Home / Staff profiles / Dr Mattia Fumanti

Dr Mattia Fumanti

Senior Lecturer

Email: mf610@st-andrews.ac.uk

Phone: (01334 46) 2990

Office: Room 19, United College

Office hours: Wednesday 11am – 1pm


For over a decade I have been conducting ethnographic research in Namibia. More specifically my work has focused on youth, elites and the making of moral public spaces in post-apartheid urban contexts.  This research has culminated in a monograph entitled The Politics of Distinction. African Elites from Colonialism to Liberation in a Namibian Frontier Town, 2016, Sean Kingston Publishing. Over the years one of my research interests has been to explore the role of popular culture, internet and mobile communication technology in Africa in relation to wider discourses on entrepreneurship and economic development.

During my most recent field works in 2014 and 2015 I have begun to work with Namibian mental health practitioners and artists on an interdisciplinary research project exploring mental illness in contemporary Namibia. In July I was awarded the ‘Wellcome Trust Seed Award’, for the project entitled ‘Narratives of Mental Illness in Contemporary Namibia’. The project which will begin to record patients’ and families’ narratives of mental illness will rely on innovative multimedia based methodologies, such as art, photography and video installations.

Alongside fieldwork in Namibia, since 2006 my research has responded to the growing recognition of the significant presence of African migrants in Britain. My research among Ghanaian Methodists in London aimed to understand the role of the African diaspora in civil society and of African churches in particular in the making of a British multicultural public sphere. Part of this research aimed to explore the significance of transnational and religious networks between Ghana and the diaspora. For this reason in 2007 and 2009 I conducted ethnographic research in Kumasi and Accra among different generations of Methodists.

I also explored the lives of homeless refugees in London, mostly from Africa, and published a joint edited report with Middlesex University Social Policy Research Centre.

Increasingly I have been interested in the role of ethnographic film making in anthropological research and on issues of collaborative research. I have edited two short films and one documentary shot in Ghana entitled ‘Crusade Ghana Style’. The film was recently shown at the MAV Festival in Rome. I am also currently working on a collaborative film I shot in Namibia between 2012 and 2014 which will explore patients and family centred mental illness narratives.

In 2013 I have joined Fahamu Refugee Legal Aid as a country of origin information expert for Namibia and Ghana and I have written several expert reports for asylum seekers to the UK and the USA.

I am currently the book review editor for the Journal of Southern African Studies and a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Critical African Studies.

Topical Interests

Regional focus: Namibia, Ghana and African Diaspora in Britain, London. Topical interests include: postcolonial studies, the state, citizenship, elites and education, youth and popular culture, gender, morality, civil society and the public space, religion, diaspora and transnationalism, entrepreneurship and new information technology, ethnographic film-making, mental health and illness narratives.

Research information

I am currently working on an interdisciplinary project on mental illness.  This project proposes to open a comparative understanding of mental illness in contemporary Namibia through in-depth, inter-disciplinary research that illuminates the present postcolonial moment in the light of the colonial past while it discloses breaks along with continuities in discourse and practice. Patients and families-centred accounts, largely neglected in the existing literature, will figure notably in this project. Focusing this illumination on Namibia, most specifically, the proposed research addresses two interrelated themes: the ‘content of madness’, that is, the patients’ subjective illness narratives and their subsequent medicalization; and ‘the emotional world’ of insanity which encompasses the pro-active engagement of families insofar as they re-direct, support and/or oppose the medical intervention among their kin. Central to this project is an interdisciplinary approach and the use of a varied methodology, including archival research, audio recordings, photography, and multi-media fine art practices.

Selected publications

Books and Edited Journals

(in preparation) Akan London: Virtuous Citizenship and Methodism in the Gateway City.

(2016) The Politics of Distinction: African Elites from Colonialism to Liberation in a Namibian Frontier Town. Canon Pyon, Herefordshire: Sean Kingston Publishing. Republished in Namibia with UNAM press.

(2014) Imagining the Future. Rome and New York: Lighthouse Publisher.

(2010)  Double issue of the Journal African Diaspora on ‘The Moral Economy of the African Diaspora: Encapsulation, Estrangement and Citizenship’. Co-edited with Pnina Werbner.

(2010)  Beer as Local and Transnational Commodity in Africa. Co-edited with Steven Van-Wolputte. Berlin, Lit Verlag.

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

(2017) ‘"Whores might be relieved but not I": insanity and the moral and political economies of German South West Africa’, in preparation

(2017) ‘The Everyday Politics of Public Space; Anthropological Comparisons and Critical Explorations Between the Athens 2008 and the London 2011 Revolts’ with Yannis Kallianos, in preparation

(2017) Introduction to the Special issue on ‘The Politics of Homosexuality’, in Critical African Studies, 9 (1).

