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African Affairs

I'm drawn to traditional African art out of my own pursuit of a wholistic, or integrated, understanding of everyday life in the sub-Saharan. I'm especially fascinated by African efforts to balance traditional forms and values with contemporary practices and aspirations. By encountering the forms and images of African artists, both known and unknown, I am inspired and humbled.

Since 2000, I’ve spent a good deal of time traveling, reporting and studying in Africa. In 2002 and 2003, I lived in Accra, Ghana on a hill overlooking the city's Independence Square. More recently, I've spent considerable time in Uganda. In addition to working as a journalist in Africa, I also consult for non-profit organizations and for foundations. In 2003, I cofounded the Africa operations of Journalists for Human Rights, a media training organization. From 2007-2009, I've consulted for the Gates foundation on African agriculture, health and media. Under grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), I studied the emergence of computer science as an academic discipline in East Africa from 2013-2016. Articles and lectures based on this field research is forthcoming.

In 2011, I began teach at Arizona State a seminar on technology, development and sub-Saharan Africa.

My work on Africa ranges widely over politics, social issues, business and technology and culture. I have avoided following the media herd, and reporting on the sorts of disaster, disease and mayhem articles that reinforce the image of Africa as hopeless and Africans as brutal, stupid or both. The picture I present of Africa is partial, biased in favor of hopefulness, positive action and constructive role models. I am ever aware of the disappointments, inequalities and sheer misery in many parts of Africa, but I have not yet chosen to allow these realities to fully define my view of this fascinating region.

Usually, I'm a critic of Western media representations of Africa (and I don't exclude myself from criticism either). My own relationships with individual Africans inform my critique of the mainstream "narrative" of the role of Africa and Africans.

For more on my perspective on how meta-narratives about Africa and Africans extert an insidious influence on literature about Africa, see "Hotel Africa: the politics of escape," a 2012 book that includes the essay, "Stories We Tell About Africa and Those We Don't":