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Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies

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Fellowship in lockdown

The truth is, I am fine.

1. After two weeks of not feeling well and worrying about my loved ones, in April of 2020 I began to realize the many ways my fellowship enabled several months of a living and working mode I had longed for.

I still spend more than one hour a day watching, mainly reading the news and essays about the devastations caused by Covid-19 – which is to say caused not (only) by the virus, but by injust social conditions responsible for the hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. This is happening while I write, in the safety and calm of my home, surrounded by well equipped health care institutions (and yes, a great part of my family, my queer family, works in precarity, but they cope). Many of my white academic colleagues also feel that we need to come to terms with both the threat, the injustices in global and local scales, and our privileges. As a media scholar, I will write about body politics in pandemic times, take part in critical debates, and offer a class on "narratives around corona" in fall, but there is more to do. Double privilege needs to show in my research, and writing about post/colonialism needs an even sharper lens for an evaluation of the positionality of writing.

2. I cannot be in Bayreuth, have informal talks, get a better feeling of who would be fine to collaborate with than I can through online meetings, and share a beer sitting outside on these warm evenings, no chatting aside and no way to find out if sharing a joke would make any sense. Especially for international exchange, informal communication is helpful, I guess, because now it is mainly topics and titles of co-scholars which I can question for possible contact points (and oftentimes, it is less the research subject than the mode of thinking that brings people together). Probably, the amount of unexpected encounters (or contact with people I would not have had the idea to have something in common) is limited, if not approaching zero. Nevertheless, I am happy about several inspiring researchers I have become aware of now and hope to get or stay in touch with, albeit in digital formats. Because,

3., there is also a virtual Bayreuth, a space to get involved into debates around topics concerning all the fields that make up the cluster. Zoom discussions about "How political is Reconfiguring African Studies?", or the debate on a statement addressing racist violence and Black Lives Matter, one on research ethics, as well as the virtual meeting debating the accusations against Achille Mbembe (in May and June 2020) confirmed the importance of explicitly enquiring into the situatedness (if not the legitimacy, as one collegue said) of 'African Studies' in European academia.

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