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Research at St Andrews

Mattia Fumanti

Person

Research overview

For over a decade I have been conducting ethnographic research in Namibia. More specifically my work has focused on youth, elites and the making of moral public spaces in post-apartheid urban contexts.  This research has culminated in a monograph entitled The Politics of Distinction. African Elites from Colonialism to Liberation in a Namibian Frontier Town, 2016, Sean Kingston Publishing. Over the years one of my research interests has been to explore the role of popular culture, internet and mobile communication technology in Africa in relation to wider discourses on entrepreneurship and economic development.

During my most recent field works in 2014 and 2015 I have begun to work with Namibian mental health practitioners and artists on an interdisciplinary research project exploring mental illness in contemporary Namibia. In July 2016 I was awarded the ‘Wellcome Trust Seed Award’, for the project entitled ‘Narratives of Mental Illness in Contemporary Namibia’. This project proposed to open a comparative understanding of mental illness in contemporary Namibia through in-depth, inter-disciplinary research that illuminates the present postcolonial moment in the light of the colonial past while it discloses breaks along with continuities in discourse and practice. Patients and families-centred accounts, largely neglected in the existing literature, have figured notably in this project. Focusing this illumination on Namibia, most specifically, the research addressed two interrelated themes: the ‘content of madness’, that is, the patients’ subjective illness narratives and their subsequent medicalization; and ‘the emotional world’ of insanity which encompasses the pro-active engagement of families insofar as they re-direct, support and/or oppose the medical intervention among their kin. Central to this project has been an interdisciplinary approach and the use of a varied methodology, including archival research, audio recordings, photography, and multi-media fine art practices. In this respect I recently submitted a short experimental film to the RAI film festival to be held in Bristol in Amrch 2019. The film entitled 'Five in The Afternoon'. Poetic Intervention in a (post)colonial Landscape' explores the complex interrelationship and legacy of apartheid, in post-apartheid Namibia.

Alongside fieldwork in Namibia, since 2006 my research has responded to the growing recognition of the significant presence of African migrants in Britain. My research among Ghanaian Methodists in London aimed to understand the role of the African diaspora in civil society and of African churches in particular in the making of a British multicultural public sphere. Part of this research aimed to explore the significance of transnational and religious networks between Ghana and the diaspora. For this reason in 2007 and 2009 I conducted ethnographic research in Kumasi and Accra among different generations of Methodists.

I also explored the lives of homeless refugees in London, mostly from Africa, and published a joint edited report with Middlesex University Social Policy Research Centre.

Increasingly I have been interested in the role of ethnographic film making in anthropological research and on issues of collaborative research. I have edited two short films and one documentary shot in Ghana entitled ‘Crusade Ghana Style’. The film was shown at the MAV Festival in Rome. I am also currently working on a collaborative film I shot in Namibia between 2012 and 2014 which will explore patients and family centred mental illness narratives.

In 2013 I have joined Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid as a country of origin information expert for Namibia and Ghana and I have written several expert reports for asylum seekers to the UK and the USA.

I am currently the book review editor for the Journal of Southern African Studies and a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Critical African Studies.

 

Research overview

Regional focus: Namibia, Ghana and African Diaspora in Britain, London. Topical interests include postcolonial studies, the state, citizenship, governance, elites and education, youth and popular culture, masculinities and femininities, morality, civil society and public spaces, religion, diaspora and transnationalism. 

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