Kwame E. Otu
Assistant Professor (AAS)
227C Minor Hall
Kwame Edwin Otu is currently an Assistant Professor of African American and African Studies at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia.
I’m a cultural anthropologist with varied interests, ranging from the politics of sexual, environmental, and technological citizenships, and their intersections with shifting racial formations in neocolonial and neoliberal Africa and the African Diaspora. My first book monograph, entitled, Amphibious Subjects: Sassoi and the Contested Politics of Queer Self-Making in Neoliberal Ghana, and published by the University of California Press is an ethnography conducted among a community of self-identified effeminate men, known in local parlance as sasso. The book draws on African philosophy, African/black feminisms, and African and African Diasporic literature to make sense of how sasso navigate homophobia and the increased visibility of LGBT human rights politics in neoliberal Ghana.
My interests in environmental sustainability issues in Ghana have drawn me to the unfortunately less recognized interdisciplinary field of African Science in particular and Science, Technology, and Society (STS) studies from the perspective of Africa and its myriad diasporas in general. What does it mean to actively acknowledge African Science and African STS as a viable epistemological framework for not only thinking about the global politics of e-waste in particular, but the undulations of global climate change in general? I pose this crucial question in my ongoing project titled E-Waste as Archive: The Politics of Toxic Citizenship-Making on an E-Waste Dump in Neoliberal Ghana, which outlines Africa’s paradoxical location as a site of extraction and deposition. In this project, I explore various ways in which the racialization of Africa and Africans occurs through literal and figurative readings of “waste” by putting a community of scrap dealers and burner boys on an e-waste dump in Ghana at the center of critical anthropological and ecological inquiry. Turning to the radical interventions by the likes of Walter Rodney, Gloria Emeagwali, C.C. Mavhunga, Cedric Robinson, Patricia McFadden etc., I read waste as an archive that illuminates the continued exploitation of Black bodies and interrogate the ways in which racial capitalism masks African technological and scientific innovations.
In addition to the above projects, I have been working on a personal project, a memoir that documents his upbringing as queer Ghanaian man in a traditional Presbyterian family in urban Ghana. Called In my Mother’s House, the memoir, part epistolary, part autobiographical, ponders on the erosion of his once intimate relationship with his mother.