Ep. 98: A conversation between Patrick Mbullo Owuor and Denielle Elliott

In the news this week: #EndSARS, elections in Tanzania, and more. Kim and Rachel put these events into context and share what you need to know.

This week’s interview features guest host Patrick Mbullo Owuor in conversation with Denielle Elliott about the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Elliott’s new research, and more!

Listen to the episode below!

Books from the Episode

Reimagining Science and Statecraft in Postcolonial Kenya: Stories from an African Scientist by Denielle Elliott

A Different Kind of Ethnography: Imaginative Practices and Creative Methodologies, Edited by Denielle Elliott and Dara Culhane

How Autocrats Compete: Parties, Patrons, and Unfair Elections in Africa by Yonatan Morse

Constraining Dictatorship: From Personalized Rule to Institutionalized Regimes by Anne Meng

Sick Building Syndrome and the Problem of Uncertainty: Environmental Politics, Technoscience, and Women Workers by Michelle Murphy

Other Links and Articles

“Nigerian Protestors Have Been Shot at by Security Forces in Lagos #EndSARS Demonstrations” by Yomi Kazeem

#EndSARS

“Nigeria’s Useless Politicians Are Trying to Crush #EndSARS. Africa’s Leaders Are Silent” by Karen Attiah

“Opposition Complains of Repression as Tanzania Heads to the Polls”

King’s College London Africa Week

King’s Archives Showcase Part of Their Collection ahead of Africa Week 2020

Keynote Lecture: Global Blackness and Transnational Solidarity with Dr. Awino Okech

African Studies Association Annual Teachers’ Workshop 2020: Transnational Solidarities

Podcasts and the Study of Africa: A Digital Technology’s Impact on Research, Teaching, and Public Engagement

Neurological Imaginaries

Center for Imaginative Ethnography (CIE)

The Rift Valley Institute Is Hiring!

The African Peacebuilding Network Is Hiring!

Previous Episodes We Mentioned

Ep. 96: A conversation with Yonatan Morse about the 3 crises in Cameroon

Transcript

Kim: Welcome to Ufahamu Africa, a podcast about life and politics on the African continent. I’m Kim Yi Dionne, one of your hosts and I’m joined by my co-host, Rachel Beatty Riedl. Hi, Rachel.

Rachel: Hi, Kim, so much to discuss this week as usual, and I think we should start off where we left off last week with the protests in Nigeria that you mentioned.

Kim: Yes, most disturbing news came out of Lagos, Nigeria on Tuesday night. Yomi Kazeem has a report from Quartz Africa in which he writes about how after a hastily announced curfew by the Lagos state government, hundreds of unarmed protesters remained at Lekki toll gate which is a thoroughfare to one of Lagos’s middle-class neighborhoods and one of the main protest hubs over the past week. At about 7 p.m. local time on Tuesday night eyewitness reports as well as video footage showed Nigeria’s army on the scene firing live rounds into the crowd of unarmed and peaceful protesters. Now social media has played a central role in these protests. And as Kazeem reports with videos of the security forces attacks being widely shared on social media, Nigeria’s government is starting to come under early international pressure from key figures. Though at the time because seems peace in courts Africa was published, there had not yet been public comment from fellow African leaders, ECOWAS, the Organization of West African States or the African Union. That article by Yomi Kazeem is just one in a series of reports that Quartz Africa is doing on the SARS movement. We have a link on our website to their full coverage of the SARS movement, which as we mentioned in last week’s news wrap consists of massive street protests against Nigeria’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, that’s what SARS stands for. It’s a tactical unit that has been repeatedly implicated in committing its own crimes and has a reputation for harassing, assaulting, and extorting young Nigerians. We have a few analytical pieces in the pipeline at the Monkey Cage of The Washington Post, a blog that I co edit with Laura Seay on the African continent is going to put the SARS protests in a broader historical perspective. So, highlighting in particular the role of youth and the feminist coalition in these protests and the historical precedents for youth and women to be at the forefront of social movements in Nigeria. It’s important that we also think of these protests as part of a broader global movement against police brutality.

