CARAM - Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality

Department of Languages and Cultures



CARAM LECTURE 19.04.2024 16:00-18:00

OPHELIE MERCIER (Middle East Studies, UGent)

Discussant: Prof. Liza Franke (UGent)

Venue:  Faculty Room, campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, Ghent University

To attend online, contact:


Reading group on The Dialectic Is in the Sea: The Black Radical Thought of Beatriz Nas

The department of Conflict and Development Studies organises a reading group on the feminist political economy of Beatriz Nascimento and her work on relations between Brazil and the African continent. 

The reading group will focus on the recently published The Dialectic Is in the Sea: The Black Radical Thought of Beatriz Nascimento (2023). The book introduces and translates some of Nascimento's most important texts. Beatriz Nascimento was a founding voice and writer of Black feminism who researched 'alternative social systems organized by black people', such as quilombos and favelas. Her research on race relations in the country shows the conjunctions between history and anthropology and the construction of anti-racist organisation and theory. In 1979, while travelling to the African continent, Nascimento visited the territories of the former Angolan quilombos and reaffirmed the link between black Brazilian and African cultures through the prism of Atlantic connections. Alongside Lélia Gonzalez (1935-1994), Sueli Carneiro (1950-) and Luiza Bairros (1953-2016), Nascimento is one of the most important Brazilian intellectuals. Due to her remarkable contributions to academic research, she was posthumously awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) in October 2021.

OneDrive link to the book:

The Dialectic Is in the Sea_The Black Radical Thought of Beatriz Nascimento (2023).pdf


To join the reading group, please reach out privately via email to . Meetings will take place at the Department of Conflict and Development Studies between April and May, but remote participation is also an option. We plan on convening two to three sessions in advance of a film screening on May 13th featuring Beatriz Nascimento (further details on this will be provided soon). 

We aim to initiate a series of discussions at UGent focusing on the works of Southern thinkers, especially South American Black feminist, indigenous, and quilombola thinkers who developed anti-colonial, decolonial, or counter-colonial approaches. Please stay tuned for updates and do get in touch if you have any suggestions. Hopefully, we will have sufficient time, energy, and enthusiasm to come together, read, and discuss some texts. 

This activity is particularly timely as we near the end of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024).

Warm regards,

Allan Souza Queiroz, Ph.D.

Lecturer / Postdoctoral researcher

Department of Conflict & Development Studies

Ghent University

Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 41, 9000 Ghent, Belgium


CARAM LECTURE 21.03.2024 16:00-18:00

PROF. GEERT CASTRYCK (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

Discussant: Prof. Koen Stroeken (UGent)

Venue:  Room 3.30, Camelot, campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, Ghent University

To attend online, contact:


‘Both Argos and Athens’

Writing a history of Kigoma-Ujiji between globalization and liminality

In his Appunti per un’Orestiade Africana (1970/75) Pier Paolo Pasolini characterizes the town of Kigoma, at Lake Tanganyika in present-day Tanzania, as “the centre of Africa” and as “both Argos and Athens”. In his problematic – albeit self-critical – documentary, the filmmaker presents Kigoma as both “traditional” and “modern”, as self-perpetuating periphery as well as progress, development, and democracy. Rather than reproducing these stereotypical dichotomies, I want to make sense of the transformations and uncertainties Pasolini rightly noticed half a century ago.

The paper adopts three vantage points: (1) since the mid-nineteenth century successive global transformations pose challenges to the people who make the town of Kigoma-Ujiji, (2) the uncertainties accompanying these challenges are, again and again, met with problem-solving creativity and resilience, and (3) the urban area of Kigoma and Ujiji has been noticed, represented, and symbolized on global stages for 170 years already.

Using the analytical lenses “portal of globalization” and “liminal space” I propose a reading of the history of Kigoma-Ujiji as a characteristic site of spatial-temporal transformations, which merits its global attention.



BLOG STORY by Edwin Otieno Ondiege

Edwin is a Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Languages and Cultures at Gent University and the Centre for Anthropological Research of Affect and Materiality (CARAM). His current research project under the “Green Science, Technology and Innovation from the South project” ( is an interdisciplinary, ethnographic study of organic pesticide production (pyrethrum) in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania seeks seeks to explore the various manifestations, symbols and notions of organic and toxicity, technological and social infrastructures and their symbols, green farming, urbanity and climate change in Tanzania.

This narration is a documentation of his recent two-week expedition and  reconnaissance field visit to Arusha and Mbeya in Tanzania.

Note: Considering the early stages of the current research project, this piece of writeup depicts a very low threshold information on the fieldwork’s subject matter and or in-depth analysis of the various manifestations.

Exit – Nostalgic feeling

My focus over the past few days/week has been on preparing my family on my “second exit”. Undoubtedly, this was going to be arguably my longest absence from them.  It hasn't been easy, for them, I guess. The little one, Ogungo-Tinga, has been grumpy every time I stayed out of the house for long. Emotionally, it hasn't been the easiest of weeks. Coming back after a 2 months "hiatus" wasn't "healthy" after all, I thought to myself. Otiyo-Obama, the eldest keeps asking why I have to go back after just a short visit and why I shouldn't be travelling along with them; rhetorical question this is . . . no concrete response. Key amongst all the reasons given was an assurance - "it was going to be well". Odiero-Jadwar, the new born, oblivious of what the rest have been going through, switched between sleeping and breastfeeding. He has little awareness of the shifts the family has had to put up with over the last six months. He’s barely a month old anyway. The strongest of connections and bond we had, was that I made it back right on time – on the day he was born; so the name Odiero-Jadwar. They all have been assigned symbolic nicknames; all that mirrored their character, association with heroes and personalities and the times and seasons of their respective births . . . Story for another day though. I  guess this is what every anthropologist goes through on their first long trek; maybe in subsequent treks as well.

Exit, entry, exit

I made it to the airport in time, not to catch a flight but the Arusha bound bus across the border. Yes, catching my bus, from the airport, where we often than not, only catch flights. Should I say we catch flights or buses? We need buses to catch flights and vice versa. They all coexist and are interdependent on one another . . . May be only in Africa, may be everywhere. Land and air connected by different modes of transport, infrastructure and technology. Well, Peter, the local travel agent had mentioned that I needed to be there 30 minutes earlier. Some of the travellers who'd disembarked from their flights had to be picked up. I made it 15 minutes to time. I was shocked they were on time. It was no coincidence though; if my latter experiences with the long distance shuttles/buses are anything to go by.  

We're nine adults and three children in the 22 seater minibus. The back seats are filled with our huge loads of bags. We're all travellers on different missions, brought together by one goal – crossing the border. While the crossing was smooth with no hitches, it was a phase filled with nostalgia. I've crossed this border before on four occasions; never before did it have such a reminiscence feel. In one or two police roadblocks, “pleasantries” are exchanged, “tea” is involved. May be it’s the reason it’s been smooth thus far. The larger parts of Namanga–Arusha road is agonizingly slow with several 50km/hr. speed limits along the stretch. I’d later recollect the previous words on Dar streets – Mwenda pole hajikwai (He who walks slowly does not stumble).

Entry, Arusha

The relatively dry plains, usher in green vegetation and farms and soon the panoramic view of the magnificent Mt. Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro side by side in sight. The contrasting vegetation and landscape is a sight to behold; a contrasting spectacle representing a bridge between two boundaries and countries. Dry plains with Maasai herders visible from a distance is quicky replaced by green vegetations, pockets of forests and farmlands with maize, potatoes, potatoes and other crops. After 5hrs and 270km later, the rain ushers us in to Arusha Mjini – as it’s popularly christened; it’s the regional headquarters. Whether  the rain a sign of blessings or the "weeping" sad souls of those I left behind as alluded to by Godfrey my toyo (Public transport motorcycle) transporter is debatable. It’s however a notion worth exploring in the future.

The people are lovely, friendly and accommodating. I have in previous engagements been told of the brotherly rivalry and distrust between the two nations. I didn't feel it during my 2 week stay here. But it was alluded to in most of our conversations with locals. Godfrey, who later becomes one of my my best “acquaintances” around picks me up from the shuttle offices. The fact that the shuttle manager informs him that we're close friends meant I was guarded from almost all forms of extortion, for as long as Godfrey was with me. "Kaka, Ni vyema tushike dongo" – My brother, it's good that we eat. I don't regret that leap of faith and trust. It gave us an opportunity to bond and a conversance with one another; a foundation upon which our mutual trust was built. This is considered very important in these streets. We talked about our families, backgrounds, our respective missions, the city, the people, his precious clients including Kenyans, with whom he'd build long lasting relationships. We left the table as friends . . . After the second beer though. By the third day, our engagement had quickly transitioned from customer-client relationship to “brothers”. Godfrey would over the next few days run all my errands; give me hints of where to go or not to go. If I was staying out late, he'd call before calling it a day to check If I was safe. He'd do the same thing the next morning. I felt safe. Only Orile, the mother of my children was previously allowed to do that; albeit with lots of disinclination from my end. My visit to the Arusha cultural centre was a highlight of my stay there. He spent the entire afternoon showing me around and never charged wait time. We had indeed become brothers. This was no longer a "business relationship". Interestingly, there are “street claims” that the cultural center has some very strong linkage and or associated shareholding to one of the former American presidents. Interesting, right?

