New Publication: Digital and Decolonial Experiments in the Classroom

At the end of 2018, I sat next to a man in a crowded auditorium at University of Ghana for the International Communication Association Africa conference (ICA Africa). I introduced myself and after the opening keynotes (Ghanaian Vice President Bawumiah and Cameroonian Professor Nyamnjoh), we couldn’t help but debrief together on how interesting it was. The man I was talking to was Communications Professor Kehbuma Langmia of Howard University. As we stood there, I told him about my work at Ashesi University, he attended my Policy Lab presentation on Internet Freedoms, and later invited me to contribute a chapter to a book he was putting together. Now the book Digital Communications at Crossroads in Africa: A Decolonial Approach is out!

In my chapter, Digital Communication Tools in the Classroom as a Decolonial Solution: Pedagogical Experiments from Ashesi University in Ghana, I argue digital communication tools like Twitter and Wikipedia can decolonize not just minds, but classrooms too, as the tools support students and lecturers together to rethink, reimagine, and reshape knowledge production.

In the chapter, thought hard about the idea — at this point-in-time almost catchphrase — “decolonizing the university” and what it really means, like HOW do we DO it? As part of understanding the many possible meanings, I outlined five aspects of decolonizing the university. I deduced it is ultimately about sharing power with students, examining implications about what we include and exclude in our classroom conversations and course outlines, changing the content, providing epistemological access, and finally decolonizing also the institutions.

After arriving at these five aspects of decolonizing the university, I wanted to say something about how digital communication tools can address or bridge these aspects. See figure below.

If you click on the linked button below, you can get a preview of my chapter.

I would love to hear what you think of my ideas and the operationalization of decolonization of universities into five aspects. What did I overstate or miss entirely? Do you agree digital tools can be of help or are they merely new, sexier methods to further colonize the world-at-large by the few?

I would like to thank the editors of the volume Dr. Agnes Lucy Lando of Daystar University, Kenya and Dr. Kehbuma Langmia for open arms and good collaboration, Open Foundation West Africa for assisting with Wikimedia in the classroom, and colleagues and students at Ashesi University, Ghana.

Happy Africa Day

Today, it was #AfricaDay and I did not celebrate very much from my bland WFH reality, but I thought I would share what little things I did do!

Africa Unity Speech May 24, 1963

My friend Emmanuel Gamor of the podcast Unpacking Africa sent an email with this video and I really enjoyed it. Check out the pod which is full of interesting voices!

Africa Union Day or Africa Day for short is a holiday in African countries and celebrates the African Union and efforts of African unity. In Ghana, children wear traditional clothes for school the day before the holiday and learn about other African countries.

My girls in head wraps at their school some years back on Africa Day.

As it is a holiday, there is a lot of merry-making. Two videos I came across on Instagram which made me smile came from these accounts – not sure though if they are meant to be #AfricaDay themed…

https://www.instagram.com/dancegodlloyd/

and

https://www.instagram.com/wiyaala/

…but always good content there! So I thought of something my mother-in-law always say, “happy yourself”! And with a little help from the content above, I did just that!

Guest Lecture at Uppsala University African Studies Course: Closing the Circle

In November, I was invited to give a lecture in the African Studies course at Uppsala University. The lecture was to be based on my research, preferably with a link to African youth as that was a theme for this year’s course. I chose the topic: University students in Ghana, Migration Aspirations and the Colonial University.

The lecture focused on decolonial thought, reasons for studying abroad and the situation for Ghanaian and African students at this moment. The class was small, engaged and were happy to interact. Several of the students were also exchange students which led to a reflexive discussion.

I invited a Ghanaian student, Claudia Esi Dentu, a former student of mine to come co-lecture with me. Claudia just happened to be in Sweden this semester on an exchange program with Ashesi University and Malardalens University.

The lead for the course we visited was also a former colleague from Ashesi University, Clementina Amanquaah who now is a Ph.D. student and lecturer at Uppsala University. It felt powerful to reunite with people from the past in my first guest lecture at Uppsala University!