Rachel: Exactly Kim, I think that’s, that’s precisely right. And we think about the domestic, the local conditions that spur these protests and how they’re so linked into a broader context that we’re witnessing. Now, I think that is really well stated by Karen Attiah this week, who’s the global opinions editor at the Washington Post. And she began her piece today by saying, “The Giant Of Africa is trying to crush its people and , “yet we see through these protests and the enduring use, the innovative use of social media and the mobilization that the people will not be crushed and the abuses of President Buhari, the former military dictator who was elected into office in 2015, and his government are no longer being kept in the dark and Attiah wraps up her column by saying Nigeria’s brave citizens continue to make their voices heard, supported by the international wave of black resistance against state violence. Nigerians are showing the world that in a real democracy, true power will always lie with the people. And I think that’s so powerful in these moments when we think about the way in which democracy has to be claimed and given democratic content. Now, the power of the people and their representation is also definitely at stake in Tanzania with elections coming up on October 28. And intensity at the incumbent president Magafuli is widely expected to win these elections in part because of the serious autocratisation the crackdowns on opposition that he has spearheaded. Opposition parties have complained of threats, repression. Rights groups have accused the government of curtailing free expression and freedom of the press and deposed Muchane who is Amnesty International’s director for Eastern Southern Africa says politicians have been arrested for holding or attending meetings, media houses suspended and banned, online activism has been criminalized and NGO stifled with endless regulations. Tanzania has weaponized the law to the point that no one really knows whether they are the right or the wrong side of it. Now Magafuli interestingly, is facing stiff competition because the opposition party today misleading challenger Tundu Lissu recently returned to the country after being in exile for several years. In fact, since 2017, when he survived 16 bullet wounds when he was shot down by unknown assailants. Al-Jazeera reports that Lissu who has questioned the independence of the Electoral Commission focusing on that body after the Electoral Commission’s ethics committee barred him from campaigning for a week over alleged violation. Now, dozens of opposition candidates meanwhile, have been barred from running in the polls in general. So, he’s really seen the role of the Electoral Commission in limiting the field, the playing field and furthering the incumbent party’s lead. Now, Magafuli certainly remains popular among many citizens. He’s pledged to continue his fight against corruption in which he demonstrated with the firing of several senior officials over alleged government mismanagement and his campaign against wasteful spending of public money. So, he does retain a core rural support base. And this kind of pursued of major infrastructure projects and his anti-corruption campaign remains quite popular. But you know, Kim, this situation is really quite parallel to those that we see in many other contexts. And I’m thinking in particular of the recent democratic backsliding that we’ve seen in Benin where incumbents focus on this kind of autocratic management plan, you know, the appeal that they’re getting things done, and they don’t need to be constrained by the rules. But in the meantime, they’re really clamping down on political rights and civil liberties. And strategically, they just don’t need to do so. So, the question is, how much support could Chadema the opposition party gather? How threatened does the ruling CCM feel and with just a few days until the election, the CCM has really successfully controlled the state bureaucracy, the Electoral Commission, most media. So, it’s a very tilted playing field. So, a strong showing by the opposition will really demonstrate strong popular demand for reform and the growing consolidating strength of Chedama in the face of the dominance of the incumbent party, but there will be a very strong headwind for that kind of showing.

Kim: Yeah, and important read for understanding those elections in Tanzania. Yonatan Morse’s recent book How Autocrats Compete: Parties, Patrons and Unfair Elections in Africa. There’s an important legacy from the single party era, right as Yonatan wrote in his book, the CCM the ruling party in Tanzania can rely on countrywide mobilization, and particularly the strong support of districts that were the primary beneficiaries of the regime’s wider redistributive policies under a single party rule. So, under the time that Julius Nyerere was president, right, of course, I’d love to ask him what he thinks now, because, you know, maybe there’s a decay function. So, maybe, you know, the benefits that that were accrued to the CCM you know, from this long-standing single party rule are decaying over time, because the analysis in Yonatan’s book, of course, you know, was published in 2018. And so the analysis ends in 2015. And we know a lot has changed in Tanzania in the last five years.

Rachel: So true Kim, there really has been a lot of change. And as Aikande Kwayu has argued, Chadema is becoming stronger, it’s growing the party wings, it’s increasingly coherent and mobilized. And so, it also has formed a loose pact among other opposition parties, which allows for greater coordination. So, the election despite all of the control, that CCM still maintains, could be a very challenging one. It’s interesting if we look at Annie Meng’s fantastic new book and hold tight because she’ll soon be a guest on the podcast, we look forward to having her speak about her new book, Constraining Dictatorship in which she suggests that some leaders create strong institutions that can actually constrain their power, which I think has really traditionally explained Tanzania quite well, in terms of the strong institutionalization of the party, the internal rotation. But with Magafuli’s rise, it’s actually been a kind of a break from the old model in many ways, right, increasingly personalist and really, kind of breaking down some of the formal institutions in which the party operated and in which the bureaucracy operated across the state. So, we see a lot of change afoot in Tanzania. So, we look forward to exploring that case a bit further.