There was an amazing piece of artwork, a "lion monalisa", with all the traits of the famous monalisa, next to it read, SOLD . . .. for a whooping $180,000. It was a nice piece; but how much is the Monalisa again? How comes this piece of artwork has never received any widespread coverage?. These questions rung in my mind. Again, "tulishika dongo". The street food was always amazing, big pots lined up side by side, at the "hotels" entrances and sometime by the roadside with makeshift sitting areas. United we were, enjoying the cool fresh air blowing its way from the scenic Mt. Meru. The Tanzanian cuisine of wali (rice), ugali (maize porridge), nyama choma (grilled meat), mshikaki (marinated beef), samaki (fish), pilau (rice mixed with a variety of spices), biriyani, and ndizi-nyama (plantains with meat) always came in large portions; a significant contrast from what I have now been accustomed to in Belgium. There’s always plenty of food; and as they say, “it’s fresh food”.

The visit to the fields, located on the steep slopes of Mt. Meru was exhilarating. An 80km motorbike ride with the local extension officer capped it all. The highlands were beautiful, cool and lashed with pockets of farms and fields. Sites of men (Young and old) sitting or standing in groups by the road side or at the market centres, deep in conversations or lying down presumably taking rest was a contrast to the activities in the farms. The farms were predominantly “kept busy” by the women. From above, you watched over the bare plains, the city was out of sight. Sites of livestock grazing downslope in a significantly contrasting landscape divided on both sides by the Arusha-Namanga highway gave a clear reflection of the community's divided socio-economic activities. Farming and pastoralism; Tanzania and Kenya. The road was significant in many ways.

It was a cattle market day, and while we passed by to have a glimpse of the pomp, bustles and trade therein, we pertook to Leshoro, a mixture of fermented milk and thrashed maize. A filling delicacy indeed. Should I visit next time, my host promises to give me even a much better prepared Leshoro. "Hii hawatengenezi vizuri, sio kienyeji, sio halisi kabiisaaa. Haja yao ni kupata faida tu . . . Nitakualika nyumbani uonje ile ya kiasili" [They didn't prepare this the way it's supposed to be prepared, it’s not traditional, not natural at all. They're only interested in making profits. I will invite you home so you can taste the real traditional one"]. This is my second interaction with the terms kienyeji [Local] and asili [natural]. I relate it to earlier mentions of “chakula fresh” [fresh food]. The countryside offered a peaceful coexistence between nature and humans. It's been an unusually rainy January, so they say. Meandering down the slippery narrow paths up and then back down hill, I'm  occasionally jumping off the toyo [motorcycle] to allow Mikala navigate through the terrain. It's a tough balancing act. January is considered a relatively warm month in the north, it's different this year; he tells me so is everyone else I've interacted with.

Exit Arusha, entry Mbeya

Parting ways with Godfrey was always going to be one difficult and emotional one. We'd over the last few days spent loads of time together. Shared lots of social and work related stories. He'd been part and parcel of my stay here. He knew what my mission here was all about and swore he'd do everything to help me out. Well, that was too fast, I thought. We spent the afternoon gulping a few bottles of beer, then the locally made samaki makange; Kushika dongo it is. Everything starts and ends with kushika dongo – eating; or rather cemented by it. He wasn't resuming work until after he'd seen me off, he confessed. The bustling bus station was always full of life; it was my third time here. People meet here to do business, transport parcels and goods, to see family and friends or as potters. Dozens of buses roared their engines ready for the night trip to various parts of the country. Here the town connected to the countryside, rural-urban, urban-urban; business men, farmers, travelers and all forms of social relations. This was going to be a long 16-hour trip down south, so I imagined. I was ready; mentally and physically . . . So I thought. I have been previously warned of the long treacherous journey down south. Noticeably, the night buses are much faster; no speed guns and no traffic cops too. A sharp contrast of my earlier experience. The choice is yours!, so they say.

Our to the Southern highlands is met by scenic hilly terrains, unofficially christened the “Swiss highlands. Agriculture and cross border trade with the neighboring southern African neighbors define much of the socio-economic activities in the region. Be ready for the rains; always keep warm when heading south. Overlooking the town of Mbeya are the rugged Mount Lorezi and Mbeya, partially covered in clouds. It's colder than I expected. The 17-hr trip down south was long and tiring . . . The result – a serious flu, fatigue and tonsilitis.

Football a part of the everyday life

Social and mainstream media is filled with news of Tanzania blocking Kenya's main airline carrier from plying the route. Almost everyone you meet is talking about it. The brotherly supremacy battle is evident. This is however overshadowed by the football fever–frenzy; the national team is participating in the ongoing African football championship; it is just the third time they are have done so in the their history. There's a mixed feeling of excitement, optimism and anxiety along the streets; up on their sleeves is an opening match against the much superior Moroccan team. It's a rarity to find any street conversations without football in it. You're either a Simba (Wasimbazi) or Yanga (Wananchi) – two of the most successful and famous local teams. Today, everyone puts aside their differences and club allegiances and gunning for the national team. Here, football is both a unifying factor and a source of disunity. If you want to strike a conversation with a stranger or a newfound friend in the streets, female or male, old or young, bring up a Simba-Yanga subject. Today, we're all united by one flag; our support for Taifa Stars. The local pubs are filled with patrons donning the national team colours. The excitement and optimism is quickly replaced with the sad reality of the huge gap between the two countries. Taifa stars has been outclassed. Somebody has to be blamed; the conversations will go on and on late into the night. A draw against the neighboring DR Congo a few days later is a fair result despite the fact that Taifa stars should have won. There are street celebrations, drinking and jubilation running late into the night. Football runs deep down here.

Mji mkuu, Dar Es Salaam

Dar Es Salaam is a contrast to the other two regional towns. The buzzing life, hustles and bustles of the city; the roaring sounds of the bajaaj and the bodaboda [That’s what they refer to motorcycles down here] is louder; the hoots from the long distant trucks and the daladala [local town service transport] rents the air. It's a buzz of activities. Dar Es Salaam is breathing life, says my bajaaj driver. Indeed it's a stark contrast from the first time I visited 6 years ago. The infrastructural expansion; roads, buildings and malls is a reflection of the city's growth. The public express bus system is a game changer. There's ongoing expansion to cover a larger section of the city. I choose to take a ride . . . It's filled to capacity and excruciatingly hot and sweaty. It's however fast and efficient and cheap by all standards; a trip that would have otherwise taken an hour due to traffic snurl ups, takes just 20 minutes. Impressive!

People here value honesty and trust. It's not a difficult task building or creating it; all you need is to express it at the earliest opportunity and sustain it. I enjoyed the street food once again. The difference in social classes is evident; however, regardless of where you eat, you’ll surely enjoy “ndizi mzuzu” [plantain]

Shukran Sana Bongo, you’ve been good to me, nitarudi tena!!!



We are delighted to share with you our call for submissions for a zine-based conference on more-than-human freedom. Inspired by the first zine-based conference organised by the Low-Carbon Research Method Group, this conference aims to bring together scholars and artists to produce and disseminate low-carbon, free, and accessible knowledge around the capability of self-willed ecologies to sustain and reproduce themselves. We invite contributors to address this theme by making use of the experimental and DIY character of zines, which will be printed and circulated among participants by post.

Please find the original text of the call, how to submit, and more resources on our website and feel free to contact us at for any questions. We are looking forward to receiving your pitches! Pitches are due by 8 March 2024.

Organized by Laura Andriessen (Ghent University, CARAM), Emelien Devos (Ghent University, CARAM) and Alessandro Guglielmo (University of Milan)

Call for submissions

Multispecies ethnographers analyzed the expansion of industrialized food production as separating organisms from their relational ecologies and coercing them into maximized production. Under late capitalism’s growth imperative, agriculture has moved towards accelerating organisms’ growth by removing them from their environment into controlled feeding and medication1. This process not only shapes non-human bodies but, according to situated knowledges among many different local populations, it also creates nutritionally and symbolically poor foods, depleting human bodies and the very mutuality of eating that constitutes a local ecology2. Yet, these ecologies are sustained by these webs of multispecies relations. Therefore, following scientific and local knowledges emphasizing the capacity of self-willed ecologies to sustain themselves3, and of the self-medicating and food-selecting behaviour of relatively free organisms4, we propose to approach food systems through the concept of more-than-human freedom. In doing so, we aim to bring together the focus on food sovereignty and a more-than-human perspective to the organisms involved in food creation. Looking at an ever-gloomier Capitalocene, we recognize the urgency of discussing more-than-human freedom and its capacity to shape and sustain local ecologies. We invite visual ethnographies capable of addressing such issues, and showing the mutuality between more-than-human freedom and the sustenance of local ecologies.

Possible themes include:

  • vernacular perspectives on non-humans’ skills in caring for themselves and landscapes;
  • more-than-human resistance to industrial agricultural control;
  • ethnographic cases of social groups aiming to work with non-human autonomy in agriculture;
  • examples on the mutuality of more-than-human relations in local ecologies, and their capacity to sustain themselves

These works will be included in a zine-styled conference, and freely distributed in the form of printed zines and an online repository. Inspired by the first zine-styled conference organized by The Low-Carbon Research Methods Group , we aim at disseminating cutting-edge research on more-than-human freedom to both a specialistic and a lay public. Our intention is to democratize such knowledges in a low-carbon, free, and accessible frame, tapping into the graphic and experimental potential of zines.

How to submit

 We encourage submissions of a 500-words pitch that describes both the content and format/design of the zine, with bibliography and a brief biographic introduction; submissions should be sent via this google form by 8 March 2024. Please take care to describe how you intend for content and zine design to support one another, as this will be taken into account during the jury process. We aim to provide some support, tutorials and feedback for the design part, so please don’t let this hold you back from submitting. We’re not looking for exclusively professional-grade design work, but motivate participants to draw inspiration from the DIY-aesthetics of zine culture that welcomes all skill levels. To gently encourage an overall visual connection between the final zines, yet leave enough room for experiment and individual taste, we’ve set some restrictions on size and colour.


