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Science, Technology & Society pres.

STS Speaker. African Chemistry: Science with an African Totem

Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In his current book project, entitled African Chemistry: Science with an African Totem, Chakanetsa asks the question: What does it mean to talk about African chemistry as imagined and practiced by Africans? Not simply western chemistry in African hands, but African-originated ideas and modes of chemistry, and the implications of taking these historical, philosophical, cultural, and technical understandings seriously with respect to Africa’s sustainable development. The book starts from endogenous modes of chemistry, through their encounters with incoming European influences, to the present in which young Africans are reclaiming indigenous foods, medicines, metallurgy, etc. and turning them into vibrant commercial product, value chain, and livelihood innovations. African Chemistry marks the beginning of an “African Science” book series which over the next decade will extend Chakanetsa’s research and writing to African physics, biology, medicine, mathematics/computation, engineering, science fiction, and digital innovation. The talk isolates and provides an early reading of the African chemistry material, reflecting with the audience implications of these archives, histories, and philosophies of science from Africa for the global histories and current and future practices of science, technology, and innovation.

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