Kim: Indeed, before we go, we want to share that this week was Africa Week at King’s College London and the African Leadership Center still has a few events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, and you can check out a showcase of the college’s archives in a series of five videos highlighting the main themes of Africa Week. 2020 Dr. Awino Okech gave the keynote lecture for Africa Week titled Global Blackness and Transnational Solidarity, which I think is a is an important thing for 2020. And I think a lot of us can learn from it. We will alert our listeners if a recording of that lecture will be posted later to the African Leadership Center’s website.

Rachel: And also for our listeners who are teachers teaching about Africa in classrooms across the US or across the world, especially those who are teaching in the K-12 space. The African Studies Association this year during the annual meeting will host simultaneously the 2020 African Studies Association Annual Teachers Workshop. So help spread the word to teachers in your life and promote teaching about Africa. And this year, they will be providing modules related to Africa related resources, lesson plans, professional development on topics tailored to specific grade levels through elementary, secondary and community colleges. So, share that. We’ll post a link to that workshop schedule and it will be beginning on Saturday, November 14.

Kim: Fantastic and I also want to give a shout out. Next Friday I’ll be on a panel about podcasting and the study of Africa, digital technologies’ impact on research, teaching us public engagement. It’s also one of these African Studies Association roundtables that’s being prerecorded. So, prior to the conference, but will be available for anyone who is attending the conference. But even if you’re not going to the ASA, you’re welcome to come join us in our Zoom webinar event next Friday. And we’ll have details on that posted on our website along with everything we mentioned in this week’s episode, ufahamuafrica.com

Rachel: On this week’s episode of Ufahamu Africa, our guest host Patrick Owuor, who is a PhD student in the program of African Studies and Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University, talked with Dr. Denielle Elliot. Dr. Elliot is a York University professor of social anthropology and social science. She is also the co-founder and co-curator of the Center for Imaginative Ethnography, and the deputy director of The Harriet Tubman Institute. Her main areas of research include art, space, ethnography, and the intersection of colonialism, medicine and science and politics. She is the author of Reimagining Science and Statecraft in Post-Colonial Kenya: Stories from an African Scientist. In this week’s episode, Dr. Elliot joins us after giving a talk at the program of African Studies at Northwestern University, in which she is talking about a number of different institutions, including the Kenya Medical Research Institute. So, I just want to give a little background on the subject matter, which really begins with a lawsuit in 2010, in which six Kenyan medical researchers sued Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the Attorney General and the Ministry of Public Health for violation of their rights on the basis of racial discrimination at the KEMRI Wellcome Trust research program in Kilifi, Kenya. The researchers claim that their careers were held back due to the asymmetrical power relations between Kenyan and British collaborators. In July of 2014, the judge from the industrial court of Kenya ruled that the Kenyan researchers were in fact facing unfair treatment on the basis of race. Wellcome Trust in Oxford University managed to avoid direct liability due to earlier asymmetrical legal agreements signed with KEMRI. As a result, KEMRI and other Kenyan state agencies became the sole responsibles in the lawsuit. Even though the Court recognized the role of the UK partners in violation of rights and racial discrimination. Based on this case, and KEMRI Wellcome Trust collaboration, Dr. Elliot addresses some of the critical issues about Global North-South scientific collaborations, specifically transnational medical research collaborations, and inherent inequities and injustices in these structures.

