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SBE 2020: Submission Detail

ID Number: 142
Title: Melding Milk and Iron: The Affective Power of Pre-Colonial Science in Post-Colonial Africa
Lead Author: Bjerk, Paul K.
Abstract: This research addresses the question of how knowledge is transposed into new social orders due to political ruptures. It theorizes that knowledge bases that informed formerly public events retreat to the domestic sector where they retain a powerful affective presence in the way people understand the world around them. It thus sheds light on how political action is constructed out of long-standing social understandings that are difficult to elucidate in public discourse. The specific approach here seeks the ideas that fueled the African cattle complex studied in the 1920s by Melville Herskovits, and pursues their continued saliency in the post-colonial social dispensation. Further conceptual links between the cattle complex and indigenous understandings of iron production hint at the broad historical encounter between these two pre-colonial sciences. These linkages will allow a new theory of African political economy, and a fresh analysis of Julius Nyereres influential policy of African socialism, known as "Ujamaa." This research responds to Gabrielle Spiegels edited volume, "Practicing History: New Directions in Historical Writing after the Linguistic Turn." It will present a methodology for approaching the deep-set, often invisible, social forces at work in contemporary history, thus giving new direction to political, anthropological, and medical research.
PDF: Bjerk_Paul_142.pdf

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