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Interrogating the colonial 'ghosts' within the social sciences through reflexive knowledge building


February 23-24 , 2023


Kwaku Adomako, UNIL


Dr. Serena Owusu Dankwa (Universität Basel) 

Dr. Patrick Awondo (Université de Yaoundé 1 and University College London) 

Prof. Edward Lee (Université de Montréal) 



This workshop takes after an emerging trend in American Anthropology to historicize not only anthropology's complicity in colonial projects (see the special issue of American Anthropologist 2020, edited by Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesus and Jemima Pierre). It also explores how this history structures enduring racial formations that refract in neighbouring disciplines and industries (e.g., in Christian missionary work, the development industry, humanitarian aid and various social sciences that have an international reach). This is mainly aimed at qualitative researchers who study groups that might be read as 'other' and wish to better grapple with positionality. 


Participants will be invited to reflect on the inherent racialized, gendered, neo-colonial and sexual hierarchies that may remain present despite aspirations to disrupt them. Such remedial pursuits may take the form of vocabularies such as 'co-creation,' "interlocuters" or "collaborators", but scholars have long since identified limitations to them (see Sara Ahmed, 2000 Knowing Others, for example). In doing so, this workshop gives a slight nod to Avery Gordon, and much like she does in 'Ghostly Matters,' hopes to investigate these historical 'hauntings' that we "sometimes have names for and sometimes do not" (Gordon 2008:7). Or more precisely, the 'hauntings' of problematic concepts introduced by pioneers of Anthropology such as Charles Gabriel Seligman, Lewis Henry Morgan, Frederick Baumbach and Samuel Morten, to name a few; how they faded nearly into obscurity while echoing and lingering in the sub-conscience of other academic disciplines (e.g., sociology, human geography, cultural studies, social work) and industries of practice (e.g., diplomacy, development and humanitarian aid). 


It will explore how social scientists, feminist scholars and development professionals reckon with this past, despite the anti-racist, anti-colonial, and egalitarian aspirations they may espouse. It hopes to explore epistemological, philosophical, and methodological tools that disrupt the 'ghosts' that maintain the hierarchies structured by these historic formations. 


This workshop aims to support doctoral students to develop reflexive knowledge building skills through exploring various research strategies (i.e., auto-ethnographic methods, critical self-reflection, etc.) while discussing how issues raised in this workshop surface in their work.




Participation fee: CHF 60 

For students of the CUSO universities (Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchâtel and Fribourg) and from the universities of Bern, Zürich, Luzern and Basel, accommodation and meals are organised and covered by the CUSO doctoral program in anthropology. Travel expenses will be reimbursed based on half-fare train ticket (2nd class) from the student's university to the place of the activity.



Deadline for registration 02.02.2023
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