Denielle: The KEMRI six case, I think, is really important and understanding these transnational actors and clinical trials and the relationships between what we refer to as Global North and Global South. Although I think sometimes that conceptualization can be problematic, which can be we can bracket that off for now. But acknowledging those concepts don’t always capture the complexities of these transnational relationships. But the KEMRI six case, one of the petitioners in the legal case, Moses had reached out to me when he had read some of the work I’d published about the CDC, transnational corporations in Kenya, asking if I would be interested to document some of what they were going through with the case. So, we met and talked about their case, what was happening, and I started sort of researching the larger case and their larger experiences at Wellcome Trust. So, I did a series of interviews with five of the six Kenyans who were the petitioners. And in addition to interviewing the lawyers that Chigiti and Ogutu, who are representing them as the human rights lawyer side and the labor law, the law. In addition, they supplied all the court materials that they had saw the affidavits, the rulings, the background material. And then of course, I had also had this sort of background knowledge of working in Kenya for at that point, I guess, about nine or ten years, looking at other transnational corporations. So, I can have that background knowledge, it helped me understand or contextualize what they were experiencing at this particular case. And so, the case, of course, is based on this research collaboration between Wellcome Trust, a charitable organization in the UK, Oxford University, and the Kenyan Medical Research Institute. So, they created a scientific collaboration, this, this agency in Kilifi, it started early, but it was I think, it was not actually formalized till 2004. And they were doing largely malaria research at that site. But they branched out later into pediatrics and neurology, and you know, really a tropical medicine fate. So it brought all kinds of British researchers who are working with Wellcome Trust and Oxford University to Kenya, who have been there very long term, many people, many of these British researchers have now been in Kenya for 20 years, they own homes. And you know, they really probably consider Kenya, their homes. But the large majority, probably like 98% of the work was really being done by Kenyan researchers. So young new doctors or medical epidemiologist who changed in Kenya, but all the African researchers, they were doing all that work. And so, as part of all that work, the six Kenyan scientists, the petitioners who launched the case, they were feeling things were unfair. And there were also they explained some real serious case, cases of racism, especially institutionalized racism. So, the ways that racism was embedded in funding structures or salary structures, who get who got paid what and which positions they could occupy as Africans. And so, you know, they were concerned about these inequities in the workplace, they went to their British supervisors, the scientists and administrators who were there with Oxford and Wellcome Trust, they dismissed the cases. And they’re always trying to say that it’s not that important, or you’ve misunderstood, or, oh, yes, yes, thank you for raising our attention to that, we’ll address that. But of course, nothing ever changed. So, six Kenyan scientists went to their bosses at the Medical Research Institute at Camry and also complained and said, the stuff is going on at the Wellcome Trust research site. It’s unfair, it’s unjust, there’s racial discrimination happening, can you do something? KEMRI also told them no, we cannot do anything. It’s not happening, just leave it alone, you’re causing trouble. The KEMRI six refused to give up on the case, they wanted these issues to be adjusted, they felt things were very unfair, you know, they were unable to occupy senior positions that they were more than qualified for them. And these are, you know, Kenyan scientists who are incredibly well trained, who have master’s degrees, who are medical doctors who are really conducting the large majority as they set up the research. But they were unable to get these positions. So, you had junior, younger, less experienced less educated British citizens coming and taking those roles at the site. And so, they were really trying to fight against us. When KEMRI decided they also wouldn’t support this, the six Kenyan scientists, the scientists resorted to launching a lawsuit and tried to sue Wellcome Trust and Oxford University. But they were unable to sue Wellcome Trust and Oxford University because of a collaborative agreement, a contract, legally binding between KEMRI and Wellcome Trust, which basically says Wellcome Trust is not liable or responsible for anything that happens in Kenya. And so, the case is based on how they can possibly address this fundamentally unjust collaborative agreement between the KEMRI and Wellcome Trust.

Patrick: Quite interesting. And basically, your discussions today, I think you really put the case in context around the global health governance and human rights and power relationships. While still continue with this kind of discussion, we know very well that KEMRI or the Kenya Medical Research Institute has been there for a long time and has been having like a lot of other collaborations other than just the Wellcome Trust. And, you know, you have mentioned that, you know, some Kenyans have referred to that kind of relationship, like contemporary slavery. And they have highlighted things like racial discrimination and injustices. So maybe if you can talk a little bit around them, these international collaborations and your perspectives, way of talking about global health governments.