Print and design requirements for final submissions (more detailed instructions will follow later in the process)

  • Colours: black & white
  • Size: 148 x 210 mm (A5, portrait orientation), excluding 3mm bleed on every side if needed
  •  Pages: between 12 and 48 (including cover + backcover)
  • Resolution: 300 dpi



[1] Landecker, H. (2023). “The Food of Our Food: Medicated Feed and the Industrialization of Metabolism”, in H. Paxson (ed.), Eating beside ourselves. Thresholds of foods and bodies. Duke University Press, 56–85.

[2] Chao, S. (2021). Eating and Being Eaten: The Meanings of Hunger among Marind. Medical Anthropology, 40(7), 682–697.

[3] Carver, Steve, Ian Convery, Sally Hawkins, Rene Beyers, Adam Eagle, Zoltan Kun, Erwin Van Maanen, et al. 2021. ‘Guiding Principles for Rewilding’. Conservation Biology 35 (6): 1882–93.

[4]  Meuret, M., and F. D. Provenza. 2015. ‘When Art and Science Meet: Integrating Knowledge of French Herders with Science of Foraging Behavior’. Rangeland Ecology & Management 68 (1): 1–17.

CARAM LECTURE 16.06.2023 16:00-18:00

Discussant: Prof. Nadia Fadil (KU Leuven)

Venue:  Faculteitszaal, 1st floor, campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, Ghent University

To attend online, contact:


Voices that Matter - Kurdish Women at the Limits of Representation in Contemporary Turkey

“Raise your voice!” and “Speak up!” are familiar refrains that assume, all too easily, that gaining voice will lead to empowerment, healing, and inclusion for marginalized subjects. The world over, countless feminist, development, and human rights activists are deeply invested in measures that seek to give voice to the ostensibly silenced so as to ensure their participation and agency, while liberal democracies encourage their citizens to voice their sentiments and opinions as an integral mechanism of political decision-making.

My book, Voices that Matter published in 2022 with the University of Chicago Press, examines the consequences of contemporary politics that incite marginalized subjects to voice in the name of empowerment, emancipation, and representation. Based on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork in eastern Turkey with Kurdish female singers, poets, and women’s activists, it argues that “raising one’s voice” in the contemporary world is not always or necessarily empowering but constitutes an endeavor full of risk, dilemma, and contradiction. What is more, an equation of voice with agency and empowerment fails to adequately capture the effects of such incitement. By narrowly focusing on whether the marginalized have already acquired voice or are still being silenced, it loses sight of how contemporary politics of voice foster new understandings of self and community and engender novel arenas of struggle and contestation.

To bring these effects into view, Voices that Matter attends to the voice as form, shifting attention away from what voices say to how they do so. I trace how oral genres have been changing in a context where Kurdish voices have gained increasing moral and political value as metaphors of empowerment, representation, and resistance. Focusing on the transformations in how Kurdish women relate to and employ their voices, I illustrate that “gaining voice” is no straightforward path to liberation, especially when one’s voice can be selectively appropriated to further empty displays of pluralist representation.


- Mann Mela TeamMann Mela was designed by an interdisciplinary team of young people, including those with lived experience of mental health needs, researchers, designers, artists and technologists.

Under India's caste system, Dalits are considered untouchable. The coronavirus is intensifying that slur | CNN

FII Interviews: Public Health Worker And Activist Dolly Arjun On The Historic Seattle Legislation And The Need For Resisting Caste In The USA | Feminism in India

CARAM SPRING LECTURE: 12.05.2023 16:00-18:00: Prof. Sushrut Jadhav (University College London) - Purity, Pollution and Prejudice: Clinical Ethnographic Engagements across Caste

Discussant: Prof. Koen Stroeken (Ghent University)

Venue:  Faculteitszaal, 1st floor, campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, Ghent University

This is a physical event and will not be recorded.


The discipline of mental health in India is in moral denial about how the institution of caste is a deeply rooted social pathology and continues to be embodied in the clinic. Textbooks don’t discuss this, and teachers and trainees are disabled by their personal and professional identities when attempting to address this pervasive social sickness, if at all. Consequently, mental health professionals invest considerable effort in silencing themselves.

This seminar details an open-ended clinical intervention guided by the key tenets of and practices of liberation psychology as well as the author’s journey through the corridors of oppression. During this intensive work, the therapist’s and his subjects’ wounds were allowed to speak to each other. Their senses of social defeat blended into an alchemy of individual liberation and incremental growth in both therapist and subjects. As therapy progressed, it became evident that all subjects—the therapist included—were keen to liberate themselves from their perceived oppressive experiences. Sessions involved collaborative ways of creating ruptures, reclaiming agency and dignity, and aligning with routes to social justice.

Two anonymised subject, Professors Kahoda and Astha-Vakra, from historically privileged and oppressed backgrounds, respectively, will share their continuing experience and resistance to suffering. They will also wish to engage in dialogue with the audience.

As this is a case discussion, the two participants will remain anonymous for reasons of clinical confidentiality.

Brief bios about the speaker and his anonymised colleagues:

Sushrut Jadhav is a street psychiatrist and clinician anthropologist in London, UK. See website.

Prof. Kahoda teaches economics to undergraduate students at a metropolitan university in South Asia. Apart from teaching, Prof. Kahoda is engaged in socio-economic research. Although Prof. Kahoda is Brahmin by caste, he fights against the Indian caste system in his way. He writes and openly expresses his view on the caste system. He frequently discusses the problems of the caste system with his students, near and dear ones, and the general public. He volunteered to work with Sushrut Jadhav to take part in a reflective journey that addressed his suffering as a Brahmin.

Prof. Astha-Vakra teaches storytelling to a diverse range of students in a metropolitan university where most students and faculty members carry their shadows of caste with them. Born as a ‘low’ caste and infinitely perceived as defeated, his social mobility journey has been traumatic, distressing, and hopeful. He researches caste narratives, and these have helped him to sort out his caste-injected low self-esteem and to critically observe the patterns of the ideologies of inequality being percolated into the selves of the communities he identifies with. There were times when he could not handle the pathological impacts of caste discrimination and distress, which caused damage to his mental health. Besides his priority for social mobility, his wounds too simultaneously needed healing. The search for healing medicines motivated him to explore Ambedkar's writings, Dalit narratives, and scriptures of the so-called upper castes to investigate how the producers of inequal ideologies survive in their workshop of manufacturing caste pathologies. This search for medicine added an extraordinary chapter to his journey when he attended Sushrut Jadhav's clinic to heal the wounds of social defeat.

Book presentation: Les zabbālīn du Caire: Ethnohistoire d'une hétérotopie au Caire, 979-2021. 

March 17, 16:00-18:00

Gaétan Du Roy, Radboud University Nijmegen - discussant: Prof. Aymon Kreil, UGent

Venue: Faculteitszaal, 1st floor, campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent.

The Cairene garbage collectors (the Zabbalin) settled on the Muqattam slopes in 1970. Soon they attracted the attention of different actors involved in development and religious mission: Egyptian engineers, a French Catholic Sister and the most central character of this story, Father Samʿān, who started a mission among the Zabbalin in 1974. This preacher founded several churches, today known as the Monastery of Saint Samʿān the Tanner, a complex of seven churches carved in the Muqattam walls. Through his charismatic style of preaching and his public exorcisms symbolically staging the struggle between Christianity and Islam, Samʿān has become a figurehead of his church.

Gaétan Du Roy has engaged into a historical and long-term ethnographic inquiry into the lasting influence of this figure on the religious practices and the sense of community of the Zabbalin for his book which won the First-Book-Award of the Chaire d'étude du Fait religieux of the Paris Institute of Political Studies in 2022.

To participate online, register with 




CARAM Lectures on Anthropology of Art
Mondays 11.30-14:30 Room 1.2, Plateau Rozier

In this series of talks, which forms part of the BA Course/Elective Course in African Studies 'Antropologie van Visuele en Materiële Culturen in Africa' (prof. Hugo Deblock), we will focus on a plethora of artforms, from visual and material cultures to performance and drama and film and immaterial culture and art. The list of speakers includes performance artist, critical writer and dramaturg at VIERNULVIER Kopano Maroga, acclaimed visual artist Aimé Mpane, activist and artivist Laura Nsengiyumva, filmmaker and artist Renzo Martens and documentary-filmmaker Rosine Mbakam. The talks will focus on contemporary issues revolving around visual, material, and immaterial cultures and the arts. Theory will be particularly entwined with the artistic practices of makers (and doers) in the public eye and in current public debate.


Seminar: Soirées de Belgique to Spectacles Populaires: Shifting Publics, Subsidized Theater, and Late Colonial Politics in the Belgian Congo, 1949-1960 - 9 November, 14:30-17:15

Emily Hardick, Ohio State University

Venue: Campus Boekentoren, Blandijn, Room 0.2, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent.

In 1949 the Belgian Ministry of Colonies began subsidizing theatrical tours in the Belgian Congo–a sudden reversal after forty years of nonexistent colonial cultural policy. This talk will focus on the three phases of state-sponsored performance that followed this shift in the late-colonial years of the Belgian Congo: visiting European performances aimed at white populations, the promotion of folkloric Congolese dance troupes, and the development of spectacles populaires for African audiences. This talk will examine the efforts of the Centre Belge des Échanges Culturels Internationaux (CBECI), a main recipient of Ministry funds and organizer of colonial tours, to stage traveling shows in the Belgian Congo.  The CBECI brought familiar companies such as the Royal Flemish Theater and the Théâter de Poche to major colonial centers. Drawing from archival documents, I track how the CBECI touring agenda developed from Soirées de Belgique, aimed at white settler audiences, to Spectacles Populaires, a tour series which drew from existing traveling performance groupes to stage mass entertainment for a Congolese public in Kinshasa (Léopoldville) and Katanga. This presentation suggests the CBECI’s shift in programming reflected a broader Belgian governmental concern over growing Congolese social and political life in the years before independence. Secondly, and more broadly, I will highlight the ways in which government funding and artistic opportunities influenced the trajectory of Congolese theater and dance on the eve of national independence.

