Angela Okune

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Irvine, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9617

Approve Date

April 13, 2018

Project Title

Okune, Angela, U. of California, Irvine, CA - To aid research on 'Research in and for Africa: Anthropological Dilemmas and Contributions,' supervised by Dr. Kim Fortun

ANGELA OKUNE, then a graduate student at University of California, Irvine, California, was awarded funding in April 2018 to aid research on ‘Research in and for Africa: Anthropological Dilemmas and Contributions,’ supervised by Dr. Kim Fortun. Despite decades of research aiming to ‘solve Africa’s problems’ and billions of dollars in funding, many of those studied see little change in their everyday lives. Particular communities such as groups in Kibera, an infamous ‘slum’ in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi, demonstrate survey fatigue, falsified responses, and even feelings of being exploited by global processes of scientific knowledge production. This project examined how qualitative research — carried out by a tangle of private, academic, and non-profit organizations — is designed, performed, and contested in ‘research-busy’ Nairobi. Ethnographic sites included three research organizations in the city. Data was collected through ethnography, archival research, and utilization of an instance of open-source software — the Platform for Experimental, Collaborative Ethnography — to draw research interlocutors into collaborative effort to understand and begin to build decolonized qualitative data infrastructures. Through such processes, the project revealed that collaborating on data not only refreshes the social contract of qualitative work, it can also enhance its robustness and validity. At a time when open approaches to knowledge production are becoming increasingly mandated by governments and funding agencies, this study advanced thinking about the politics of qualitative data, unraveling normative content like ‘ethics’ and ‘transparency’ by both examining existing data practices and modeling alternatives.