Denielle: In terms of the collaborations, you know, because Kenya is what we may refer to as a low income or middle-income country and doesn’t put a huge investment into science or medicine. Understandably, it goes to other parts of the country to maybe infrastructure as you would know better or education, or maybe to the pockets of politicians as it may be at times. That means that the Kenyan Medical Research Institute relies very heavily on donors. And so, from the beginning of the Kenyan Medical Research Institute in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when they established it as part of post-colonial kind of new infrastructure building and for science and medicine, KEMRI was really forced to partner with international partners as a way to get funds. And so, you know, Wellcome Trust was one of the original donors that they partnered with, but it also included the Center for Disease Control and Prevention here in the United States. They also included the Walter Reed project or the US Army’s Research Unit. It also a very important collaborator for the Kenya Medical Research Institute, which is often not noted is this JICA than Japanese International Cooperation Agency. Yes. And so, it was the Japanese who actually helped build KEMRI to begin with. And so, all these partnerships have made KEMRI possible in many ways. Without that funding, the budget for KEMRI would be very small. So, I think at its peak under the leadership of Davy Koech, I mean, I think they have something like 57 million or $67 million budget annually, which is a really large amount, but only 10% of that budget was actually coming from the Kenyan government. So that means these collaborations become really crucial to the ongoing development of medical research and much of the public health kind of research that was going on in Kenya. But what that means, of course, is that these agreements, these legal agreements become very important because then people at KEMRI feel they have to concede certain conditions to the partners, because they otherwise they risk losing the money. So, if KEMRI says we don’t want any liability for any staff members, or any sort of labor issues that happen on site, then KEMRI says yes, that’s fine, as long as you give us your, you know, whatever $20 million for the for the research that helps us sustain the research, because the research often happens in partnership with local hospitals, as you know, so, you know, clinics or actual hospitals will get built with part of this money that these transnational corporations are bringing. So, if you think in Kilifi, part of the hospital was being built with the Wellcome Trust money. So, it’s not just about research, but it really is about like health infrastructure, these hospitals being built or supported in the same, of course, with the entire wing at the Walter Reed project in Kisumu that was funded by the Walter Reed projects, they build this whole pediatric ward clinic as part of the provincial hospital. And so, part of the provincial hospital gets sustained by money through these collaborations. So, the collaborations are really important. And they have sustained a lot of the infrastructure for Kenya, but they come at a cost, right?

Patrick: Yes.

Denielle: And that cost of often at the expense of African citizens are African researchers, who are doing work in those agencies who then don’t have the same sort of agency to resist these racist institutionalized structures that otherwise they wouldn’t be able to. The second part of your question was about the global health governance. And so, then the problem with these transnational organizations with what I’ve argued is that these transnational organizations take advantage of basically gaps in law, I mean, you have multiple levels of law working, which is what I was explaining in the paper. So, you kind of have these like, these contractual laws. So, we recreate these collaborative agreements, or these collaborations between Wellcome Trust or CDC and KEMRI, that’s one level of law, then you have sort of labor, law industrial, the industrial court governs, or you have labor acts, then you have constitutional law. So, what is the Constitution of Kenya say, then you have the international law of human rights. And so, you have these like multiple layers of law. And though there are all kinds of laws that govern particular acts that happen within these transnational organizations, or within these spaces of scientific collaboration, but my work documents, I think, is the ways in which these organizations can exploit the gaps in between the laws as a way to get around not being governed at all. And so, the law gets manipulated or exploited in a way that agencies who claim to be doing good so whether it’s, you know, Wellcome Trust saying we’re building scientific leadership, or whether it’s the United Nations saying, we’re here to adjust the cholera epidemic in Haiti, what happens is in their efforts to supposedly protect citizens of the world, they end up doing more harm, and then they use international or constitutional law, or contractual law to evade any responsibility.

Patrick: Yeah, quite interesting. And that one position reminds me about your book, it is interesting to like clearly also see your thoughts about in your book titled, Reimagining Science and Statecraft in Post-Colonial Kenya: Stories from an African Scientist, quite a captivating title to say, you seem to focus a lot on North South scientific collaborations, especially on African medicine and bio sciences. What can you say is the key takeaway message that you’d want our listeners to know from that book?