Emily Hardick is a Ph.D. candidate in African history. She is interested in the circulation of dance performance and the cultural politics of performing arts within colonial and authoritarian regimes. Her dissertation addresses these themes in the context of colonial and postcolonial Congo (DRC), from the 1930s to the early 1990s. Her research examines the international tours of Congolese performance troupes, their relationships to Belgian arts organizations, and their role in the performance of colonial subjecthood and postcolonial national identity. Her research is supported by the Belgian Fulbright IIE Student Program and the Belgian American Educational Foundation.

Ths seminar is coorganised by the Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality (CARAM) and the Centre for Research on Body Cultures in Motion (BOCULT).


Lecture: Ethnography, Colonialism and the Challenges of Representation: Is Anthropology in Africa Doomed by its Past? - 27 October, 16:00-18:00

Prof. Dr. Mwenda Ntarangwi, Commission for University Education, Nairobi, Kenya

Venue: Campus Boekentoren, Blandijn, Faculty Room (first floor), Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent. To participate online, register with

No matter how hard they try anthropologists working in and on Africa cannot ignore the colonial baggage associated with the discipline. Anthropology’s close association with colonialism in Africa (and other parts of the world) has tainted any attempts at claiming a positive identity for the discipline and its practitioners. But was anthropology historically a handmaiden of colonialism? What about anthropology’s own self-critiques and attempts to reform the discipline from the inside? Can ethnographic work redeem the discipline from its assumed colonial past? Taking a position that presents anthropology as a discipline that had a more complex and at times enigmatic relationship with colonialism, this presentation will make a case for rethinking the historical relationship between anthropology and colonialism. I will discuss the role ethnography plays and can play in decolonizing anthropology both in the past and the future. Examples of classic texts, new ethnographies, and own experiences will frame much of this talk, concluding that time has come to move the narrative of anthropology as a colonial tool to a different space.

Mwenda Ntarangwi is CEO of the Commission for University Education, Nairobi, and a former Associate Professor of Anthropology at Calvin College, Michigan. He earned his BEd in Language Education and MA in Swahili Studies from Kenyatta University, Kenya, and MA and PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Mwenda's research is on popular cultural expressions, the practice and history of anthropology, and inter-cultural engagement. He is the author of, among other works, “The Street is My Pulpit: Hip Hop and Christianity in Kenya” (Illinois, 2016), “Reversed Gaze: an African Ethnography of American Anthropology” (Illinois, 2010) and “East African Hip Hop: Youth Culture and Globalization” (Illinois, 2009).

Lecture: Le retour du masque Kakungu en RDC: Défis et paradoxes d'un patrimoine partagé - 5 September, 17:00-18:00

Prof. Dr. Placide Mumbembele, General Director of Institut des Musées Nationaux du Congo and Professor at the Université de Kinshasa, DRC

Venue: Campus Boekentoren, Plateau, Auditorium P, Jozef Plateaustraat 22, 9000 Gent. To follow online please register with

Lecture: Cattle Visions: The Creation and Collection of Art in the Kingdom of Rwanda - 19 April 2022, 17:30-19:30

Talia Lieber, University of California

Venue: Campus Boekentoren, Blandijn, room 2.24 (second floor), Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent. To follow online register with

This talk examines the art of the Rwandan kingdom in the Great Lakes Region of eastern Africa, investigating how environmental and political conditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including encounters with European missionaries and colonial powers, shaped artistic creativity in Rwanda. Ultimately, the talk will consider the following questions: How was the image of the kingdom transformed by Rwandese artists? What can material objects reveal about Rwanda’s heritage and state formation? How and why did artwork impact Rwandan and European perceptions of the kingdom more broadly? The talk draws, in part, from images and objects held in the archives and collections of the Smithsonian Institution, including photographs and films taken by White Fathers missionaries in Rwanda. Through object-based examinations and archival research, this talk examines how Rwandese artists rendered images of power and prosperity through works depicting cattle and reflecting surrounding landscapes that shaped both Rwandan and European notions of the kingdom.

Talia Lieber is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she specializes in the arts of the African continent. Originally from Washington, D.C., Talia earned her M.A. degree in Art History from UCLA (2019) and her B.A. in International Relations and Art History from Tufts University (2013). Her dissertation research on the art of Rwanda has been generously supported by the Smithsonian Institution, the Fulbright Program, and UCLA. She has assisted with African art exhibitions at the National Museum of African Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and served as Co-Editor-In-Chief of Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies. 

This lecture is co-organised by the Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality (CARAM) and UGent Centre for Bantu Studies (BantUGent).

Workshop: Digital Ethnography – A Conversation about Methods – Tuesday 20.10.2029 and Tuesday 1.12.2020

Co-organised by the UGent Ethnographers' Network (EthnoNet) and CARAM

This workshop aims to open a conversation about digital ethnography among researchers at UGent. There is a heightened urgency to the issue due to the current pandemic, as it limits our access to fieldwork. However, as the texts we will read together show, digital ethnography should not appear as an alternative to participant observation in its older forms. We all encounter the internet in our research, because it has become ubiquitous in the life of most of our interlocutors. In most cases, digital ethnography combines on site and online observations. Therefore, rather than providing means to conduct fieldwork without moving from office or home, it allows us to reflect more consciously on how integrate the internet in our understanding of the settings we are studying by questioning how collectives, politics, self-identification work, and the place of technologies in it. In the first session
(20.10.2020), we will read articles in which the study of online practices played a pivotal role. In the second session (1.12.2020), participants are invited to reflect about how they include the study of the internet in their own fieldwork. Prof David Bozzini, a renowned specialist of the subject, will be present for the discussion. We ask participants to commit to both sessions, if possible. We will use these encounters as opportunities to discuss the scope, assets and limitations of digital ethnography and to reflect about the best possible ways to embed its insights into our research.

Contact: Aymon Kreil (; Marlene Schäfers (; Itamar Shachar (

Readings for the First Session
Besençon, Sylvain and David Bozzini. 2020. The Ethnography of a Digital Object: An Example from Computer Security. Tsantsa 25.
Cassiman, Ann. 2019. Spider in the World Wide Web: Cyber Trickery and Gender Fraud Among Youth in an Accra Zongo. Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale 27(3): 486-500.
Kendzior, Sarah. 2011. Digital Distrust: Uzbek Cynicism and Solidarity in the Internet Age. American Ethnologist 38(3): 559-575.
Piraino, Francesco. 2016. Between Real and Virtual Communities: Sufism in Western Societies and the Naqshabandi Haqqani Case. Social Compass 63(1): 93-108.


Specialist doctoral course: Activism and Contestation: Anthropological Reflections - March-May 2020

Co-organised by Anthropology at the KU Leuven, the Institute of Development Policy (Antwerp University) and CARAM


The aim of the course is to introduce PhD students to cutting-edge scholarship, which opens new pathways for describing and theorizing the role of claim-making, protesting, and mobilization both in social, political, economic and in academic life. 

Throughout the discipline’s history, anthropologists have proposed various theories of resistance, yet the crucial question is: which ones remain relevant in our age? What kinds of new language and concepts do we need to develop to make sense of contemporary contestations, both occurring in academia and beyond? 

While we take a decidedly anthropological approach, the course is open to PhD students of the social sciences, humanities and arts who are interested in engaging with questions of activism & contestation.

This series is the 2nd edition of a collaboration between anthropologists working at various Flemish universities. Last year, the theme was "affect & materiality", organized at the University of Ghent. The 2nd edition will be hosted at the KU Leuven. 

Set up

The course is composed of four lectures by internationally renowned speakers, each preceded by a masterclass in which students will be able to discuss their own work and engage in detailed discussion and debate. Topics addressed include: new progressive movements, opposition to austerity, land and territoriality, anti-racism, popular culture and new media, and decoloniality. 


4 MARCH 2020

Revindicative movements of the neoliberal era/Transformative politics: commoning and the emergence of a political bloc

Ida Susser, Distinghuished Professor in anthropology, Professor and Chair of Anthropology at Hunter College, Professor of Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center

Lecture: 13:00-15:00, Van Den Heuvel instituut, VHI 02.40​, Dekenstraat 2, 3000 Leuven

Masterclass: 16:00-18:00,  Faculty of Social Sciences, SW 02.07,  Parkstraat 45, 3000 Leuven

Based on fieldwork among activists in global cities such as Barcelona and Paris, this paper analyses the emergence of new progressive movements. The paper considers the challenges of horizontality, consensus and representation which have led to some of the splits and disaffection among activists. It asks to what extent class illuminates such difficulties. The paper outlines the many active issue-oriented groups which were inspired by major demonstrations in opposition to austerity. Such groups focus on diverse but often related concerns including housing, the gentrification effects of tourism, immigration, police violence and the development of cooperatives. They operate within the context of new political parties also formed in opposition to austerity. Activist groups and progressive parties have come together but also fragmented over the past five years. Has wider cooperation or scaling up occurred, and is Gramsci´s concept of the emergence of a political bloc useful in this context?

