Tag Archives: Africa

Genetic, Epigenetic, and Sociocultural Data Applied to Questions of Human Health and Disease

Connie Mulligan (University of Florida)

A host of genetic and environmental factors, including sociocultural influences, impact complex phenotypes in humans. Based on this definition, complex phenotypes include complex diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and mental illness, as well as more broadly defined conditions such as stress and racial health disparities. My research takes a uniquely anthropological perspective and integrates biological and cultural factors to examine human health and disease. Specifically, I use genetic, epigenetic, biological and cultural data to investigate a diverse set of complex phenotypes. I’m interested in conditions with a stress component since stress is highly prevalent in our society and has many different facets, including genetic, biological, cultural and psychological aspects. I’m interested in racial health disparities since they, too, are prevalent in our society and have both genetic and environmental components. Epigenetic modifications may also play a role in complex phenotypes, possibly with an evolutionary component, by altering gene expression in response to events that happen during one’s lifetime. I’ll discuss two projects in my lab that 1) examine the genetic and cultural risk factors for hypertension in African Americans living in Tallahassee, FL and 2) investigate an epigenetic mechanism to mediate the effect of maternal stress on maternal and infant health in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Nostalgia in the Post-Apartheid State

Amber Reed (Penn)
What would make rural, black South Africans nostalgic for the days of apartheid? While this nascent democracy is celebrated worldwide for its “progressive” constitution and relatively peaceful transition from an oppressive government in 1994, today a growing tide of disappointment with the democratic state is emerging across the country – as evidenced in recent service delivery protests and new competitor political parties to the ruling African National Congress. Ethnographic encounters in the rural Eastern Cape Province go beyond these frustrations with the status quo, revealing widespread sentiments of nostalgia for the perceived stability and order of the apartheid regime among those who ostensibly suffered most under its rule. In this paper, I argue that nostalgic discourses for apartheid can be read as reactions to the increasing inequalities of neoliberal capitalism that have become conflated with democracy as a political system. Furthermore, many local cultural ideologies in rural South Africa aligned more closely with the hierarchical structures of apartheid than they do with contemporary Western-based human rights legislation on equality. On a broader level, I show how Eastern Cape residents are using competing epistemologies from that of the state to understand why democracy is ultimately understood as failing to create happier lives for rural South Africans.

The Racial Lexicon of Development in Postcolonial Africa: The Case of Ghana

Jemima Pierre (UCLA)
If colonial rule in Africa depended upon a racial hierarchy that simultaneously consolidated supposedly “tribal” difference and white racial and cultural and political supremacy, what happens to this structure at the end of formal colonial rule? Following this, what does it mean to explore racial formations in our analyses of decolonization and the African postcolony? In this lecture, I use examples from my current ethnographic and historical research on resource extraction – specifically focusing on Ghana as a new oil exporter – to tackle these questions. I argue that “development-speak” converges with “oil-speak” to create a particular racial lexicon that upholds historical, (neo)colonial hierarchies. In so doing, I demonstrate one of the many ways that race continues to be rearticulated in postcolonial Africa.
* Co-sponsored by the Center for Africana Studies

African non-State Networks, Social Capital or Social Liability? The case of DRC

Patience Kabamba (Penn)

The central argument of my study is that everybody knows about the wealth of the region, currently siphoned off by Rwandan/Ugandan generals in collusion with US corporations, but they don’t know about the social wealth and dynamism of the country. I argue that the future of Africa hinges on what happens to the DRC with its huge population and natural wealth including hydroelectric energy whose transport to distant destinations will require political reorganization of Africa by Africans. Indeed, the kleptocratic alliance between Jacob Zuma and Joseph Kabila prefigures a more serious future development linking South-Africa and DRC in SADC. The case of Butembo where in the absence of state framework and in the presence of multiple contenders for power, Nande traders networks managed to build a self-sustaining and prosperous transnational enterprise in North Kivu would serve as a parable. It presents an alternative story of Congo society being built from bottom up. Spinoza’s understanding of power as “potentia” and “potestas” would frame the theoretical underpinning of the new vision of the DRC I am putting forward.