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July 21, 2008

Actor-Network Theory in the Blogosphere

Today I decided to use google's blogsearch tool to look for blogs that have entries on actor-network theory. I got this returned. I was kinda surprised that most of the blogs that have entries on ANT are written by graduate students (this, this and this are examples). Is there going to be a boom in its application in the near future? What is the main attraction?

July 19, 2008

Feeling Good

I just got in from a trip to Lomè, Togo, where I went to interview some veterans in the used clothing business. The interviews went pretty well, and I left feeling really good because I can finally see many things falling into place in my research. It is one of those moments when I can feel the research moving fine, and I am savouring it.

July 09, 2008

CFP: Third European Conference on African Studies

AEGIS (Africa-Europe Group for Interdisciplinary Studies) has issued a call for paper for its third European Conference on African Studies. According to the conference website:

The conference is open to all disciplines and methodological approaches representing the Social Sciences and Humanities. However, at the same time the Steering Committee is strongly inviting panel proposals which look into the re-scaling and re-shaping of Africa through the various references which are being – or have been – made to the spatial dimensions of human action (social, symbolic, imagined or otherwise). This includes processes of globalisation, regionalisation, transnationalisation, re-nationalisation etc. – at all levels and across time.

Panels are expected to consist of four papers, with a chair and a discussant. Larger panels may be accommodated over more than one session. At this stage the Steering Committee invites potential panel organisers to provide a title and some of the names of participants to be considered for inclusion in the programme. A 50 word abstract and 250 word description should be included. The official conference language is English (contributions in any EU language are possible, but there will be no translation services offered, except for key note speeches).

You can check the site for details

July 07, 2008

Thoughts on Migration and Identity

While reading through the ASA blog, I got thinking about the case of the migrants I work with. It is somehow interesting how the discussions on immigration rarely touch on that kind. The case of the Igbo cross-border migration is especially interesting. For one, the argument about colonial borders that partition people of the same ethnic extraction into two different countries does not apply. The Igbo are not found in the southwestern part of Nigeria – the part of the country that shares the same border with Benin – but at the southeastern part of the country. And the case of the attraction of the richer country (think of the Mexico-US border) rarely applies here. Another interesting point is that many of the migrants are part of the community in many ways – for instance many of them speak the local languages (in fact, it is a requirement for the apprentices to immediately devote time to learning the language in Lomè, Togo) and French, many make sure that their kids also learn the languages. It is also interesting, on the other hand, how they are not part of the community.

One advantage of this kind of case is that it would be difficult to fall into the pit of explaining away migration by giving the two reasons in the earlier paragraph. Any discussion of the case would have to factor in different nuances of economic interests, contextualized in historical realities. The same with discussions on identity. One cannot simply run away with explanations that simplistically make identity markers – like languages, for instance – the same as the explanandum; one has to pay attention to identity shifts at particular instances and situations. Of course, this has been suggested by many scholars, but it really comes home when one is in the field.

July 02, 2008

Igbo Migration.... and Apprenticeship

In the previous blog I wrote that I was consulting some literature on Igbo history. Since I am researching in Cotonou, Benin, I have been looking for materials on Igbo migration into West Africa. Funnily, I have not been able to get any book or article on the subject. I wrote 'funnily' because the Igbo are very famous for migration, and I didn't expect that it would be that hard to find any book on their migration into West Africa. It is important to me because, on different levels, the history of the trade in used clothing in Benin is linked to the history of migration.... If anyone knows of any book on the topic please let me know.

And last Monday, I gave a paper at a seminar in my old university, the University of Ibadan (had my BA there). The paper attempted to explain the reasons for the problems one finds in the institution of apprenticeship among the Igbo. It drew from my ongoing fieldwork with the used clothing traders.