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Africa after Anthropology

14 Jun 2021 - 09:30
Photo of Alirio Karina, APC postdoctoral fellow. Image courtesy of Alirio Karina.

In November 2020, the APC welcomed postdoctoral fellow Dr Alirio Karina. They have a PhD in History of Consciousness, with designated emphases in Feminist Studies and Critical Race & Ethnic Studies, from the University of California, Santa Cruz. A scholar of African and Black social and political thought, their teaching and research engages the fields of feminist studies, museum studies, anthropology, literature, history, political economy and postcolonial philosophy.

Karina’s research project, Africa After Anthropology, explores how the idea of Africa is an afterlife of anthropology, and considers what it might mean to do African studies – and to think Africa – in a way autonomous of anthropology, though cognizant of its histories.

Building especially upon the work of Valentin-Yves Mudimbe and Archie Mafeje, the project responds to a further foundational question for African Studies: can there be a post-independence African discourse that is neither nativist nor an imitation of the West? To resolve these questions, the project works to distinguish the idea of Africa from the anthropology of Africa, and to develop a materialist and semiological theory of the post-anthropological African continent.

Taking as its immediate objects of study various media forms inflected by anthropological ideas (including postcards, monographs and literary texts, and focusing primarily upon museum objects) and addressing them through the perspective of several interlinked disciplines, including political economy, cultural theory, postcolonial and race studies, the project considers what African life and thought might look like if anthropologised forms of African difference – however troubled by colonial history – were relieved of their status as sites of socio-political anxiety, and could instead become avenues through which to consider projects of sociality, solidarity and autonomy.