Short bio:

Ida Susser has conducted ethnographic research in the U.S., Southern Africa and Puerto Rico, with respect to urban social movements and the urban commons,· gender, the global AIDS epidemic and environmental movements. Her recent publication: Updated· Norman Street: Poverty and Politics· in an Urban Neighborhood (Oxford University Press 2012). The original edition of this book (Oxford 1982) explores working class consciousness, racism, ethnic identities and gender in the emergence of social movements in Greenpoint- Williamsburg Brooklyn. It focuses specifically on the occupation of the People’s Firehouse sparked by the New York City fiscal crisis of 1975, the first neoliberal experiment. Claiming a Right to New York City the new section discusses the changing neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn from the original ethnography which began with the New York City fiscal to the Occupy movement of 2011.

31 MARCH 2020

A Decolonial Approach to Online Extreme Speech

Sahana Udupa, professor in media anthropology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich

Lecture: 13:00-15:00, Van Den Heuvel instituut, VHI 02.40​, Dekenstraat 2, 3000 Leuven

Masterclass: 16:00-18:00,  Faculty of Social Sciences,  SW 02.15,  Parkstraat 45, 3000 Leuven

Popular assessments as well as influential studies of digital disinformation and vitriol make two broad arguments about the nature of digital mediation that has led to the current predicament of right-wing populism. The first argument suggests that vicious anonymity of online subjectivities has let loose the most primal animosities of human race, now unmoored from shared values of responsibility, dignity and care. The second related argument locates the problem in equally vicious, yet charismatic, populist leaders who have successfully channelized social media to bypass mainstream media and hoodwink general publics to fall into the trance of right-wing rancor. While both the arguments have a grain of truth, they reveal less than what is at stake. Based on fieldwork among right-wing online users in India and comparative insights drawn from ethnographic cases in different regions of the world, this talk presents a complex scenario of precarious labor, manipulation, and fun that lies behind right-wing populist cultures online. To demonstrate the point, I draw upon but move beyond Euro-Atlantic cases of online right-wing mobilizations analyzed in recent studies as “specific resentments and rage of aggrieved power” (Brown, 2018) and turbulences in “the liberal settlement” (Mazzarella, 2018). Examining online right-wing nationalist activities in India more closely, I argue that online extreme speech and disinformation are not only about a particular subjectivity, even less a mere psychological disposition, but a constellation of practices, affordances, and actors. Finally, I ask if this analysis should get into a conversation with recent thinking on “decoloniality”, and what gains there are in bringing these perspectives closer.

Short bio:

Sahana Udupa is Professor of Media Anthropology at LMU Munich, where she leads a five-year research project on digital politics funded by the European Research Council: She researches and teaches digital politics, online hate speech and extreme speech, news and journalism cultures, and media policy. She is the author of Making News in Global India: Media, Publics, Politics (Cambridge University Press, UK, 2015) and co-editor of Media as Politics in South Asia (Routledge, London, 2016, with S. McDowell). Her most recent publications include, “Extreme speech and global digital cultures” (special section in International Journal of Communication, with M.Pohjonen); “Digital politics in millennial India” (special issue in Television & New Media, with S. Venkatraman and A. Khan) and “Gaali cultures: The politics of abusive exchange on social media” (New Media and Society, 2017). She produces and co-hosts the podcast on digital media, “Online Gods” (with I.M. Cook).

27 APRIL 2020

The stateless (ad)vantange? Resistance, land and rootedness in the Israeli-Occupied Syrian Golan Heights

Maria Kastrinou, Lecturer in Social Anthropology, Brunel University London

Lecture: 13:00-15:00, Maria Teresia college,  MTC1 00.03 , Sint-Michielsstraat 6, 3000 Leuven

Masterclass: 16:00-18:00,  Faculty of Social Sciences,  SW 02.15,  Parkstraat 45, 3000 Leuven

Can statelessness and political emancipatory resistance co-exist? Exploring the political economy of resistance amongst stateless farmers in the Israeli-Occupied Syrian Golan Heights, this paper positions itself within the context of a more refined understanding of the politics of statelessness and citizenship, whilst recognizing the continued role and power of the State. We argue that despite Israel’s material power over the control of resources and bodies in the Golan Heights it has been far less successful in exercising ideological control. We argue that this stems from the Occupied Syrians’ combined condition as territorially, spiritually and culturally rooted to the land alongside their stateless condition (rendering them beyond the patronage of the State). The empirical material draws from extended participant observation among Golani Syrians (in Syria and the Golan) as well as interviews with farmers. We explain how and why specifically the Druze inhabitants of the Golan remained with their land after the Israeli occupation. We then demonstrate their significant resistance efforts, and their conflicts with Israel, over and through their claims to a legitimate presence in the material and ideational landscape. In doing so we challenge common assumptions that stateless, Druze, and rural communities are particularly susceptible to State agendas.

Short bio:

Anchored in political anthropology, Dr Kastrinou’s research focuses on sectarian politics and national belonging, religion, state, conflict and energy in the Middle East and South-Eastern Mediterranean. For my PhD, she conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork research in Syria (2008–2011) looking at contested identities and politics between the Druze sect and the Syrian state. In response to the ongoing war in Syria, her research has incorporated political economy and historical approaches in ongoing projects on the politics of energy and resource conflict in Syria and Lebanon (Durham Energy Institute 2013-2014; AHRC/ESRC Conflict grant 2016-2017), as well as new fieldwork with Syrian refugees in Greece and stateless Syrians in the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights (BRIEF Award 2015-ongoing).

12 MAY 2020

Black Identities and the Search for Inclusion in Dutch Society

Francio Guadeloupe, lecturer at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam

Lecture: 13:00-15:00, Van Den Heuvel instituut, VHI 02.40​, Dekenstraat 2, 3000 Leuven

Masterclass: 16:00-18:00,  Faculty of Social Sciences,  SW 02.15,  Parkstraat 45, 3000 Leuven

My new book project, So How Does it Feel to be a black man living in the Netherlands, an anthropological account, complements the gender inflected anti-racist scholarship of stellar Dutch scholars such as Philomena Essed and Gloria Wekker. Where Essed (1991) focuses on the experience and knowledge that Afro-Dutch women have regarding everyday racism, and Wekker (2016) undertakes a ‘psychoanalysis’ of white people as she phrases it, mine is one that brings to the fore the ways within the realm of urban popular culture brown skinned women and men of Antillean descent in the Netherlands contest their secondarization and together with other Dutch—e.g. Moroccan-Dutch, Ghanaian-Dutch, Turkish-Dutch, Surinamese-Dutch, native-Dutch, etc.—have been busy creating and pushing an anti-racist understanding of Dutch identity. In doing so I focus on the way these youths have been developing alternative ways of conceiving the Netherlands in urban music, video clips, sporting grounds, and stand up comedies. Those who became nationally acclaimed urban popular artists project other presentations of self into the Dutch mainstream. I take these alternative formulations of Dutch identity to be translations of a more inclusive structure of feeling, inspired by everyday convivialities, that deserves academic attention for the ways in which it foregrounds the agency of the subalternized without downplaying the impact of institutional and everyday forms of racism.

Short bio:

Aruban born anthropologist Francio Guadeloupe has worked at all the major universities in the Netherlands. He also served for four years—2013-2017—as the President of the University of St. Martin (USM), until hurricane Irma led to the closure of the institution, on the bi-national island of Sint Maarten and Saint Martin. He is currently employed as a lecturer and researcher at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He is the author of the monograph, Chanting Down the New Jerusalem: Calypso, Christianity, and Capitalism in the Caribbean(University of California Press, 2009).

How to register

The guest lectures are open; and no registration is required for these.
PhD students from KU Leuven, Ghent University and the University of Antwerp who would like to present their work during the Masterclasses with the guest speakers are invited to submit a written application. The application should consist of a written motivation, a short abstract of your doctoral research (250 words), and a stated preference for one of the four sessions where you would like to present your work. 

We only have slots available for the sessions with Ida Susser, Sahana Udupa and Francio Guadeloupe!

To register (or if you need further information) please send us an email (katrien.pype@kuleuven.benadia.fadil@kuleuven.beuntil February 16 2020. A selection will be made by February 18. Decisions will be communicated immediately thereafter.  

The course is co-funded by the Doctoral Schools of KU Leuven, UGent and U Antwerp. 

CARAM Spring lecture - 07 May 2020, 16:00

Dr. Sushrut Jadhav, M.B.B.S., M.D., MRCPsych., Ph.D., Senior Lecturer - University College London (UCL)

Purity, Pollution and Prejudice: Clinical Ethnographic Engagements across Caste

Venue: Faculteitsraadzaal, Blandijn 1st floor 

[Postponed until on-campus occasion]


Book presentation - 18 December 2019, 14:00-16:00

Prof. Maria Frederika Malmström (Lund University): The Streets Are Talking to Me: Affective Fragments in Sisi's Egypt

Venue: Campus Boekentoren, Blandijn, room 110.022 (first floor), Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

This sophisticated book presents new theoretical and analytical insights into the momentous events in the Arab world that began in 2011 and, more importantly, into life and politics in the aftermath of these events. Focusing on the qualities of the sensory world, Maria Frederika Malmström explores the dramatic differences after the Egyptian revolution and their implications for society—the lack of sound in the floating landscape of Cairo after the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, the role of material things in the sit-ins of 2013, the military evocation of masculinities (and the destruction of alternative ones), and how people experience pain, rage, disgust, euphoria, and passion in the body. While focused primarily on changes unfolding in Egypt, this study also investigates how materiality and affect provide new possibilities for examining societies in transition. A book of rare honesty and vulnerability, The Streets Are Talking to Me is a brilliant, unconventional, and self-conscious ethnography of the space where affect, material life, violence, political crisis, and masculinities meet one another. 

