Les Rencontres des Études africaines en France

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Tensions over Data circulation in postcolonial Africa

REAF 2022
Circulations dans les Afriques, Afriques en circulation


Tensions between data circulation and data control are embedded in a larger struggle between Africa's drive to secure autonomy and equality as a global player and its ongoing and historically dependent relation to the Global North as a former colony, a site of extraction and profitability. As postcolonial thinkers (e.g. Edward Said) suggest, the entire western edifice of modernity could not exist without the existence of the postcolony as a negation. This may still be true in the push for ‘datafication’, to be observed here in tensions between ‘disclosure’ and ‘enclosure’ of big data in the global era. Datafication of a great many aspects of life in Africa, from health data, climate change, development indicators, biometric identity schemes and so on, are widely lauded as signs of progress in state’s capacity for governance. And yet, a host non-state actors both private and public (such as Google or WHO) are deeply involved in these projects. Furthermore, the financial structures underlying the collection and storage of massive amounts of data for e.g. regional security, migration, outer-space or medical scientific cooperation, etc. is often funded by the Global North, questioning the notion of ‘data ownership’ by African states. Some players engaged in the contemporary struggle in de- and post-colonial debates over techno-modernity seek to erase codependent relationships and deny the infrastructural (and epistemological) histories that are hard-wired between Africa and the Global North. This position tends to essentialize "Africa" as a place with no historical, political, and infrastructural entanglements with the world.

In this panel, we invite papers that address the problematic of data circulation through the tensions sketched above. We are interested in the entanglements between material infrastructures of data – cables, cooling, storage, databases – and the political economy of data ownership, commodification, sovereignty and global governance.

Coordination : Philippe Gout et Siri Lamoureaux


Charlotte Escorne
Le Sénégal, nouvel "hub" numérique en Afrique de l'Ouest? Analyse de stratégie adoptée pour réussir la transition numérique de l’État et réduire la situation de dépendance technologique aux solutions étrangères.

Merlin Ottou
Les statistiques comme mode de communication politique. Auteurs, pratiques et enjeux à l’heure de la mise en œuvre de la transparence dans le secteur extractif au Cameroun

Philippe Gout
Protecting personal data of returned migrants : a glance at the cooperation between the EU and the Sahel

Siri Lamoureaux
Open sky to database: postcolonial dynamics in the Square Kilometer Array

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