ANTHUSIA summer school in Aarhus

Blogpost from Summer School 3 by Salla Manninen from the IMAGENU project.

From November 3-7 the last summer school for ANTHUSIA (Anthropology of Human Security in Africa) took place and was held in Aarhus. The research project ANTHUSIA is conducted by a consortium of four universities in Aarhus (Denmark), Edinburgh (United Kingdom), Leuven (Belgium) and Oslo (Norway). Of course, this “get-together” looked a bit different than the previous sessions because of the ongoing COVID-19 situation. We had a cluster in Aarhus, some people were together in Oslo, but otherwise people joined the sessions on Zoom. The reason for the summer school to take place is for the PhD students to be able to present their work and gain important feedback and create conversation around their individual topics.

Quite a few professors and postdocs from our IMAGENU research project were involved in this, thus me as an intern also joined most of the sessions. IMAGENU stands for Imagining gender futures in Uganda, and the universities involved in the research project are Aarhus University, University of Copenhagen and Gulu University, in Uganda. The research project IMAGENU places marriage in Uganda and its decline at the centre, showing how this gender relation connects with the filiation of children, livelihoods, education, health and people’s imaginations, expectations and hopes for the future.

So, at ANTHUSIA summer school every day was kicked-off with seminars on different themes such as oral presentations, policy briefs, publishing and writing. After the morning session, a workshop followed where the PhD students worked in smaller groups or individually. Then we got ready for the afternoon with nice lunch at the Moesgård Museum, where we were also stationed for our Aarhus cluster. Every afternoon, from Tuesday until Friday four or three PhD students presented their work in progress papers, and research. The themes varied from “Contextualizing Crisis in Malawi: when Humanitarianism, Disasters and Development Meet” to “The privacy of despair: parallel vulnerabilities in stories about mental troubles in Ouagadougou” and many different themes in between. I found the presentations very interesting, and as I don’t come from a background of Anthropology, I also found it educational to understand what kinds of themes the students and researchers in Anthropology conduct research on.

On three of the four days of the summer school, we had keynote lectures to finish the day. The first was held by Jean Comaroff (Harvard University) titled “After Labor: the secret life of work, present and future”, where she was considering how wage work is disappearing and the reasons for it as well as the future. The incoming changes with AI and how “intelligent machines are changing the future of labour forever”. The next was by Alcinda Honwana (London School of Economics and Political Science) titled “Youth Politics & Social Movements in Africa”, where the youngness of the world and especially of Africa was under consideration, how the youth could create new leadership and governments and create a new kind of ‘politics’.  And last, but not least, Stephen Lubkemann (Columbian College of Arts and Sciences) titled “Theory in Un-disciplined Practice: Anthropologies of Change/Anthropologists in Change”, which was discussing the exact themes I had thought about a lot during the week, where he wanted to raise discussion about the possibility of connections between activism and anthropology. Is there a political feature in anthropology or could it even be inherently political? And whether anthropology can help foster social change? After each lecture the participants were able to ask questions, but we seemed to have too little time and too many interesting follow up questions to be able to go through them all before the day was wrapped at 6pm.

We were all happy that the event went well, and the connections were not acting up, in the end it is nicer these kinds of events can still take place, even if it is virtually, than not at all.