Current Institutional Affiliation
Research Associate, University of Colorado / Boulder

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2004
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Education, University of Pennsylvania
Socializing Knowledge: The Production and Consumption of Social Science in Malawi

African social science and social scientists are doubly peripheralized. Dependent on the status of elite institutions in national landscapes confronted by mounting poverty and contending social needs, African social science is prone to marginalization by its own governments. In the global realm, African scholars are largely dependent on foreign research funds and dominated by externally derived epistemologies, tending to relegate them to assistant positions in international collaborations and confounding efforts to build concepts and theories based on African realities. The goal of this global ethnographic study is to understand the changing position of social science in Malawi, where it is conditioned by the declining influence of the state and growing influence of international donor agencies in both higher education policy and research funding. The central role of scientific knowledge in donor agencies, in Malawi as well as across "developing" nations, makes it a critical site for the working out of tensions between the political authority of the nation and international aid organizations. Yet despite the growing influence of donor agencies, not a lot is known about their relation to social science or their impact on social knowledge construction. Drawing on the theoretical approaches of Bourdieu and Latour, my research objective is to understand how social science is a tool used by government and donor agencies, and, just as significantly, to understand how social science itself comes to be produced and legitimated as a result of negotiation around this use.