As I was a student of this African Studies course back in the day, I was quite happy to be able to guest lecture in it. It was a closing-the-circle kind of evening!

New Job: PostDoctoral Researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute

Photo: Mattias Sköld, NAI

Last month, I began a new adventure as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the institute founded by the Nordic countries in 1961 to collect information about Africa, NAI. Today it is supported by the Swedish, Finnish and Icelandic governments. The institute has researchers organized in different clusters such as,

  • Inclusive growth, poverty and inequality in urban and rural Africa
  • Climate change and sustainable development
  • Gender equality
  • Conflict, security and democratic transformation
  • Mobility and migration

In addition, the institute has a fantastic library on Africa with many resources available online.

The institute also publishes policy notes and booklets (a recent one on Ghana’s female representation in parliament for instance by NAI researcher  Diana Højlund Madsen).

I will be working within a fascinating project led by Prof Liisa Laakso that aims to bring together political scientists in Africa and map the political science discipline. Initial research questions for the project called The Space and Role of Political Science in the Evolving Democratic Transformation in Africa are:

  • What is studied and taught about political systems in Africa?
  • Where are political science graduates employed?
  • Do political scientists feature in public discussion and media?
  • In what ways do they contribute to preparatory work on electoral laws, constitutional changes etc.?
  • Do they cooperate with political parties and how?

Except for a semester as a research assistant and my recent sabbatical, I have never done research fulltime and am enjoying it wholeheartedly so far. Thinking! Reading! Collecting data! Strategizing! Networking! (Missing students knocking on my door!) Except for helping in answering the research questions for the project, I hope to learn more about the research process, research applications and funding, best practices in data collection and more.

The position is a postdoctoral research position which means it is a time-limited research position (18 months), where I am working on a research project with a supervisor. It is the next step up from the PhD in learning how to be a researcher!

NAI is housed in the light yellow building behind the Baroque orangery. Photo: Jarvis – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16318254

My new workplace is situated inside the most beautiful Botanical garden in Uppsala, just a stone’s throw away from my alma mater Uppsala University and my office has African cloth as decoration on the wall, making me feel very much at home.

You can see my online profile here and I can from now be reached on Kajsa.hallberg.adu (at ) nai.uu.se or on the first floor in the light yellow building in the Botanical Garden

Tema Life: Beind the scenes of shooting the documentary

For the Ghana Studies Association conference with the theme “Ghana as Center”, I decided to make a dream come true and make a documentary about my hometown for 12 years – the city of Tema.

The film “Tema Life: City of the Future” will be presented in a panel about Tema – the city that geographically is the center of the world.

The panel is in Room 1 at 2.30-4pm on Friday 12 July, 2019.

Here is my writeup about the documentary:

The city of Tema was planned and constructed in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a central part of Ghana’s modernization project. Buildings and areas were purposely designed for industrial, residential or business purposes according to the modern planning ideas of the time as well as socialist ideology. Original inhabitants were moved. The industrial model town was populated by foreign and local workers. By 1960 the city and surrounding areas had 25 000 inhabitants and ten years later just shy of 100 000. The industrial model town had various industries: textiles, radios, soap, motor vehicles, food stuffs, cigarettes and so on and was populated by foreign and local workers. The city was constructed “to be the city of the future” (Ahlman, 2017).

Tema was politically and economically central – in addition to purposely geographically constructed in the Greenwich meridian before it hits the ocean. Later political and economic pressures, including geopolitical changes and the growth of Ghana’s nearby capital Accra and its industrial areas and Tema became peripheral.

This project seeks to collect narratives from the first dwellers in Tema in a documentary film. Young laborers in 1960 would today be in their 80s and hence the time is running out to capture their oral histories about Tema then and now. The narratives will focus on what work, leisure, shopping was like during the early days of Tema and offer Tema’s first inhabitants a space to reflect on how it has changed. Building on the Nana Project by Kirstie Kwarteng that seeks to collect oral histories in Ghana, the conversations will be professionally filmed and the output will be a short documentary and a journal article analyzing their oral histories about the center of the world, Tema.

The team behind the film is scholar Kajsa Hallberg Adu, PhD and filmmaker Mantse Aryeequaye who bring together knowledge of Tema and of documentary film in Ghana. Mantse is a cultural producer and filmmaker perhaps best known for his championing of the street art festival Chale Wote in Accra. He is however also a longtime music and film producer who has worked all over the continent with companies such as MTV, Studio 53, Moonlight Films in Capetown, The Africa Channel, and currently serves as director of Reddkat Pictures and as the co-director of AccraDotAlt.

 Ahlman, J. S. (2017). Living with Nkrumahism: Nation, State, and Pan-Africanism in Ghana . Athens, OH, US: Ohio University Press.

Welcome InnoSpace Tema

This week, I paid a visit to the exciting new innovation, incubation and coworking space in Tema, InnoSpace Tema. It is located side-by-side to Ecobank in Tema’s business district Community 1 and InnoSpace Tema offers meeting and working space in a good location. 

I chatted with the team behind InnoSpace: Naomi Anita Addae is the Managing Director, Daniel Addae  is a Director and the Chief Technology Officer and Michael Osei Nkrumah is a Director and a Training Consultant, (entrepreneurship and international development). 

Daniel, Naomi Anita and Michael of InnoSpace Tema

1. Why does Tema need an innovation hub? 

InnoSpace is a creative space for creative thinkers. Tema is a Metropolitan populated with very vibrant, talented and innovative youth who are looking to make a positive impact and be rewarded in return. Talk of music and arts, tech, entrepreneurship and more, they’re there. Most people travel all the way to ImpactHub, Ghana Innovation Hub and the likes in Accra to hone their creativity and innovation. InnoSpace is established right here in Tema to fill that gap and to spearhead entrepreneurship – tech, agribusiness, and water & sanitation through coworking, private spaces and enterprise development incubation programs.

2. What is your plan for the next 6 months? 

We just had our first enterprise development stakeholders forum which was oversubscribed; in the coming 6 months, we will be organizing the first ever hackathon in Tema where we bring tech-savvy youth to leverage on technology to solve social and business problems

3. What is InnoSpace Tema especially passionate about?

We are passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, tech and the SDGs.

Personally, I am excited to see Tema, the center of the world geographically, connect with the world of hubs and offer this service to small and new businesses. And a passionate hub at that.

Learn more about InnoSpace and its offerings on Coworker.com or on Facebook. Other hubs in Ghana you can find on the Ghana Tech and Bz Hubs Network website!

Welcome InnoSpace!

A Stolen Childhood and a Reclaimed Story: Brigitte Sossou Perenyi

Recently, I was introduced to an elegant looking woman in a coffee shop in Accra. She was well-spoken, chic, and had a good sense of humor, and a hello turned into a 30-minute conversation. Towards the middle of the convo, she told me about having had the opportunity to make a BBC documentary about her life. I was quite impressed talking to a twenty-something with her own documentary and told her I would check it out.

The woman was Brigitte Sossou Perenyi and her story was “My stolen childhood: understanding the trokosi system”. This fantastic documentary chronicles Brigitte’s and thousands of other West African girls’ unfair fate of being human sacrifices. In some cultures in Ghana, Togo, and Benin, a committed sin is believed to cause sickness and death in the family which can only be stopped if a girl is “sacrificed” and made a slave of a shrine.

This documentary is fantastic as it shows how striving for understanding of wrongs made against you can free you, how returning to the scene of the crime and remembering together can let your courage spread to others. Our heroine travels the region and speaks to everyone from an Uber-driver, a group of elders, academics studying the practice at the University of Ghana, her trokosi friend who also managed to get free, her family, and to all of us who want to listen to her story. I spent another half-an-hour with Brigitte and cherished every moment of it.

Thank you Brigitte for reclaiming and sharing your story with so much courage and truth-telling!

Trokosi, or ritual servitude, was made a crime in 1998, but no one has been prosecuted for a practice that is still ongoing and affecting many lives.

My Last Graduation at Ashesi University

Saturday, June 1st, 2019 will be my last graduation as a lecturer at Ashesi University in Berekuso. After the summer, I will explore a new path in my career journey.

I have been an employee at Ashesi University since August 2009, I even experienced the ground-breaking ceremony for the Berekuso campus! I can look back on 10 years of joy, incremental learning and meaningful meetings on two different campuses. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been provided and I have been proud working for the important mission of Ashesi University – to educate a new generation of ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in Africa – if even in a small way in the classroom and in off-campus interactions. See some photos in the gallery below.

Over this past decade, I have written many blog posts about my time with Ashesi University, here are some of them: Teaching a summer course humbly called Thinking Like a Genius! Fall semester 2012 teaching Written and Oral Communication and Text & Meaning, Teaching Social Theory 2012. Career Fair 2013  (with photos). Reading Mahama’s biography for Social Theory class 2013. Doing a “Grown Woman Internship” with Citi FM. About Ashesi students being cool! Passing on the baton of teaching from my mother to my daughter(?). Getting extremely excited about Virtual Reality in the Classroom in 2016 (now Ashesi alumni led company Nubian VR are doing research on how science instruction in Ghanaian high schools can use VR technology). Having a writing team kickoff and welcoming new talents. On my fav assignment personal artefact speeches in 2018. On my sabbatical – time to think, read and write in 2019.

I also wrote an article for Swiss newspaper NZZ about Ashesi’s approach to ethics which was published in English for University World News as well.

For some moving images of me on campus, see this interview from 2016. (Pulse Ghana)

Recently to my joy, two of my students started blogs of their own. Do also read: Theresa on getting a Visa for her study-abroad when the time was running out, and Masateru on helping his family’s cake business in Malawi with the skills he picked up at Ashesi University. Alumni Karyn went to Sweden for a Master’s and won the Global Swede award!

So on Saturday, it will not just be Class of 2019 leaving the Ashesi community – I will be clasping my handkerchief and remembering the good times as well! Thank you to all fantastic individuals: students, colleagues, alumni, parents, support staff, foundation folks, board members, friends, all who have crossed my path at Ashesi since 2009!

One Month since Ahmed Hussein-Suale was Murdered

Something that makes me feel like I live in epic times, in just the right place is the investigative journalism happening in Ghana. The brave reportages by investigative journalist extraordinaire Anas Aremeyaw Anas have exposed corrupt harbor workers, the terrible ways of the Electricity Company of Ghana, the shockingly brazen wrongdoings of 34 judges and last year, soccer association FIFA and its local organization, leading to a massive fall out from the highest ranks of the game in Ghana. See a full list of Anas/ TigerEye’s exposures here.

Last month, one of the journalists from the TigerEye team was murdered in cold blood. Ahmed Hussein-Suale was shot in his car, first from a distance and then assassinated on close range right in his neighborhood in Accra suburb Madina. This longform article by Joel Gunter, BBC, explains both how central Hussein-Suale was to the Tiger Eye investigative team, and how he was a family man feeling at home in Madina, despite threats to his life.

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Hussein-Suale’s boss, Anas Aremeyew Anas writes about his colleague and what would be his last project:

We produce journalistic investigations targeting organized crime and corruption. Last year, we completed an exposé of corruption in international soccer. The BBC broadcast our findings, shaming powerful figures in sports and politics. Sprawling across 16 countries, the investigation required a large team. Ahmed was one of the lead journalists.

We had expected to find corruption, and indeed dozens of officials were filmed taking illegal payments, including a referee scheduled to work the World Cup in Moscow. But then the stakes were raised much higher.

Ahmed Hussein-Suale was murdered on the 16th of January, 2019. His murder sends a message to all truth-lovers in Ghana and beyond that, the stakes indeed are very high. Perhaps higher than they have ever been. Ghana is a country that usually do not see violence against journalists and President Akufo-Addo has condemned the crime. However, we have now all been exposed to the ferocity of evil forces.

One month has passed today since the heinous — and unusual crime– that took one of Ghana’s best journalists and defenders of what is right away, and I am so angry. We need to know free speech is revered in Ghana! We need more people on the good side! We need more exposure of the people who think they are too powerful to be exposed! We need more Ahmeds!

You and I can join TigerEye to do more.

You could join me in writing about and asking questions about free speech and Hussein-Suale’s death.

You could convince me to believe that the future of investigative journalism in Ghana is still bright and that Hussein-Suale’s life’s work fighting corruption with everything he had will be taken forward by others.

My story up on the PhD Career Stories Podcast

Kajsa is holding a mic.
Photo: OP studios

Do you want to know…. what a morning in my home office sounds like?

What I did when I wanted to quit the PhD program?

How activism and teaching are very good companions to research?

…and what I did after completing my dissertation and finally sleeping properly again?

Yes? Then what are you waiting for? Tune into my story on the PhD Career Stories Podcast.

The Recent Royal Visits on Africa Is A Country

At the end of last year, I saw how Prince Charles of Wales was welcomed to Ghana – pomp, circumstance, and reverence – during his royal visit to West Africa.

I had an eerie feeling until I saw the billboards where Prince Charles and Ghana’s president stood together under the text “Shared History, Shared Future”. How could we understand this? To understand (but also fuelled by anger and disgust at this public, at very best, omission), I blogged and attended an event at Libreria to decolonise and discuss, but only this year with another visit, that of the Hollywood actors in the FullCircleFestival, I could tie it all up in a bow in an essay for Africa is a Country.

Find the essay here.

Tema – Center of the World (Call for Presentations)

The Ghana Studies Association is organizing its triannual conference this summer and together with two fabulous colleagues, DK Osseo-Asare and Kuukuwa Manful, I am organizing a Visual Roundtable with Flash Presentations. If you are a researcher who has taken an interest in the city of Tema, Ghana (an extremely interesting space, if I may say so myself as an inhabitant since 12 years), do apply to join us, details below!

City of Tema: Center of the World

While the harbor town of Tema geographically is the center of the world as it encompasses the Greenwich meridian and is the closest landmass to the equator passing Ghana in the ocean, as a planned urban space it also can be understood as central to Ghana’s historical modernization efforts and hence nation building.

In the words of Nkrumah at the official opening of the Tema Harbour, Tema “represents the purposeful beginning of the industrialisation of Ghana”. From the late 1950s to mid 1960s, Tema, true to intentions was both a symbol of and an experiment in modernity and modernisation. Furthermore, Tema was a global city interlinked with the global community through the siting of multinational companies, internal and international migration as well as the harbour which was a hub for West Africa. Paradoxically, the proximity to the capital Accra made Tema peripheral in certain ways and this was exacerbated by the downfall of industries and the decline of Nkrumah’s modernisation project.

What is Tema today and what are unique experiences of Tema like? Is it still central to Ghana, West Africa and the world? What are the contemporary (legacies of) expressions of modernity in Tema?

This session aims to discuss the centeredness of the town of Tema as part of a local and global network of ports and places, from both a historical and contemporary perspective – with a focus on lived experiences, urban planning, design, art and architecture, borders, boundaries, commerce, the state, and transnational entities.

This 90-minute session welcomes 5-minute flash presentations with up to 10 slides and will include a closing conversation making it a visual roundtable.

Chairs: Kajsa Hallberg Adu, Ashesi University; Kuukuwa Manful, SOAS University of London; DK Osseo-Asare, Penn State.

Please submit your flash presentation or a 250-word abstract by email to khadu@ashesi.edu.ghby 27 Jan