(2016) ‘Notes for a Virtuous Public Health’, epilogue to Terranova, F. Sanita’ Pubblica. Percorsi Ideologici dall’Unita’ d’Italia (A History of Public Health in Italy)

(2016) ‘Anthropological Reflections on Love and Romance in the XXIst Century’, in Eccher, D. (ed) Love: Contemporary Art Meets Amour’, Skira, Milano. (Art Catalogue of the Exhibition, ‘Love: Contemporary Art Meets Amour’, Rome, Chiostro del Bramante 29/09/2016- 19/02/2017)

(2016) ‘Interdisciplinary Responses to Cultural Citizenship and Migration’, in The Routledge Companion to Contemporary Anthropology edited by Simon Coleman, Susan Hyatt and Ann Kingsolver.

(2015) 'Reflections on the encounters of the imagination: ontology, epistemology and the limits of the real in anthropology', in Rapport, N. and Harris, M. (eds), Reflections on Imagination. Human Capacity and Ethnographic Method. Farnham: Ashgate.

(2015) ‘Taramo Where Winning is Easy: the Making of the Entrepreneurial Self in Namibia’s Fortunational Capitalism’, in Critical African Studies, 7 (3): 280-298

(2014) ''The Aesthetics of Diaspora: Sensual Milieus and Literary World' with Pnina Werbner, in Kaur, Raminder and Dave-Mukherji, Parul (eds.) Arts and Aesthetics in a globalizing world. ASA, 51. Berg, London (in press).

(2013)‘“Black Chicken-White Chicken”: Patriotism, Morality and the Aesthetics of Fandom in the 2008 African Cup of Nations in Ghana’ in Baller, S. , Miescher, G and Rassool, C. (eds.) Global Perspectives on Football in Africa: Visualising the Game, Routledge, London.

(2013) ‘“Showing-off Aesthetics”: Looking good, making relations and being in the world in the Akan Diaspora in London’, Ethnos: journal of Social Anthropology, 78 (2): 200-225.

(2013) ‘Aesthetics of diaspora: ownership and appropriation’, with Pnina Werbner, Ethnos: journal of Social Anthropology, 78 (2): 149-174.

(2012) ‘“Black Chicken-White Chicken”: Patriotism, Morality and the Aesthetics of Fandom in the 2008 African Cup of Nations in Ghana’, Soccer and Society, 13 (2): 264-276.

(2010)   ‘Virtuous Citizenship, Ethnicity and Encapsulation among Akan Speaking Ghanaian Methodists in London’, African Diaspora special double issue 2, (1-2): 1-30.

(2010)    ‘The Moral Economy of the African Diaspora: Citizenship, Networking and Permeable Ethnicity’ with Pnina Werbner, African Diaspora special double issue 2, (1-2): 2-11.

(2010)    ‘A light-hearted bunch of ladies: Irreverent Piety and Gendered Power in the London Ghanaian Diaspora’, Africa, 8(2): 200-223.

(2010)   ‘I like my Windhoek Lager: Beer and the Making of Men in Northern Namibia’, in M.Fumanti and S.Van Wolputte (eds.) Beer as Local and Transnational Commodity in Africa, Berlin, Lit Verlag.

(2009)    ‘Immigrazione, associazionismo e cittadinanza: il caso di due associazioni Ghanesi a Londra.’ Afriche e Orienti, (1/2):

(2008)    ‘Rethinking Citizenship in the African Diaspora’, in C. Osman and B. Okot ‘Informing on Migration and Development: IDEM’, Special report for CFD and Panos.

(2007)    ‘Burying E.S: Educated Elites, Subjectivity and Distinction in Rundu’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 33(3): 469-483.

(2007)    ‘Imagining post-apartheid society and culture: playfulness, officialdom and civility in a youth elite club in Northern Namibia’, in Melber, H. (ed.)Transitions in Namibia, which changes for whom? Uppsala, Nordic African Institute.

(2006)    ‘Il paradosso della Rivoluzione incompiuta. Il Dominio Economico del Sudafrica e il processo di riaffermazione di un’elite bianca in una citta’ della Namibia settentrionale’, Afriche e Orienti, (3/4): 136-151.

(2006)    ‘Education and the battle for consciousness: discourses on education in post-apartheid Namibia’, Social Analysis, 50 (3): 84-108.

(2006)    ‘Editorial: from play to knowledge: a workshop on ethnographic methodology’, with Hannah Knox, Susanne Langer and Emily Walmsley,  Anthropology Matters, 8 (2).

(2005)    (co-edited with Hannah Knox and Susanne Langer) ‘New-Methods in anthropology: postgraduate perspectives.’ Anthropology Matters, 7 (1).

(2004)    ‘The making of the fieldwork-er: debating agency in elites research’, Anthropology Matters, 6(2).

(2002)   ‘Small Town Elites in Northern Namibia-The Complexity of Class Formation in Practice’ in Fox, T., Mufune P., and Winterfeldt, V. (eds) Namibia:  Society, Sociology, Windhoek: University of Namibia Press.

Research supervision

Currently supervising:




Youth in Africa

The Anthropology of Migration