Denielle: I think probably the most important points, or I guess the one thing I’d want to take away is that when we think about global health, people argue that and I sort of just done this, but people argue that it’s like the CDC, the Americans, or the British, or the Canadians, they are the ones who are building global health and they are responsible for global health development in Kenya, that there would be no field site if it wasn’t for the Americans. That is the American narrative. And the British narrative is similar in terms of the Wellcome Trust and other things in Kenya. But what I tried to argue in the book is that, while they may fund it, so they do fund that there’s a lot of money coming from those organizations. And that’s a whole other reason why they have the money, and the Kenyans don’t have the money. But at the end of the day, the work is really done by Kenyans. And so, people like to dismiss Davy Koech, as a crock and as being corrupt, and you know, maybe not even some people would even say, he’s not a very good scientist. So, whether those things are true or not, that’s not for me to judge, at the end of the day, without him and without Danila Rot Moi also people complain about Danila Rot Moi. Without those two individuals, the structure that exists in Kenya wouldn’t exist. So, the Americans didn’t build the infrastructure in Kenya Davy Koech did, and all the African scientists and other workers who worked under him, including folks like yourself, who’ve worked at KEMRI, that’s how, why it exists. And that’s not just like national, global health, national health within the Kenyan context that might be working global health issues, that contributes to global health trends nationally and internationally. And I think that African scientists, African workers, African politicians, administrators, continue to be left out of the conversation. And so that book is really about saying, hang on a second, a lot of money, may come from US and from Japan, and the Wellcome Trust. But at the end of the day, Davy Koech, and Danila Rot Moi, are responsible for building this infrastructure that then people like, folks at the University of Illinois, Chicago are CDC employees, or Wellcome Trust researchers, or Oxford University researchers rely on to do their research because, of course, global health is big business for Americans, they need to have these, you know, global South sites to go and work at. And that happens because of the work that Kenyans do. And for some reason, though, people aren’t paying attention to all the work that African scientists do. And so, I really wanted to sort of destabilize the geography right that, you know, the Americans are doing all the work and the the Africans are just sort of new minor players. It’s like, No, actually, the Africans are the major players, they are doing the majority of their work in this context. The Americans and the British and the Canadians are actually the minor players. And then someone needs to pay attention to that. I mean, I guess that’s what I wanted to do with that book.

Patrick: Yeah. And just speaking from the title of the book, Reimagining Science and Statecraft? How do you know, as a scholar, how do you reimagine African medicine and bio sciences?

Denielle: I want the new narrative to be about understanding that it’s African science. And not I mean, African science in the sort of like traditional ecological knowledge model, but it’s about, you know, African scientists doing their work, and being leaders and that, you know, this concern that, you know, to go back to the question of funding, right, so, people are like, well, the Americans or the or the British are the leaders because they have all the money, but they have money for a particular reason. So, the Gates Foundation or the Wellcome Trust, or the CDC makes decisions on who they consider to be appropriate people to fund. But that’s part of a whole colonial legacy. It’s not just based on quality of research, which of course, people like to claim. And so, I would like to see the quality of research of African scientists are doing to be recognized, I’d like to, for people to recognize that the quality of research that Americans often do, or the British often do, or Canadians does, often based on the quality of research that Africans are doing. And so, it’s all actually connected. And so, perhaps thinking of it always, in terms of like Global North and Global South, we’re going to go back to my point beginning is problematic, because this is like a completely like, interconnected system. And we should be focusing more and maybe on like these processes and these connections between all these spaces in global health, as opposed to like South-South North-North relations, or North and South relations. And if we did that, maybe we’d be able to account more adequately for the types of labor that African scientists and African workers are putting into the global health assemblage.

Patrick: Recently, you received funding from Wenner-Gren Foundation for a new project as you’re working on the neurological imaginaries, an experimental ethnography that encompasses non textual forms, creative nonfiction, and effect theory to explore traumatic brain injuries and memory disturbances. Can you tell us more about this project?

