ICA Africa 2016: Communication, Theory, Africa.

Two of the researchers in the MediAfrica project presented at the recent ICA Africa conference in Nairobi

Decolonizing education and de-westernizing theory in the field of communication were central themes in key-note presentations and several of the panels, as well as discussions around tea and lunch. How to build theory from the global south? Is theory universal models or context specific heuristics?

Key-note Herman Wasserman quoted anthropologists Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, as he argued for media and communication studies with Africa, rather than as an object of intervention or a repository for exotic data.  The central question seemed to be:


What if we posit that, in the present moment, it is the so-called ‘Global South’ that affords privileged insight into the workings of the world at large?


In this way, one of the MediAfrica team members’ work became pivotal for setting the agenda at the first ICA Africa conference. So did the work of Wendy Willems who presented her recent research on elections in Zambia, and participated in discussion forum for young scholars about challenges of using theory in an African context and opportunities and challenges in international collaborations. This dialogue with established scholars, and a few younger ones, brought out different approaches to theory, to regional engagements and histories, and to the practical challenges that scholars in Africa grapple with. The current debate is brought on by processes going on in different thought communities on the continent, most prominently perhaps at South African universities in the last few years. ...And I was there too at the ICA Africa 2016 conference and presented the ongoing fieldwork about mobile phones and motherhood in Cape Town.