For centuries, the history of science in Africa has been generally disregarded or devalued: either its findings were not considered scientific, or they have been presented as if they can only be obtained and understood by Western scientists. The project “An African History of Knowledge and Science beyond Academic Conventions” strives to enhance bottom-up research and create local impact in Africa, and foster inter-African networking. It is decidedly interdisciplinary, and shows a particular emphasis on collaboration between scholars with and without academic backgrounds.
The project has two primary objectives:
- offer a space for heterogenous knowledge, as well as epistemologies that have been disregarded in dominant science, and
- counter the processes of alienation, dispossession and marginalization that challenge scientific African knowledge.
Their combination intends to foster new space for investigating questions about the ownership of knowledge and to reconceptualize the “archive” crucial for documenting the history of African science. Here we are particularly interested in collaborating with scientists working in both academia and "beyond academia" related, for example, to "local" science, "Indigenous" knowledge, or citizen science.
Our project is part of an initiative of the Max Planck Society launched in 2020 to promote scientific cooperation with researchers on the African continent. The aim of the Max Planck Initiative in Africa is to counteract the brain drain of (young) African scientists and to strengthen the position of African research institutions in the global research landscape by enabling them to cooperate on an equal footing in international research projects.
The logo we have chosen for our project represents the letters "s" and "n" of the Tifinagh alphabet used by the Tuaregs of the Sahara and Sahel. In all Berber languages, these two letters form the root of words related to the verb "to know.” Tifinagh have their origins in the ancient Lybico-Berber alphabet, which was in use in the first millennium BC.