How are knowledges translated, adapted, contested, unlearned and re-known in the processes of circulation? Why and under what circumstances are knowledges (not) mobilised or silenced?

Third, with respect to the politics of knowledge we will focus on forms of domination and contestation linked to the nexus of colonial and postcolonial perspectives, as intersected with, gender, queer and posthuman studies. The two main foci here are: to examine the co-production of epistemic and governmental orders in historical and contemporary settings, and to engage with nativist agendas of knowledges, such as the notion of indigenous/endogenous knowledge. How do such movements perform alternative epistemic strategies? What kinds of postcolonial ontological politics emerge in their wake?

Work Programme

The research projects to be pursued in this RS will take up the lines of investigation as follows: First, they will explicitly address the (un)doing of knowledges. We will study how entangled historical and contemporary knowledges are produced, authorised and challenged through practices of collecting, classifying, mapping, and storage. Here, our interest is on the ways in which classificatory principles and categories of difference(s) (e.g. race, ethnicity, age, sex, gender, culture, species etc.) are established; how they materialise in scientific, literary and linguistic narrations, practices and models; how they are entwined with historical genealogies and political orders; how they connect these multiple elements, and how they are potentially dismantled and resituated.

Second, projects will engage with the trajectories, scopes and scales of knowledges that account for relational processes of translation, transformation and hybridisation. We will focus on discursive and material practices in and by which knowledges are articulated and circulated through time and space. With respect to the relationship between language and knowledges we will take into account how languages coexist, travel and change in processes of translation. We will trace knowledge trajectories in colonial and postcolonial texts and discourses. We will investigate how these knowledge trajectories compete with other knowledges, how they are challenged, co-constructed and/or hybridised. The temporal and spatial circulations of archival objects appropriated and conserved during colonialialism (including ethnographica, human remains, material specimens, catalogues and indexes) will be studied in relation to their impact on contemporary productions of knowledges.

Finally, projects will look at the politics of knowledge in Africa and African diasporas. We will pay attention to knowledges as products of nativisation, nationalisation, indigenisation and hybridisation in relation to complex processes of migration and globalisation. Western epistemologies have never encountered a discursive vacuum, but, rather, existing ideoscapes and knowledges. The translation of foreign texts and knowledge models into African (and other) settings often involves the amalgamation and change of both “foreign” and “local” knowledges, as well as new configurations of power; processes which have often had global impacts. Here, we will study literary and audio-visual narrations as reflexive sites for negotiating migrations and global knowledge encounters. Empirically, we will engage with the co-production of epistemic and political orders, employing “the future” as a category of analysis e.g. with respect to Afrofuturism and Afrofeminism.

In accordance with the cluster’s aim of reconfiguring African studies, the projects in this RS will reflexively engage with current debates about the decolonisation of knowledges and will develop new methodologies with respect to the epistemological and political challenges raised by these discussions in institutional settings in Africa and beyond.

We will take the lines of investigation as lenses through which we explore the multiplicity of knowledges both diachronically and synchronically. The approaches and frameworks are designed to both support and benefit from the transdisciplinarity of the RS, thus strengthening our joint contribution to the methodological framing, theoretical sharpening and empirical specification of the three core investigative concepts of the cluster—multiplicity, relationality and reflexivity.


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