Special Themed Issue of Technology’s Stories: Past & Present

“Learning from Africa’s Technology Stories” (September 2015)

Curated by Laura Ann Twagira (Wesleyan University)


Tara Dosumu-Diener, “Wards Apart?: Rethinking the Hospital through a West African Lens”


Jennifer Hart, “Automobility, Technopolitics, and African Histories of Technology-in-Use in Twentieth Century Ghana”


Drew Thompson, “Techno-Histories in Mozambique: A Photographic Story”


Laura Ann Twagira, “Interrogating the ‘Machine’ and Women’s Things”


About the March 2015 Conference

Keynote: Julie Livingston (Rutgers University) author of Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic (2012)

Africa has long been a space of technological innovation and adaptation despite popular Western media depictions to the contrary.  In fact, Africa is at the center of global technology stories such as the history of nuclear proliferation.  Recently scholars have documented novel uses of contemporary media technologies on the continent, as well as adaptations of older technologies such as studio photography or the automobile, all of which have had rich and complicated social impacts.  Writers, artisans, and farmers have also created new technological cultures, while many African medical professionals have responded to technologically ‘poor’ environments by improvising basic solutions.  Africanizing Technology aims to highlight and interrogate these and other technology stories on the continent from an interdisciplinary perspective.

The inspiration for the conference theme comes from the concept of Africanizing Anthropology elaborated by Lyn Schumaker (2001).  Schumaker asserted that colonial knowledge production about Africa was rooted in the collaborative research process of European Anthropologists and African research assistants; the European discipline of anthropology was transformed as a result of this shared practice.  Moreover, this intellectual move placed Africans at the center of knowledge production about Africa. 

Africanizing Technology will play on this idea by looking at the ways in which technology in Africa has been Africanized.  The production and use of technology is similarly rooted in knowledge production.  Moreover, technology has been central to histories of development in the 20th century.  Similar to scholars of development, recent researchers working on technology in Africa have argued for a shift from a previously dominant Euro-centric frame of analysis to one starting with the experiences of Africans. 

Several crucial questions will be addressed: How is technology rooted in a longer history of African experiences?  How do the emerging technological cultures on the continent contribute to our broader understandings of health, education, and social change?  How does Africanizing Technology reshape our scholarly understandings of development?  Can we speak of a broader pattern of Africanizing Technology in the current global circulation of digital media and other technologies?

Panel I: Technologies of Identity and Knowledge Production

Panel II: Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Development

Panel III: Imagining New Technological Cultures

Panel IV: Technological Cultures of Health and Healing

Conference Organizer: Laura Ann Twagira (ltwagira@wesleyan.edu)


The conference keynote lecture and panel presentations are open to the public.

Africanizing Technology is supported by the Allbritton Center for Public Life, the Richard and May Scott Charitable Trust, Academic Affairs, the Department of History, and the Science in Society Program at Wesleyan.