Maria Frederika Malmström is Associate Professor in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University, New York City.  Malmström received her PhD from the School of Global Studies, Social Anthropology, University of Gothenburg. She has taught as a Visiting Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and in the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality at Columbia University and as a Senior Lecturer in the School of Global Studies at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and in the Department of Cultural Studies, University West, Sweden. Malmström was, between 2010-2016, a Visiting Scholar at New York University, at the Department of Anthropology; Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts; and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. In addition, she was, between 2012-2016, a senior researcher for North Africa in the Conflict, Security and Democratic Transformation Cluster at the Nordic Institute in Uppsala, Sweden. 

Conference: Restitution of Colonial Collections in Europe: Possibilities, Challenges, Dilemmas - 2-3 December 2019

TAPAS/Thinking About the PASt and Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality (CARAM) are proud to announce this conference on the restitution of colonial collections in Europe, taking place on December 2 and 3, 2019 in Ghent.  

Following the recent repatriation of human remains from Germany to the Namibian and Australian governments and French president Emmanuel Macron’s statement that the return of African objects in French museums is a ‘priority’, claims for the restitution of colonial acquisitions have gained momentum in Europe. Various social and cultural groups as well as states demand the return of human remains, archives and cultural objects in colonial collections to which they claim cultural, religious, historical or biological affinity. Yet many museums, collectors and governments continue to wrestle with restitution demands, often lacking a clear vision on the best way forward or resorting to defensive discourses. These include a legalist reasoning in which states and ethnographic museums today cannot be held accountable for crimes committed so long ago, referring to the high scientific or market value of the acquired objects or following a statist reasoning in which only claims by ‘nation states’ are valued as legitimate. This conference wants to particularly explore such motivations and the implicit philosophical convictions that underpin many restitution-claims and responses to them. 

Date: December 2 and 3, 2019

Location: Monnikenzaal - Saint Peter's Abbey, Sint-Pietersplein 9, 9000 Ghent - Belgium

To inscribe:

Organising Committee

Prof. Dr. Berber Bevernage (TAPAS, INTH, UGent) 

Dra. Marie-Gabrielle Verbergt (TAPAS, INTH, UGent)

Dra. Eline Mestdagh (TAPAS, INTH, UGent)

Dr. Hugo De Block (CARAM, UGent)

Prof. dr. Sarah Van Beurden (CARAM, UGent)

Dr. Hein Van Hee (CARAM, UGent)


Monday December 2, 2019

9:00 - 9:15: Welcome Address and Introduction by Organizing Committee

9:15 - 11:00: Panel: Changing Museum Practices

Chair: Sarah Van Beurden (Ohio State University)

Marcia Chuva (Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro - UNIRIO) – The Institutional histories in the debate about restitution: the National Museum of Ethnology in Lisbon in focus

Henrietta Lidchi (Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage) – Changing practices in the Dutch National Museum of World Cultures 

Carola Thielecke (Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz) – The German Museums Association’s Guidelines on Dealing with Collections from Colonial Contexts  

11:00 - 11:30: Coffee Break 

11:30 - 13:15:  Panel: Negotiating Return

Chair: Hugo De Block (Ghent University - KASK) 

Alma Nankela (National Heritage Council of Namibia, Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA) and Namibia Scientific Society) – A Namibian Experience: The contentious politics of repatriations of human remains, associated objects and sacred objects

Lars Müller (Landesmuseum Hannover) – Negotiating a German Position. Debates about Postcolonial Restitution in the 1970s and Early 1980s

Jean Claude Malitano  (Coordinateur Actions pour la promotion rurale DRC)– Restitution de connaissance à Faradje (Haut-Uélé, RDC), à partir des photographes historiques dans le Musée Royale de l’Afrique Centrale (MRAC)

13:15  - 14:15: Lunch Break 

14:15  - 15:15: Keynote: Placide Mumbembele - Les demandes pour la restitution, et la dialogue entre les musées du nord et du sud concernant la restitution

Chair: Sarah Van Beurden  (Ohio State University)

15:15 - 16:25: Panel: Restitution and the Law  

Chair: Berber Bevernage (Ghent University)

Marie-Sophie De Clippele (Université Saint-Louis) – Timid steps in the Belgian legal framework for restitution

Wouter Veraart (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) – Obstacles on the Road to Restitution of Colonial Cultural Objects

16:25 - 17:00: Coffee Break

17:00 - 18:00: Roundtable discussion: negotiating Restitution in Belgium 


Tuesday December 3, 2019

9:00-10:45: Panel: Restitution and Heritage perspectives

Chair: Hugo De Block (Ghent University - KASK) 

Katrijn d’Hamers (FARO) – FARO’s working group on restitution and the Flemish Heritage sector 

Augustin Bikale (UNESCO) – TBA

Lies Busselen (Universiteit van Amsterdam) – If objects could speak. Dismantling relativistic approaches and de-materializing universal heritage in the AfricaMuseum

10:45 - 11:15: Coffee Break 

11:15 - 13:00: Panel: Restitution and Artistic Practices

Chair: Marie-Gabrielle Verbergt (Ghent University) 

Claire Norton (St Mary’s University) – Art and the politics of cultural appropriation and restitution

Christine Bluard (Royal Museum for Central Africa) – Discussion sur les pratiques curatives et les collections coloniales 

Patrick Mudekereza (Waza, Centre d’art de Lubumbashi) - TBA

13:00 - 14:00: Lunch Break 

14:00 - 15:45:  Panel: Restitution, Reparation and Historical (In)justice

Chair: Eline Mestdagh (Ghent University)

Christine Kreamer (National Museum of African Art Washington DC) – Beyond restitution: paths toward a clearing

Mirjam Shatanawi (National Museum of World Cultures, the Netherlands)  – Colonial collections from Indonesia in the Netherlands and questions of redress

Joachim Ben Yakoub (Ghent University) and Gia Abrassart (Café Congo) – “No Restitution, without reparations!” Exploring the implicit motivations and persuasions underpinning the demand of restitution

15:45 - 16:15: Coffee Break 

16:15 - 17:25:  Panel: Restitution and Intellectual Property

Chair: Hugo De Block  (Ghent University - KASK) 

Kelly Breemen (NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies) – Competing interests? Protection and restitution of cultural heritage at the intersection of intellectual property, cultural heritage and human rights law

Folarin Shyllon (University of Ibadan) – The Appropriation of African Intellectual Property: Another Form of Looting of African Cultural Heritage?

17:25 - 18:30:  Closing Roundtable and Discussion

Chair: Berber Bevernage (Ghent University)

Ciraj Rassool (University of the Western Cape) 

Susan Legêne (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) 

Lecture: Kongo Art - 27 November 2019, 10:00-12:00

Prof. Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz (Oxford University): Ndinga i Sinsu: A Quest for Kongo Art

Venue: Campus Boekentoren, Blandijn, room 110.022 (first floor), Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

The lecture will focus on agency in Kongo society, exploring a complex state of social development in which legal, political, religious and visual systems motivate responses to and interpretations of Kongo cultural principles in the Atlantic world. Martinez-Ruiz will argue that the myriad forms of communication known as Ndinga i Sinsu seamlessly integrate into a wide range of audio and visual communicative techniques that he terms ‘graphic writing systems’. Such systems also include proverbs, mambos, syncopated rhythms, a large variety of written symbols, and oral traditions that are rich sources of cultural and social histories, religious beliefs, myths, and other expressions of the shared Bakongo worldview. The lecture will incorporate key examples gathered through fieldwork among the Kongo people in northern Angola, southern Democratic Republic of the Congo and within Kongo-based religious traditions in the Americas.

Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz is Leverhulme Distinguished Professor and Senior Fellow at St Anthony’s College, University of Oxford.

Seminar: Music Making in Dagbon Society (Ghana) - 20 November 2019, 10:00-11:00

Dominik Phyfferoen (Ghent University): The Dynamics of Music Making in Dagbon Society.  Developing Contemporary Idioms out of Traditional Music in The Dagbon Hiplife Zone of Northern Ghana

Venue: Campus Boekentoren, Blandijn, room 120.043 (second floor), Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

In this seminar we will present some results of a longitudinal fieldwork we conducted in the Northern Region of Ghana, focusing on the dynamics of music making in Dagbon society. In the first section we will discuss the African idioms of music making in Dagbon with the emphasis on transformational  processes seen from the angle of embodied music interaction. The second part of the presentation will zoom into “The Dagbon Hiplife Zone” in Northern Ghana. It is an imaginary filter, a liminal time-space, an intangible cultural in-betweenness in which key components coming from the traditional idioms of music making interact, transform and blend with new digital contemporary idioms of music making. By means of music examples, we will show how traditional African idioms of music-making creatively blend with cross-cultural and cross-musical components that stem from Africa, Afro-American, Bollywoodish and Western inspired idioms of music making in Tamale.

Dominik Phyfferoen is a PhD student at the Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality.

Conference: Afterlives: Rethinking the Politics of Loss and Demise - 7 June 2019

Keynote speaker: Prof. Nancy Rose Hunt (University of Florida)

With: Kinda Chaib, Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins, Çiçek İlengiz, Rachel Lehr, Ruth Mandel, Adeline Masquelier, Chris Moffat, Tanja Petrović, Erol Sağlam, Marlene Schäfers

Ghent University, Campus Aula

Afterlives appear in manifold ways. From deceased ancestors and celebrated martyrs, over decaying ruins and material remains, to past ideologies and bygone moral orders: even after their actual life time, persons, things and ideas often retain a presence in the here-and-now, posing vital questions about time, justice and social order. This interdisciplinary, one-day symposium seeks to explore how, when and why afterlives become activated, where they draw their potency from and how they constitute social and political communities.

