Stephen Ellis Annual Research Lecture by Nanjala Nyabola: African Feminism as Method

This event will take place online. All registrees will receive a link to the online platform one day before the start of the event.

The 2021 Stephen Ellis Annual Research Lecture will be given by Dr Nanjala Nyabola, independent writer and researcher based in Nairobi, Kenya.

African Feminism as Method
It is sometimes said that if wealth was the product of hard work then African women would be the wealthiest people in the world. Undoubtedly, African women work, and African womanhood is often inseparable from the idea of labour. Yet African women’s work is rarely properly accounted for in the analysis of African politics and society, presented mostly as peripheral to the “real work” of politics as done by men. African feminisms in turn remain marginal to the central understanding of feminism as a political orientation and an approach to understanding societies, doubly marginalised both relative to men and to other feminisms. Our analysis of what African women do and why they do it remains instrumentalist and focused on their possible impact, rather than unpacking any possible underlying theoretical value that they may hold.
The goal of this presentation is to articulate a possible theoretical framework for African women’s work and African feminisms as political science method. Examining key moments in African women’s history like the Thuku Resistances of 1922 and the Aba Women’s War of 1920, the presentation will outline key characteristics of African women’s political organisation, mobilisation and action. Reflecting on key moments in the post-colonial era, the presentation will highlight the new ideas that this framework for African feminism uncovers. Finally, drawing from the author’s own research on Kenyan politics in the digital age, the presentation will demonstrate how African feminism was deployed as a political method to situate contemporary African politics in the digital age. In this way the presentation will argue that African feminism as a political method is a valuable addition the toolkit of studying African societies, and indeed societies around the world. 

About Stephen Ellis
Stephen Ellis (1953-2015) was a renowned senior researcher at the African Studies Centre Leiden. He was a courageous, deeply inquisitive researcher, going further than most researchers of his generation to uncover hidden truths about Africa. He combined a great interest in how ‘real politics’ work and have an impact on people’s lives, with a fascination for the role of religion and morality. He did so as a historian, with particular attention for the way history influences the present. With the Stephen Ellis Annual Research Lecture, the African Studies Centre Leiden wants to honour Stephen Ellis as the great scholar he was and encourages others to work in his spirit.

Every year, a committee consisting of the director of the African Studies Centre Leiden, the Chair of the ASCL Researchers’ Assembly and Prof. Gerrie ter Haar (Stephen Ellis’ widow) invites a scholar to give the Annual Research Lecture.

Dr Nanjala Nyabola is an independent writer and researcher based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her work focuses on the intersection between technology, media, and society. She holds a BA in African Studies and Political Science from the University of Birmingham, an MSc in African Studies and an MSc in Forced Migration, both from the University of Oxford, as well as a JD from Harvard Law School. She has held numerous research associate positions including with the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), and other institutions, while also working as a research lead for several projects on human rights broadly and digital rights specifically around the world. She has been published in several academic journals including the African Security Review and the Women’s Studies Quarterly, and contributed to numerous edited collections. Nanjala also writes commentary for publications like The Nation, Aljazeera, The Boston Review and others. She is the author of Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Politics in Kenya (Zed Books, 2018) and Travelling While Black: Essays Inspired by a Life on the Move (Hurst Books, 2020).

Date, time and location

09 December 2021
18.00 - 20.00