Writing for our “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Shobana Shankar reflects on how the pandemic has thrown into question basic assumptions that emotions impede knowledge-creation and dissemination. She explores instead how we might consider how emotions and their manipulation are part of social norms, including norms of scholarly work; and how the disclosure of emotions that affect our perception and presentation of research, along with privilege and positionality, is the new ethical turn in a landscape of research insecurity.
Shobana Shankar is associate professor in History and affiliate in Africana Studies at Stony Brook University (SUNY). Her work focuses on cultural politics, particularly Christian-Muslim dynamics and missionary medicine, in colonial and postcolonial West Africa, subjects she has studied through archival research and ethnographic fieldwork since she was a student in Nigeria almost two decades ago. Her current book, Race between the Black Atlantic and Indian Ocean (under contract with Zed Books) examines how Africans and Indians have attempted to understand and negotiate their complicated racial interrelationships in spheres like religion, science, and education where postcolonial peoples have sought autonomy from Euro-American power. This work brings together her combined training in history and anthropology and in West African and Indian language skills. It also builds on her earlier work on religious politics and medicine, published in Social Science and Missions, The Journal of African History, and others. Her books include Who Shall Enter Paradise? Christian Origins in Muslim Northern Nigeria, c. 1890–1975 (Ohio University Press, 2014) and the coedited volumes Religions on the Move! New Dynamics of Religious Expansion in Globalizing World (with Afe Adogame; Brill, 2012), and Transforming Africa’s Religious Landscapes: The Sudan Interior Mission, Past and Present (with Barbara Cooper, Gary Corwin, Tibebe Eshete, Musa Gaiya, and Tim Geysbeek; Africa World Press, 2018). Her work, including research in Ghana, India, Nigeria, and Senegal, has been generously supported by Fulbright, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Council for American Overseas Research Centers, Stony Brook’s Humanities Institute, and Africa’s Asian Option at the Goethe Institute in Frankfurt.