15 Jun 2016 - 16 Jun 2016 All day CRASSH (SG1&2), Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT


Registration is now closed for this conference.



Yolana Pringle (University of Cambridge)

Andrea Grant (University of Cambridge)


This two-day interdisciplinary conference examines the uses and meanings of the term ‘anxiety’ as it relates to Africa and African Studies. There is a growing body of research that highlights how anxieties about sexuality, health, modernity, climate, and race shaped attitudes and governmental policies in Africa in the past. There has also been increasing interest among scholars in exploring ‘uncertainty’ and ‘nervousness’ in Africa, terms that often overlap, or are used synonymously, with ‘anxiety’. This conference brings together these different research trajectories for the first time. It will explore common themes and ideas about anxiety across disciplinary boundaries, considering anxiety not only as political and biomedical discourse, but as lived experience.

The conference has five aims:

  1. Explore common themes and ideas about anxiety across disciplinary boundaries;
  2. Consider the conceptual meaning(s) of ‘anxiety’;
  3. Explore anxiety as a lived experience and investigate how individuals and communities within Africa attempt to navigate it;
  4. Critically examine how states and institutions instrumentalise anxiety for various political ends;
  5. And consider how anxiety in Africa relates to global concerns, particularly around notions of security and ‘terror’.

Keynote speaker: Kalala Ngalamulume (Bryn Mawr College)

Other confirmed speakers include: Stella Nyanzi (MISR / Makerere University) and David Pratten (University of Oxford)




Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH), the Centre of African Studies, the Smuts Memorial Fund, and the Wellcome Trust.

Accommodation for speakers selected through the call for papers and non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange or book accommodation; however, the following websites may be of help:

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms
University of Cambridge accommodation webpage


For any administrative enquiries please contact events@crassh.cam.ac.uk.


Day 1 - Wednesday 15 June
9.00 – 9.30

Registration, Tea and Coffee

9.30 – 9.45

Welcome (Organisers)

9.45 – 11.15

Panel 1: Anxiety and lived realities

Chair: David Pratten (University of Oxford)


Will Jackson (Leeds University), ‘Settler catastrophe and the problem of poor whites ‘

Murray Last (UCL), ‘Anxieties within a northern Nigerian farmstead: spirits ‘in the way’, being both a source and an explanation of everyday worries’

Claudia Serwah Prempeh (University of Bayreuth), ‘Electricity is everything! – Lived realities and coping strategies to “dumsorlogy”’

11.15 – 12.30

Keynote address: Kalala Ngalamulume (Bryn Mawr College)

Chair: Harri Englund (University of Cambridge)

12.30 – 13.30


13.30 - 15.00

Panel 2: Anxiety about the future

Chair: Benson Mulemi (Catholic University of Eastern Africa)


Aurora Massa (University of Bergamo), ‘Enduring anxiety, enacting anxiety: Eritrean refugees among painful pasts and uncertain futures’

Katie McQuaid & Robert Vanderbeck (Leeds University), ‘“So much has changed that even people have changed themselves”: Imaginaries of changing generations and climates in Jinja, Uganda’

15.00 - 15.30

Tea and Coffee

15.30 - 17.00

Panel 3: Anxieties of health

Chair: Yolana Pringle (University of Cambridge)


Benson Mulemi (Catholic University of Eastern Africa), ‘Anxiety in the management of cancer and non-communicable disease in Africa: Hospital ethnography in Kenya’

Facil Tesfaye (University of Hong Kong), ‘Colonial Health Anxieties in Africa: German Medical practitioners during the Scramble for Africa’

Daniel Wroe (University of East Anglia), ‘‘If we remain faithful’: a Malawian Baptist pastor’s response to a case of serious illness’

17.00 - 18.00

Wine reception


Conference dinner at Emmanuel College

Day 2 - Thursday 16 June
9.30 – 11.00

Panel 4: Anxiety and morality

Chair: Andrea Grant (University of Cambridge)


Nicky Falkof (Wits University), ‘Blood, crime and consumption: The ‘plasma gangs’ scare in Alexandra, Johannesburg’

S.N. Nyeck (Clarkson University), ‘Queer Fragility and Christian Social Ethics: A Political Interpolation of the Catholic Church in Cameroon’

Cécile Feza Bushidi (SOAS), ‘‘Fox-trotting to the latest hits of infernal cum triangle dance bands’: ideas about venal love and disease in colonial Central Kenya’

11.00 – 11.30

Tea and Coffee

11.30 – 13.00

Panel 5: Anxieties of the body

Chair: Jessica Johnson (University of Cambridge)


Eliud Biegon (Chuka University), ‘Reforming the Circumcision Rituals in colonial Terik: ‘The clean and the unclean’’

Bev Orton (Hull University), ‘Anxiety, Sex and Security in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa’

Michael Bürge (University of Constance), ‘‘Spoilt hearts’, ‘bad hearts’ and ‘warm hearts’: Anxiety and the (social) body in northern Sierra Leone’

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.30

Panel 6: Violence and anxiety

Chair: Zoe Groves (University of Cambridge)


Rachel Taylor (Northwestern University), ‘Anxiety, Violence and Patronage in Late-Nineteenth Century East Africa’

James Williams (Zayed University), ‘Suspect acts of truth telling: Young migrants claiming refugee status in Cape Town’

Seggane Musisi (Makerere University), ‘Post-Traumatic Stress In Conflict/Post Conflict Communities In Africa’

15.30 - 16.00

Tea and Coffee

16.00 - 17.30

Roundtable: Vocabularies of anxiety


David Pratten (University of Oxford)

Benson Mulemi (Catholic University of Eastern Africa)

Stella Nyanzi (Makerere Institute of Social Research)

Seggane Musisi (Makerere University)

Nicky Falkof (Wits University)

This conference has been made possible through the generous support of the Cambridge Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), the Cambridge Centre of African Studies (CAS), the Smuts Memorial Fund, and the Wellcome Trust.

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Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk