Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga



Room E51-194C

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Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society (STS)

Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga is an associate professor of science, technology, and society. He studied for his doctorate at the University of Michigan, his MA at Wits, and BA Honors at the University of Zimbabwe. His work seeks to contribute an African/Global Southern dimension to five discourses and practices, which he insists on pluralizing: mobilities, sciences, technologies, innovations, and natures. Mavhunga self-describes his work as a double act of productive intellectual insurgency-as an STS scholar in African Historical Studies, on one hand, and an African scholar in STS, on the other. Out of it, he hopes, might emerge new, original ways of thinking about both STS and Africa/the Global South. In particular, he is interested in engaging knowledge canon(s) emerging out of Africa (indigenous knowledge) and other canons (including Western ones) in dialogue without presuming that one is superior to the other.

These are the ancestral spirits of his first two book projects. His first, entitled Transient Workspaces: Technologies of Everyday Innovation in Zimbabwe (MIT Press, June 2014) proposes to see mobility as a transient workspace. He suggests that mobility studies are trapped in their rather narrow Western-, techno-centric referents that limit us from seeing the work of bodies-in-motion and the space the body at work occupies on the move as a transient workspace. Transient workspaces is an invitation to explore a wide array of things, spaces, ways, and means (technologies), and modes of creativity (innovation) that might inhabit the concept. The second book, The Tsetse Fly Rides Again: Mobility in the Presence of the Unignorable (nearing completion) is the story of an indefatigable insect in what is now Zimbabwe, circa 1850s to 1973. The tsetse fly feeds on blood and transmits the deadly trypanosome pathogen from forest to domesticated animals. The tsetse fly cannot travel far flying on its own, so it rides on any moving body, turning them into conveyer belts for spreading human and animal trypanosomiases. He shows that, being new to tsetse, the colonial government deferred to pre-existing African stratagems and executed them on an unprecedented scale of destruction. The book focuses on four such methods: traffic control, forest destruction, the use of toxic chemoprophylactics, and carcinogenic and environmentally pollutant organochlorine pesticides.

Mavhunga's next book project returns to his longstanding interest: that of reexamining the trans-national liberation movements of Southern Africa of the 1950s-80s. Its central thesis is that the most sophisticated and most important innovation of southern Africa's people was creating a vast, regional, continental, and trans-continental architecture of self-liberation. He is also the author of several book chapters and articles, including "Vermin Beings: On Pestiferous Animals and Human Game" (Social Text, 2011) and "Cidades Esfumaçadas" (Public Culture 2013). He is on the editorial board of the new mobilities journal, Transfers (Berghahn) and contributing editor of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (Duke). His works, CV, and other details can be found on his webpage:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Building E51-185