Much popular discourse and scholarly thought has approached the lingering presence of the past in the here-and-now through the notion of memory. As a concept, however, memory remains problematically tied to an understanding of temporality as linear progression within a frame of secular immanence. By contrast, in this symposium we want to investigate afterlife as a concept that brings into view manifestations of the past that defy linear imaginations of time, question the prevalence of this-worldly presence and become articulated through complex human-non-human assemblages.

Contributions will explore how afterlives are made and unmade through material and immaterial means and how their affective and sensual reverberations shape social and political worlds. We are particularly interested in how afterlives, as they draw death, loss and demise into the present, raise potentially troubling questions about social justice and retribution, engendering fields of intense political contestation. By investigating how afterlives exert claims on the living in this way and to what effect, our aim is to rethink the politics of loss and demise beyond the strictures of this-worldly presentism.

If you would like to attend please register until May 31st by sending an e-mail to Registration fees are 15€ (regular) and 10€ (students), covering lunch and coffee.

Prof. Hunt's keynote speech is open to the public, free of charge and does not require registration.


9:00-9:15 Welcome and coffee

Pleitlokaal, Universiteitstraat 4

9:15-10:45 Panel I: The afterlives of labour, ecology and the colony

Pleitlokaal, Universiteitstraat 4

Chair: Prof. Berber Bevernage (Ghent University)

Adeline Masquelier (Tulane University/Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies)
Of Djinns and Schoolgirls: Possession, Ecological Thought, and the Burden of the Past in Niger

Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins (Aberystwyth University)
The Railroad to Nowhere and the Ghosts of EU Funding Past

Chris Moffat (Queen Mary University of London)
Anticolonial Afterlives and the Politics of Inheritance 

10:45-11:15 Coffee Break

11:15-12:45 Panel II: Performing and narrating afterlives

Pleitlokaal, Universiteitstraat 4

Chair: Prof. Katrien Pype (KU Leuven)

Kinda Chaib (PSL / Ecole Normale Supérieure)
The presence of martyrs: A theatre play in South Lebanon

Marlene Schäfers (Ghent University) 
Pain, words and rubble: Narrating the afterlives of Kurdish martyrs 

Ruth Mandel (University College London), Rachel Lehr (University of Colorado Boulder)
The many afterlives of Stolpersteine

12:45-13:45 Lunch

13:45-15:15 Keynote 
Facultaire Raadzaal, Volderstraat 3

Shrunken or Supple Lives? Milieu, Laboratory, Pathology and Near Catastrophe in African Zones

Prof. Nancy Rose Hunt (University of Florida)

What to do with disaster or catastrophe? It is important to attend to afterlives following critical events, though also dodge aftermath talk and traumatic framings. While returning to Maurice Blanchot on writing the disaster, I will consider Georges Canguilhem on the often fine line between an already threatened lifeand one lived with suppleness in relation to a milieu, laboratory, or shrunken milieu. My reflections will reconsider afterlives following terrible violence in colonial Congo (per A Nervous State), while gesturing toward new work on war and madness within migratory and securitizing contexts in Africa since the 1990s.

15:15-15:45 Coffee break

15:45-17:15 Panel III: Intimate afterlives: Loss and mourning

Facultaire Raadzaal, Volderstraat 3

Chair: Prof. Koenraad Stroeken (Ghent University)

Çiçek İlengiz (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin)
Engaging with Loss through Holy-Madness: The Case of Şeywuşen (Hüseyin Tatar 1930-1994), Dersim/Turkey

Tanja Petrović (Institute of Culture and Memory Studies ZRC SAZU, Ljubljana)
Impossible friendships and possible futures: The Afterlife of Male Bonding in the Yugoslav Military Service

Erol Sağlam (Stockholm University)
When Your Own Home is Haunted: Collective Memory, Remembrance, and Treasure Hunts in Contemporary Turkey

17:15-17:30 Wrap Up

***CARAM Spring lecture*** - Thursday 25 April 2019, 17:00-18:30

Prof. Michael Taussig (Columbia University): The Metamorphic Sublime

Venue: Lecture Hall E, Campus Boekentoren, Jozef Plateaustraat 22, 9000 Gent

In the Age of Trump, the dark surrealism of ecological devastation, the re-enchantment of nature as the negative sacred, Facebook, state surveillance, and the cunning of what Deleuze and Guattari called “the war machine,” reality has evolved into metamorphic sublimity. In the words of science fiction writer, William Burroughs, “Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.” All of which calls for a counter-shamanic practice aligned with a Green New Deal that I refer to as the Mastery of Non-Mastery. 

Michael Taussig is an anthropologist known for his provocative ethnographic studies and unconventional style as an academic. He was born in Australia and later studied medicine at the University of Sydney. He earned a PhD in anthropology at the London School of Economics. He is currently a professor of anthropology at Columbia University in New York and at The European Graduate School / EGS in Switzerland. In spite of his numerous publications in his field, especially in medical anthropology, he is most acclaimed for his commentaries on Karl Marx and Walter Benjamin, especially in relation to the idea of commodity fetishism. Michael Taussig is the author of the following books: Palma Africana (2018), The Corn Wolf (2015), Beauty and the Beast (2012), I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own (2011), What Color is the Sacred? (2009), Walter Benjamin’s Grave (2006), My Cocaine Museum (2004), Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of a Limpieza in a Colombian Town (2003), Defacement (1999), Magic of the State (1997), Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses (1993), The Nervous System (1992), Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing (1987), and The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America (1980).

You can watch Taussig's lecture here

Specialist doctoral course: How to Study Affect? Anthropological Engagements with Materiality (2018-2019)

Organising committee

Prof. Rozita Dimova (Ghent Centre for Slavic and East-European Studies / Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality)

Dr. Carine Plancke (Centre for Research on Culture and Gender / Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality)

Dr. Marlene Schäfers (Middle East and North Africa Research Group / Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality)

Prof. Koen Stroeken (Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality)

Scientific committee

Prof. Ann Heirman (Ghent Centre for Buddhist Studies, Ghent University)

Prof. Iman Lechkar (Expertisecentrum Gender, Diversiteit en Intersectionaliteit, VUB)

Prof. Chia Longman (Centre for Research on Culture and Gender, Ghent University)

Prof. Sasha Newell (Laboratoire d’anthropologie des mondes contemporains, ULB)

Prof. Chris Parker (Middle East and North Africa Research Group, Ghent University)

Prof. Dr. Katrien Pype (Institute for Anthropological Research on Africa, KU Leuven)


Over the last two decades, affect has become a key concept in the humanities and social sciences in order to address experiences that defy capture through dominant modes of representation. The so-called ‘affective turn’ seeks to overcome dualistic divisions between body and mind, the social and the material, the human and the non-human by focusing on different bodies’ capacity to affect and be affected. The course will introduce PhD students to this cutting-edge scholarship, which opens new pathways for describing and theorizing the role of embodied feelings, sentiments and intensities in cultural, social, and political life. Affect theory has been critiqued, however, for being overly abstract and vague, remaining confined to a highly specific jargon. How, then, to study affect? This course proposes anthropological engagements with materiality through ethnographic research methods as a fruitful avenue for exploring the pathways and workings of affect in empirical and grounded ways.


The course will consist of four public lectures and four masterclasses by prominent scholars who have extensively engaged with the topic of affect. Students will prepare reading assignments before each masterclass. During the masterclass, the lecturers will discuss the readings in exchange with students. Each student will choose one masterclass for giving a presentation on their own PhD research and on how they have dealt with or intend to deal with the topics of affect and materiality.


The course is open to PhD students from a variety of disciplines (including anthropology, area studies, geography, history, economics, sociology, political studies, gender studies, education). No prior knowledge is requested.


Session 1: 8 November 2018 - Affect, landscape and the politics of heritage - Prof. Joost Fontein, Respondent: Prof. Katrien Pype (KU Leuven)

Venue: Faculty Room, Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent 

Joost Fontein is a Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Johannesburg. He did his doctoral fieldwork in southern Zimbabwe, exploring the political materialities of land and water and the politics of heritage and landscape in the context of ongoing contests over sovereignty, belonging and the reconfiguration of postcolonial stateness. His thesis won the ASA UK Audrey Richards Prize and a monograph entitled The Silence of Great Zimbabwe: Contested Landscapes & the Power of Heritage was released by UCL Press in 2006. More recently, he published the book Remaking Mutirikwi: Landscape, Water and Belonging in Southern Zimbabwe (Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2015). Currently, he is involved in collaborative research exploring the affective presence and emotive materiality of human remains. With Cara Krmpotich and John Harries, he edited a special issue on this topic in the Journal of Material Culture.

10.00-12.30: Masterclass: Bones, bodies and human substances: Towards an understanding of the politics of human corporeality

14:00-16:00: Public lecture: Damming Mutirikwi: Planning, perception and imagination in late Colonial Rhodesia

This lecture draws from a chapter in my 2015 book, Remaking Mutirikwi. It comes from archival research on the building of the Mutirikwi (Kyle) dam on the Mutirikwi river in Masvingo (then Victoria) district in the late 1950s. It begins by focusing on the debates of the 1950s about which dams (Popotekwe, Kyle and Bangala) to build on the Mutirikwi river system. Engaging with Ingold’s efforts to close the gap between imagining and perceiving landscape - what I term the materialities of imagination - it explores how minute material engagements with the affordances of soil, topography and hydrology were caught up in the divergent demands of local white Rhodesians (residents of Fort Victoria) and the lowveld sugar industries downstream in Chiredzi, who had all long been lobbying, for very different reasons, for a dam on that river system. 

