PhD Orals Document: Decolonizing the African University

Submitted by:

Angela Okune

Graduate Student

Department of Anthropology

University of California, Irvine

October 2, 2018

To her committee members:

Dr. Kim Fortun (Chair)

Dr. Kris Peterson

Dr. George Marcus

Dr. Angela Jenks

Dr. Cecelia Lynch


This essay, submitted by University of California, Irvine Anthropology PhD student Angela Okune in partial fulfillment of her requirements for advancement to candidacy, builds on feedback received as part of UC Irvine History 290 taught by Professor Kavita Philip on Decolonizing Histories of Science and Technology.

This document seeks to understand how scholars have understood the relevance of scholarly knowledge to “undeveloped,” vulnerable communities and how this has been shaped, delimited, critiqued and transfigured over time, especially by leaders and scholars in Africa during the shift from colonial rule to postcolonial independence. I draw on critical post-colonial scholarship particularly derived from the experiences of former British colonies, especially Kenya, in order to examine how the history of colonialism, structural adjustment programs, and more recently, the advent of technology entrepreneurship has shaped expectations of and investments into the “global South” university, and imaginaries of what science and technology can do for socioeconomic development. I also build on work by critical development, critical ethnic and critical university scholars, in order to explore conceptualizations of and investments into the “global South” university by colonial powers, independent postcolonial governments, Bretton Woods institutions and, more recently, technology philanthropists such as the Gates Foundation and Chan-Zuckerberg Foundation. How have perceptions of the ethical and moral dimensions of investing in science and technology training and capacity building in the global South shifted across over time from the 1960s onwards? What are the pedagogical and epistemological debates that have occurred as scholars, especially those who care about social justice and equitability have navigated their role within the university?

This document seeks to understand various logics within their historical contexts which have underlined investements in “science for society” especially in the African context. This includes the contemporary “open” movements (especially Open Access, Open Science, Open Data) and their assumptions about opening up knowledge for “public good.”

In highlighting various moments where certain stakeholders have been particularly powerful in shaping educational objectives in Africa, I do not intend to suggest a teleological narrative nor am I arguing that these are the only organizations that have shaped African educational policy. Rather, by drawing these varying literatures, debates, and historical time periods together into the same frame, I desire to open up productive spaces for further discussion about the “education crisis” in Africa and the varied proposed solutions.

This is one of three essays. A second essay queries Science and Technology Studies in/on Africa here. A third essay queries collaboration collaboratively and can be found here.

"Decolonizing the University" Workflow

Conceptual Framework:

AO: These orals documents are framed around Fortun’s conceptualization of discursive risks and gaps (Fortun 2012). Fortun writes that the contemporary Late Industrial period is characterized by complex conditions for which there is no...Read more

Content Bibliography: Decolonizing the African University


Okune, Angela. 2018. "PhD Orals Document: Decolonizing the African University." PhD Orals Document. UC Irvine Anthropology. October. ...Read more

PECE: Analytics, Structure, Discursive Risks & Motivations for Use

AO: These orals documents seek to understand the discursive risks (Fortun 2012) of relevant literatures for my project. How have scholars been thinking and writing about science and technology in Africa, collaboration, and investments into the African university?

...Read more

Angela's Project + "University"

Citing Folayan and Allman (2011), Biruk notes that whereas researchers earn money, status, and accolades for their work, research participants are expected to understand their role as voluntary, altruistic, and towards the collective good (2018: 103). While I hold this assumption to be...Read more

Angela Okune: Brief Bio

Angela Okune is a doctoral student in the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Irvine. She studies data sharing cultures and infrastructures of qualitative research groups working in and on Kenya in order to explore broader questions of equity, knowledge production and socio-...Read more

PhD Orals at UCI Anthro

When a student begins a graduate program, s/he is not yet a candidate for a graduate degree. According to the UC Irvine Graduate Division website , t o become a candidate for a graduate degree, a...Read more

Decolonizing the African University: Extended Narrative

This essay sought to understand how scholars have understood the relevance of scholarly knowledge through an analysis of education policy and curriculum for “underdeveloped,” vulnerable communities. How have perceptions about the knowledge important for African communities been shaped, delimited...Read more

Full Bibliography: Decolonizing the African University

Anderson, Jenny. 2018. “Funded by Gates and Zuckerberg, One Company Is on a Quest to Educate the World’s Poorest Kids.” Quartz Media , January 22, 2018. .

Aviles, Natalie B. 2018. “Situated...Read more


Orals Commitee members are requested to use the form (link below) to submit any feedback response in your evaluation of the essays and candidate. The authors and advisor have drafted...Read more