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“Space and the Question of Interdiscipinarity: Notes from an African Urban Fieldwork Site”

Ato Laud Quayson
Professor, Stanford English
Date and Time: 
Monday, November 11, 2019 - 15:30

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)


The classic ethnographic story follows a well-known sequence: arrival, followed by cultural nausea both regarding one’s own culture and aspects of the one being encountered, then the progressive gathering of information through various interlocutors, and finally (hopefully) some form of enlightenment.  But what happens when the fieldwork site is the city in which one grew up and the ethnographic experience is mapped onto various kinds of (inter)disciplinary discoveries following many years of absence?  This talk will reflect on the various ways in which I navigated the question of interdisciplinarity whilst doing field work in Accra for my book Oxford Street, Accra: City Life and the Itineraries of Transnationalism.  I shall explore how I put three disciplines into dialogue, namely, literary studies, history, and anthropology and will  show how the entire question was mediated for me via my choice of the concept of space, which ended up providing the mode for interweaving concepts and methods from the different disciplines.


Ato Quayson was educated at the University of Ghana and the University of Cambridge and worked at Cambridge, the University of Toronto, and NYU before joining the Department of English at Stanford.  He has written widely on African and postcolonial studies, disability, diaspora and transnationalism, and urban studies among various others.  He is currently completing a monograph titled Tragedy and Postcolonial Literature for Cambridge University Press and co-writing Accra Chic: A Locational History of Fashion in Accra with Grace Toleque for Intellect Press and Chicago UP and is  founding editor of The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry. He is a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of Canada, and in 2019 was elected Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.