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World YWCA research: World Council 2023

In 2019, 4 years ago and before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, I was in Johannesburg for the 29th World Council of the World YWCA movement. This week, thanks to the invitation of my friends at World-Affiliated YWCA of South Africa, I have attended the 30th World Council, which was held for the first time in a hybrid format with the majority of delegates online, and the World Board and World YWCA secretariat staff meeting in person in Geneva. World YWCA Secretariat pose for a group photograph at the close of 30th World Council, 1 December 2023 2 Eleanors ... me posing next to my laptop as my pre-recorded greeting was broadcast to World Council on 29 November 2023 Palestine The World Council re-elected Mira Rizeq of Palestine as its President, and passed two resolutions in support of YWCA Palestine, and the YWCAs of Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan. Resolution 'Peace With Justice' affirms what it names as 'our duty to practice genuine solidarity with young people living
Recent posts

Fellowship at MIASA

I just got back to the UK after spending 3 months in Accra as a Junior Fellow of the Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA). It was both a whirlwind trip during which I tried to cram in as much work (and play) as I could, and a very peaceful and quiet period of reflection and writing. I was able to work on the project started during my postdoc at UCT, which was--like many things-- interrupted by the pandemic in early 2020. I've called it 'Christianity and Feminism in World YWCA Discourse: Perspectives from Accra and Johannesburg', but now I want to expand the scope and include perspectives from elsewhere too. My thinking was enriched and supported by other fellows--now friends--and I look forward to hopefully working with them in the future. I'm still working on a couple of articles coming out of the project, but for now I'm happy to share a reflective blog post I wrote for my research centre at Brunel: ' Travelling with care? Transnational mobi

My book is out!

I am happy to share the news that my first book  Narrative Identity and Ethics in Postcolonial Kenya: The Young Women's Christian Association  has just been published by Bloomsbury. It is based on my doctoral research with the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in Nairobi. Yes, during the pandemic I wrote a book, but - important to note! - I'm middle class, white, I don't have children, and I did complete the manuscript during the last months of a postdoctoral fellowship. That isn't to say it was an easy job, but to point out that I have been very lucky compared to many early career scholars. In the book, I give an overview of the history of the YWCA in Kenya, through which I explore the ways an African Christian women's organisation with colonial roots navigates the pressures of imperialism in international development especially as these come up in controversial ethical dilemmas. My major focus is how the YWCA works towards sexual and reproductive just

How to ask a professor to send you their work

One of the pieces of advice we tell each other a lot in para-academic spaces online is 'ask the author and they will send you a pdf of their journal article'. This idea has been popularised in tweets that I see recirculated maybe as often as every month. And of course there's the ongoing critique of the for-profit academic publishing industry.  So, I thought it might helpful to share some advice to help people successfully make these kinds of requests. I have heard from some academics that when they receive email requests from strangers, they feel unsure how to respond. For example, this is an email a colleague in the UK (not me!) recently received: HI: I am kindly requesting from you a paper copy of your publication: ['Title...'] best regards [Name, personal postal address] The first misstep here is the informal opening - you should always use 'Dear Professor Surname' or 'Dear Dr Surname'. The professor who got this email thought it was particularly


Review of Juliet Barnes (2013), The Ghosts of Happy Valley: Searching for the Lost World of Africa’s Infamous Aristocrats . London: Aurum. In The Ghosts of Happy Valley (hereafter, Ghosts ), Juliet Barnes gives an account of her investigations into the lives and deaths of a small group of white Europeans who settled in Wanjohi Valley (or ‘Happy Valley’) in the 1920s and 1930s. To give you an idea of the tone and its intended audience: Ghosts book was reviewed positively in The Spectator  (but you'll have to take my word for it - it’s behind a paywall). Solomon Gitau (l) and Juliet Barnes (r) at Clouds House in Nyandarua. Photo (c) Eliud Maumo 2019 It is clear from the sheer number of books about Happy Valley, that there remains a great deal of public interest in the salacious and exaggerated stories of this historical neighbourhood. With her friend Solomon Gitau by her side, Barnes travelled throughout Wanjohi Valley over a period of many years, tracking down and visiting the for

Solidarity with the Concerned Law Students of UCT

As reported by Vernac News, a group of anonymous Concerned Law Students have issued a statement about institutional racism at UCT's Law Faculty : "We write this statement as concerned Law students, bearing cognizance of the fact that we are not represented officials of any said constituency, but instead a collective of concerned law students in an effort to highlight various structural issues affecting black students and staff alike. We write this against the backdrop of the now released IRTC report that concluded that UCT is indeed a racist institution. We wish to show how this manifests itself in the Law Faculty..." Read the full statement here

Decolonisation vs Progress

Decolonisation vs “Progress SA”: An ongoing battle at University of Cape Town Progress SA posters on campus The photo above shows posters recently put up all over campus at University of Cape Town (UCT). These posters were quite mystifying to me, because they seemed be taking aim at a target that I couldn’t quite see from my perspective as a newcomer to the University. I knew that they seemed to be promoting a perspective at odds with my own. And today, I found out part of what’s going on here, so I’m sharing. Starting in 2016, so after the #RhodesMustFall movement (which evidently had a huge impact at UCT not to mention higher education as a whole), the Curriculum Change Working Group (CCWG) was formed. It conducted an 18-month research project to identify ways to transform and decolonise the curriculum, teaching practices, and the institutional culture of UCT. In June 2018, CCWG published the results of its work as the “ Curriculum Change Framework ” which you can read in f