Denielle: Sure. Yeah, that is quite a new sort of avenue of interest. And it perhaps in some ways, it does seem to diverge dramatically from my older research. But it is a continuation in some ways, in that I’m still interested in processes of science, and medical expertise, you know. So, I think they’re working Kenya was about who gets to claim expertise and global health or in scientific clinical trials. And so, this project is also about who gets to claim expertise in neurology, and so my approach is really to get engaged now with art space methods and arts-based ethnography. So, film and kind of multimodal installations performance and working with a choreographer who specializes in dance as a way to think about experiences of traumatic brain injuries that are missed by the expertise of neurologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, neurosurgeons are those working in neurosciences. So, I want to capture sort of the interiority that we don’t usually get out. And I think that anthropologists haven’t been that good at adjusting sort of the invisible interior of humans, or non-human as it might be. And I was hoping this project through art space methods may be able to do that. So how do we think about what it actually feels like to live with a traumatic brain injury, and to understand, and maybe other forms of injuries, right, so I have been thinking about it, kind of as the injured mind. So, whether it’s trauma, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or even maybe particular psychiatric disorders, or, you know, traumatic brain injuries that these experiences result in stuff that we can’t see, that we can’t measure, and that even neurologists through CT, or pad or fMRIs, can’t measure. But you know that the type of technology they use, and neurology and neuroscience is very limited. And we think that these new scan technologies like fMRI is help us see deeper and deeper into the brain. But in fact, by kind of intensifying the vision of what we can see in the brain, it also creates blinders. So, we see less and less as we see more and more that make sense. And so this project aims to help sort of again, broaden what it is we understand is part of obvious neurological disorders. I’m working on some papers. And hopefully this summer will work on multimodal installation that I’ll show in Vancouver, in trying to work with artists and with folks who work in neurosurgery as a way to get at some of this as a collaborative project.

Patrick: Yeah, this work already demonstrates a lot of creative and visual arts in ethnographic practice. Can you talk a little bit about this and your involvement with the Center for Imaginative Ethnography?

Denielle: Sure, yeah, so yeah, so the Center for Imaginative Ethnography was is a research collective that exists only kind of in the cyber world. So, we’re not housed anywhere, we are seven co curators now who are at institutions across Canada, under shared commitment has always been understanding or using ethnography in combination with more artistic creative practices. And so, it perhaps a big part of that is like thinking about embodied, so, haptic, or kinetic, and how we can get at those sorts of felt experiences that are often missed in traditional ethnographic methods, moving away from just interviews, or moving away from surveys and questions to thinking about, yeah, feeling and sensing. And so, we spend a lot of time talking about sensory ethnography. So, what does it mean to pay attention to sounds or to voice or to feeling or even seeing, so we do a lot of visual work as well. So, there are some of us who work in film or photography, and how those type of methods are really a different way of doing ethnography, or, or we have an edited book called The Different Kind of Ethnography. But it really is sort of approaching ethnographic methods with being attuned to the sorts of things we feel like our politics have historically not been attuned to.

Patrick: So finally, we have this one question that we like to ask all our guests that is, is there anything that you have read recently, or that you’d like to recommend to our listeners, or something that you’re reading, you know.

Denielle: I’ve read a number of really great works to share. I’ve been doing a lot of Science and Technology Studies reading. And so, I think that one of the best things I read, and I feel somewhat embarrassed that it took me this long to read it. But Michelle Murphy, she’s a colleague of mine at the University of Toronto, and so colleague in Toronto, and she teaches in the Science and Technology Studies program there. She’s a historian, I think, by training, but she wrote a book many years ago now called Sick Building Syndrome. And it is like one of the best books I’ve read in a really long time. It’s not about African Studies, you know, not really an ethnography, not an ethnography, but it’s about, it’s about sick building syndrome. But it’s more than that. It’s about basically about the way that technology comes to create indoor climates, right? And so, the fact that we can sit in this room together and the temperature be comfortable, it is not too cold, it’s not too hot. It’s not too humid. And all the technology behind makes that possible. And so, it sounds like kind of boring, right? You’re like, okay, think about air conditioning. But it’s a brilliant book. And I love her approach. I love how she writes about it. This quirky story that people probably never ever think about. I love that it’s about something that’s really hidden. It’s a great, a great book.

Patrick: And, yeah, do you have a book coming up soon?

Denielle: Well, I’m working on the neurology book. And so, it won’t be out anytime soon. But I’m hoping to get that wrapped up within the next year. It will be a bit of more of an experimental project as well. So maybe look for that in about two years from now.

Patrick: Thank you, Dr. Elliot, and thank you for having time to be our guest. And this is quite interesting.

Denielle: Thank you, Patrick.

Kim: Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Ufahamu Africa to find any of the articles, books or links we talked about on today’s episode, head to ufahamuafrica.com. We are also available on Spotify, Apple podcast, SoundCloud, and Stitcher. This podcast is produced by Megan DeMint, with help from production assistant, Fulya Felicity Turkmen and Aliou Kamau Gambrel. We are generously supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and receive research assistance from Cornell University and the University of California Riverside. Our music is courtesy of Kevin Mcload. Until next week, safari salama!


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