Nancy Hunt

Faculty / Academic Staff
history | anthropology
Intellectual Biography: 

Serious histories of Africa begin from theorizing words and things, from a working lexicon of the concepts and practices of historical subjects, past and present. Much of my work in historical ethnography emerged from such a view of the ethnographic, the everyday, the emic, the somatic, and the imaginary as a basis for posing questions, tracking evidence, and moving in near, very near. More recent work has had me thinking about the visceral moods of one colonial state in relation to states, their persons and their subjects everywhere. Theory may begin in the empirical, in the here and now, and then move, shifting scales, landing elsewhere, while taking on meta dimensions. For my new work on mental health zones (an African genealogy), I will need and shape a new lexicon, some words coming straight out of psychiatric practice of different times and places mostly in Africa, some coming out of spirit possession and other practices of soothing and agitation of long date in Africa. But I expect one of my best sources will be less ritual practice and song, but modern fiction. I will be reading every word Can Themba ever wrote, and using his words, images, and stories to generate a new global theory from *a* South (not the South, but a South, his South), *a* South that is mobile, modular, and with which it is good to think. I will investigate how he developed his psychological vocabulary, and compare his logic, metaphors, and acumen with other African intellectuals and artists who have thought in psychological terms about power, subjectivity, and identification. Obviously at some point, I will circle back to Fanon. But not for a while. To me, the project of new global theory from the South means turning to less canonical figures, breaking with habit and long-standing fashion--whether digging in Johannesburg or Detroit or Paris--and thinking afresh about the wealth of imaginative, critical power amid conditions of precarity.

Presentation Title: 
From Nervousness to Twisted Genres
Can Themba, essays, short stories, (not just The Suit) Ivan Vladislavic, Double Negative -- (or anything else) Georges Canguilhem, "The Living and its Milieu" in Knowledge of Life Todd Meyers, The Clinic and Elsewhere Gregory Bateson's metalogues
I would like opportunities to connect with scholars and practitioners who work in relation to the medical and the psychological, especially as it relates to shaping subsequent Mellon work under the "biopolitical" rubric.