Lifeworlds in Crisis: challenging notions of difference
Andrea Behrends, Tyler Zoanni
University of Bayreuth
In this panel we look at so-called crises from the perspective of how people live through such situations in Africa. The aim of the panel is twofold: we explore how “Africa challenges” our notion of crisis while also considering how crises challenge well-established notions of difference.
Epidemics, poverty, pollution, climate change, species extinction, refugees, permeable borders, economic downturns, xenophobia, authoritarian governments—these are only a few of the things widely perceived as crises today. What is more, these and other so-called crises often seem less like the exception to people’s lifeworlds and more like their defining conditions. In this panel, we explore the ways that lifeworlds are seemingly put in crisis in Africa, and how such “African challenges” are globally and locally perceived. By focusing on situations that are often perceived as crises, we want, on the one hand, to take a closer look at how people cope with increased uncertainty, which may be perceived as an acceleration of events that threaten to undermine familiar forms of life and interaction. On the other hand, we highlight those social forms and practices that arise during such
situations—in other words, what crises enable as well as what they undermine.
We invite papers that explore challenging circumstances in Africa on multiple scales. We see this as an occasion to reflect on how “Africa challenges” our understandings of “crisis”. Questions we would like to address are: Who is declaring a crisis? What does this declaration entail? And how does it affect people in different ways? At the same time, we invite particular focus on how attending to crisis challenges conventional analyses of difference in Africa. Whatever else a crisis may be, it is typically seen to make a difference in people’s lives, and a profound one at that. How, then, are established ways of classifying and categorizing people called in question, challenged, or redefined during a crisis situation? We have in mind well-established differences along classifications of gender and
generation, race and ethnicity, native and foreign, culture and society, but we welcome other engagements with difference as well.