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Competing and Coexisting Vernaculars in Science, Technology, and Health in Africa

Various individuals and groups have laid claim to expertise in scientific, technological, and medical domains in different parts of Africa and in different time periods. But they have always had to compete or coexist with alternate forms of defining, understanding, and solving problems. This panel will explore these dynamics through the lens of communication and specifically the concept of vernaculars. Rather than assigning expert or specialist language to one group and relegating other forms of communication and understanding to vernacular status (into which expert knowledge must be translated), this panel seeks papers that will put various forms of communication among groups of people who claim expertise on different grounds in conversation with each other. Papers will explore the way that vernaculars offer opportunities for individuals and groups to meet particular goals, establish credibility, and connect with audiences. They may also consider how the notion of vernaculars challenges existing ideas about professionalization, expertise, and elite knowledge. Research on individuals and groups communicating about science, technology, and/or health (all broadly defined) in vernaculars associated with religious sects, professional fields, ethnic identity, political affiliation, or other categories are invited. Contributors may submit research conducted using historical, ethnographic, political science, economic, or other methods. This abstract will be revised as appropriate to match the panelists’ contributions.

Please email your proposal (title and abstract of no more than 200 words) to julia-cummiskey@utc.edu by March 1 if you are interested in being included. I will finalize the panel proposal with all contributors by March 7. Please feel free to email in advance with questions or suggestions.

Note: I am hoping to put my own work on the history of health communication and medical marketing in East Africa in conversation with the work of other scholars considering forms of communication, persuasion, and education in the fields of science, technology, and medicine. If you are working on something outside these areas particular, but you think your work would be a good fit, please email me so we can discuss it.