Session 2: 7-8 February 2019 - Decay and meaninglessness: Intersections of affect and temporality - Dr. Martin Demant Frederiksen, Respondent: Prof. Sasha Newell (ULB)

Venue: Room 160.015, Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

Martin Demant Frederiksen is postdoctoral fellow at the Department for Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo. His research interests concern questions of disengagement among youth and the role of decay, meaninglessness and the existence of Nothing in social life. Related research interests and areas include nihilism, crime and corruption, urban development and infrastructures, time and materiality. He has conducted ethnographic research in the Republic of Georgia since 2006, mainly in the cities of Batumi, Ambrolauri and Tbilisi, and more recently in Bulgaria and Croatia. Currently he is working on a comparative monograph about vacancy and transcience in southeastern Europe. His book Young Men, Time, and Boredom in the Republic of Georgia was published in 2013 by Temple University Press.

7 February 14.00-16.00: Public lecture: Last Resorts – Secondhand Architecture and Uncanny Valleys in Southeastern Europe

The lecture will depart from Masahiro Mori’s (1970) description of human responses to robots in which he observed that people respond positively to robots that either look barely human or completely human. But when those humanoid objects come to appear almost but not quite real, they elicit feelings of a different sort: extreme eeriness and discomfort. This, in Jasia Reichardt’s (1978) rendering of Mori’s work, is the “uncanny valley,” the revulsion that people feel in looking at a human facsimile or look-alike. But how does this principle of uncanniness apply to subjective relations to and experiences of the built environment? Drawing on ethnographic examples from Armenia, Georgia and Croatia, I will examine how senses of eeriness come to surround architectural forms that are almost, but not quite, ruins. The cases in point concern the use and re-use of modernist resorts that over time have fluctuated between potentially falling into complete decay and potentially being re-used or renovated.

8 February 10.00-12.30: Masterclass: Decay, Surfaces and Temporality​

Session 3: 28-29 March 2019 - Affect, subjectivity and the body Dr. Victor Igreja, Respondent: Prof. Koen Stroeken (UGent)

Venue: Faculty Room, Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

Victor Igreja is Senior Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Southern Queensland and a Research Fellow at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) and Fritz Thyssen Foundation. He did his PhD at the University of Leiden (2007) on processes of healing, reconciliation and justice in the aftermath of the Mozambican civil war. In 2008-2009 he was a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) where he worked on different forms of mediations of experiences of violence in Africa. Further research at the African Studies Centre led him to explore the role of post-colonial politics on processes of religious transformation in Mozambique and religious strategies of talk to convey experiences of post-colonial pain. Currently, he is part of a research project that investigates guilt as a culturally productive force. He is the author of numerous articles published in international journals such as Transcultural Psychiatry, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Social Science & Medicine, Anthropological Quarterly, Current Anthropology and International Journal of Transitional Justice.

28 March 14:00-16:00: Public Lecture: Negotiating relationships in transition: Approaches to unconventional evidence of serious violations perpetrated in famine crisis

In conflict-ridden communities, justice specialists gather evidence through factual verbal accounts and material vestiges of serious violations, perpetrated during repressive regimes and warfare, to eventually lay legal charges against alleged perpetrators. Anthropologists and sociologists also engage with similar contexts, but have included conventional bodily rituals and routinized and commemoration practices as sources of knowledge of violent pasts and struggles for historical justice, although without legal accountability intent. This article shifts the prevailing focus on repressive regimes and warfare to analyze the famine continuum and expands the conventional procedures of gathering evidence of serious violations. It shows how a contingent combination of singular bodily actions, collective imagination and negotiations, and kinship norms evolved and became instrumental in two ways: In refining contested fragments of evidence of serious violations perpetrated during the 1980s’ experiences of severe famine in Mozambique, and, in sustaining local struggles for accountability conveyed through bodily actions. The ensuing embodied accountability reshaped relationships by changing the prominence of silence and denial, exposing ordinary perpetrators of serious violations and cementing memories of the guilt in the landscape. Thus, comprehensive approaches to capture the diversity of legacies of serious violations marred by fragile evidence should not disregard the versatility of singular bodily actions, while seriously considering the multiplicity of meanings, contexts and perpetrators of serious violations and embodied accountability struggles in conflict zones.

29 March 10:00-12:30: Masterclass: Affect and imagination in breaking and remaking social relationships 

Session 4: 6 May – Affective states - Prof. Mateusz Laszczkowski, Respondent: Prof. Rozita Dimova (UGent)

Mateusz Laszczkowski is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Warsaw. His research explores material environments and infrastructures as generative sites shaping human sociality and political dynamics. He has studied that topic through ethnographic fieldwork in urban Kazakhstan and, more recently, in Alpine Italy. He is the author of ‘City of the Future’: Built Space, Modernity, and Urban Change in Astana, and co-editor of Affective States: Entanglements, Suspensions, Suspicions (with Madeleine Reeves). His newest work on bodily affect and political resistance is forthcoming in the journal Anthropological Theory this year. 

10.00-12.30: Masterclass: Feeling the State: Affective Infrastructures of Power

Venue: Faculty Room, Campus Boekentoren, Building Blandijn, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

14:00-16:00: Public lecture: The Stuff that Kills: Material Affects and Contentious Politics in Infrastructural Conflict in Italy

What counts as contentious political action facing forces that threaten all life in a given area, including the lives of local residents, activists, police, and non-humans such as trees? Can caring for trees count? What about caring for cops? These are some questions that were raised for activists during anti-high speed rail protests in Valsusa, Italy, by data about life-threatening aerial pollution that was generated from tunnel-building. In this lecture, I examine the affective intensities of encounters with deadly materials, as well as the qualification of those affects through science and political ideology. I argue that such affectively charged encounters inspired innovative forms of action that challenged the notion – prevalent among activists and scholars alike ‑ of politics as essentially antagonistic. I thus extend the current anthropological conversation about affect and material agency as generative forces shaping the political.

Venue: Lecture Hall E, Campus Boekentoren, Jozef Plateaustraat 22, 9000 Gent

Evaluation criteria

100% attendance to all sessions (lectures and masterclasses) is required. Students choose one Masterclass for giving a presentation.

Info and registration

For further information and registration, send an email to and (before 1 November 2018)


The course is co-funded by the doctoral schools of UGent and KULeuven (Junior Researchers Support Platform - OJO).

CARAM Spring lecture - 15 May 2018, 16:00-18:00

Prof. Sasha Newell (Université Libre de Bruxelles): The Crowding of Clutter: Affective Belongings and Storage Space in U.S. Homes

Venue: Room 150.018 (5th floor), Blandijnberg 2 9000 Gent 

Building upon ethnography in the hidden spaces of U.S. homes, this paper excavates carefully concealed affective intimacies with objects. Unlike curated collections, accumulations of stored things grow and seep of their own accord in darkened corners, gradually accruing mass and inserting affective hooks into the tissue of their owners' sociality, until they burst forth into visible space in ways that threaten normative values. Those who fail to contain  such accumulations are classified as hoarders, their deviance essentialized as mental disorder, while others anxiously patrol the frontiers of ordered domestic space in hopes of keeping clutter at bay. But because stored things are often part of the non-conscious cognitive apparatus through which memory, kinship, and temporality are managed, the affective force of possessions resists both mental and material containment. 


Sasha Newell is associate professor in the Laboratoire d'Anthropologie des Mondes Contemporains at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He is currently working on problems of storage and accumulation in U.S. society as well as cons, sorcery, and digital technology in Côte d'Ivoire. He received his PhD from Cornell University in 2003 and has taught at a wide range of institutions, including NYU, UVA, and the University of Illinois. He is author of the The Modernity Bluff: Crime, Consumption, and Citizenship in Côte d'Ivoire as well as articles on affect, pentecostalism and witchcraft, fashion, brands, hoarding, migration, social networks, theft, and informal economy. 


CARAM - meaning ‘generosity’ (karam) in Arabic - brings together researchers in the humanities and social sciences who work in the fields of materiality, affect, the body, religion and/or ethnicity. Operating from the perspective of critical area studies and versed in anthropological theory, these researchers rely on historicized ethnographic fieldwork as one of their methods. To overcome classic divides (nature and culture, body and mind, matter and idea, technology and culture, politics and religion) CARAM opts for the complementary pair of materiality and affect as research thematic. The thematic is inclusively defined. Materiality, replacing the obsolete ‘material culture’, focuses on the relation between objects and users, in light of social and cultural dynamics. To account for agency and creativity in those dynamics, affect has emerged as an interdisciplinary concept. Affect and subjectivity are not only articulated in art, religion, and ritual, but also constitute the pivot in anthropological studies of cultural identity and ethnicity.

CARAM joins the postcolonial and post-imperialist turn in critical area studies, material culture studies, and the anthropology of practices at the nexus between materiality and affect. These practices comprise among others ritual, embodiment, medicine, sensory/sensual imaginaries, (digital) technology, and power. 

CARAM connects with EGYCLASS, an International Research Network that aims at providing a comprehensive analysis of social classes in Egypt. 

If you wish to be regularly updated by e-mail about CARAM's activities and events, please communicate your e-mail address to so that she can add you to our mailing list.




Golnesa Rezanezhad Pishkhani

Troy Thomas

University of Guyana

Hasan Isikli

Gaétan du Roy de Blicquy

Université Saint-Louis - Bruxelles

Hein Vanhee

Curator at Royal Museum for Central Africa

Sarah Van Beurden

African American and African Studies - Ohio State University

Former Members