Call for Papers, Kronos: Southern African Histories 2015*

"The Micro-Politics of Knowledge"

Nancy Jacobs, Andrew Bank, and Shirley Brooks

It is now axiomatic that not all knowledge is science, that collaboration
in knowledge production does not require consensus, and that science did
not require that all parties assent to the same agenda. Knowing, being an
expert, and relating to other experts, are intensely political in ways that
escape determination by the macro-politics of the state, economics, or

Taking the position that knowledge becomes power through negotiation and
effort, we propose a special issue of Kronos for 2015 on "The
Micro-Politics of Knowledge." This issue will bring together a broad range
of articles on the varied politics of knowledge within southern Africa
about southern African subjects, both human and natural, over the longue
durée. The subject is ancient: a politics between insiders with esoteric
knowledge and newcomers with powerful technologies also predated
colonialism and modern science. Turning to the more recent past,
scientific research has been conducted by a diverse group of actors who
cooperate, compete, and circulate resources without necessarily sharing
consensus about the meaning of the work. Greater recognition of this long
and varied history has particular importance for Africa, where the politics
of knowledge have often been seen as spun from the politics of empire and
where the history of science is not thoroughly connected to the
pre-colonial past.

For this special issue, the editors seek articles on subjects including,
but not restricted to, ritual practices; technologies of production;
medicine; mineral, plant and animal knowledge; the social sciences,
linguistics, and even theology. The workscapes can include quotidian human
spaces such as furnaces and forges, shrines, hunting grounds, initiation
huts, laboratories, the "field," museums, libraries, academic centers, as
well as bureaucratic, commercial, and patent offices. Actors may include
patrons, scientists, support workers, vernacular informants, and
autochthonous adepts. Micro-negotiations between these parties may result
in stability or displacement of what is held to be true. Understandings
will be appropriated and excluded and authorities will be elevated or
denigrated. Much of the tension in these relationships has to do with
gatekeeping among people--landlord stranger, imperial-colonized, or
black-white--yet non-human subjects, including ancestors, pathogens, plants,
and animals, may also act in influential ways. Analyses of these
micropolitics will seek to understand the meaning of these interactions in
small-scale everyday arenas that shape and are shaped by the actors' own

We anticipate a range of theoretical and methodological approaches,
including micro-historical, archaeological, linguistic, feminist,
post-colonial, and actor-network theory. We encourage authors to draw and
discuss models from other disciplines and other regions that contribute to
the understanding of knowledge as negotiated. As a state-of-the-field
synthesis of the history of knowledge over the long term, this special
issue will be of great interest to southern Africanists. Yet, we envision
its contribution going beyond this region. Because of its wealth,
prominence in the global imagination, political distance from Europe, and
the marked heterogeneity of actors, the history of knowledge in southern
Africa is particularly fraught. We expect that specialists in other
regions will find the analyses instructive.

To propose a paper, please contact one of the editors, preferably by 15
March, 2014:

Nancy Jacobs, Department of History, Brown University

Andrew Bank, Department of History, University of the Western Cape,

Shirley Brooks, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies,
University of the Western Cape,

The deadline for submissions will be January 2015.