Seeing like a space: A methodological challenge for African Studies
Susann Ludwig, University of Leipzig
Julia Büchele, University of Basel
This panel explores the methodological challenge of a spatial perspective and seeks to go beyond the dichotomies such as urban and rural, center and periphery, global and local. How can we see like a space? And how does such a perspective challenge established concepts within African Studies?
In seeing like a state, Scott analyses state’s vision as patterns of simplification designed to address concrete problems. In seeing like a city, Thrift and Amin foreground complexity and operationalize it as a pattern to investigate how cities work and think. Seeing has been proposed as a tool in different fields and we wish to develop such a tool for seeing like a space. We do so in an attempt to account for the making and unmaking of spaces. Thus, in seeing like a space, we single out just one aspect, i.e. space, and ask: What does this enable us to see? What does this perspective allow us to account for?
In this panel, we wish to go beyond the dichotomies of urban and rural, center and periphery, global and local or open space and particular place. Instead, we approach the spatial lens as a methodological challenge in African Studies. For instance, how can we get to an understanding of the dynamics of “becoming” of spaces or how can we methodologically grasp the connections between and within spaces towards thinking with space space? In short: How can we see like a space? And to what extend does that allow us to productively challenge established concepts of Africa in the world and the world in Africa?
We invite papers from various disciplines in African Studies that take up and explore the challenge of space both phenomenologically and methodologically.