We are delighted to invite you to the upcoming AFRASO Lecture: "Indians and Pakistanis in African Universities: The Cultural Politics of Postcolonial Knowledge-Production" by Shobana Shankar (AFRASO Fellow 2018). The lecture will take place on June, 21st in room SH 0.107 (Seminarhaus, Campus Westend) from 4 pm - 6 pm.
This presentation explores how formerly colonized peoples in Africa and Asia envisioned and transformed their intellectual institutions in the first decades after independence. It focuses on African-Asian university exchanges, which were critical to creating and legitimating postcolonial knowledge and expertise. Several specific projects will be discussed, including a Senegalese-Indian linguistics project and the programs of Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam to develop “Third World” science in Benin. This presentation will analyze the political context for these collaborations and show how it shaped a prioritization of indigenous knowledge in university exchanges, scholarship programs, and research agendas in development policies initiated by African and South Asian countries. The importance of indigeneity politics, I argue, was a critical component of the cultural idea of expertise in Afro-Asian intellectual partnerships.
Shobana Shankar examines British colonialism, cross-cultural encounters, and the making of social difference and inequality in West Africa, particularly Nigeria, a nation that has experienced considerable religious violence in recent years. Her research brings an historical lens to Christian-Muslim relations, showing that religious difference has evolved out of complicated negotiations of gender, class, racial, and ethnic dynamics in the context of British and American Christian missionary work in Muslim areas. Her other work has focused on the social and cultural politics of medicine, the link between missions and UNICEF’s early efforts in sub-Saharan Africa, and, as a side interest, gender and racial hierarchies in blues music recording in Jim Crow Mississippi. She speaks Hausa, Kiswahili, Tamil, and French, and hopes to bring these skills to her next project on a history of South Asian-African exchanges of religious culture and “traditional medicines.” In addition to her academic experience, she has worked for UNICEF and Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.