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Dr. François Wassouni, SHOT International Scholar 2017-2018


Since 1992,  the Society for the History of Technology inaugurated the International Scholars program with these goals:

  1. Foster a stronger international community for the study of the history of technology
  2. Strengthen the society's role as an international society for the history of technology
  3. Identify and help non-U.S. historians of technology participate in the meetings and governance of the Society
  4. Provide formal recognition for the work of non-U.S. historians of technology so that their respective  governments and national academic communities might provide greater support for their society-related activities
  5. Afford special recognition for younger, non-U.S. scholars as they begin their careers in the history of technology
  6. Foster an international network of scholars in the history of technology that will benefit allmembers of the society.

Each year the Society for the History of Technology designates up to four International Scholars for a two-year term. The International Scholars program is administered by the Internationalization Committee.  At the Annual Meeting in Singapore, 22-26 June 2016, three International Scholars have been selected from all nominations:

  1. Nurcin Ilery (Turkey);
  2. François Wassouni (Cameroun);
  3. Zhihui Zhang (China).

Dr. Wassouni is Lecturer at the University of Maroua, Faculty of Letters and Social Sciences, Department of History, Cameroon, and completed his PhD in 2011 at the University of Ngaoundere, Cameroon, with a historical dissertation on interconnected communities of leather craftsmanship in Northern Cameroon. His work embraces historical and anthropological methods and is deeply informed by methods of the history of technology. His studies are tackling the nineteenth century to the present.

His second project is on the influence of the influx of Chinese import goods on traditional Cameroonian craftsmanship. While he is not the first to publish on Chinese presence on the African market, no other research has looked specifically at how the flooding of African market with cheap manufactured goods made in China has affected craft traditions and local knowledge. In 2015, he published an important article on the emergence of the new kind of artisanal technique working with beef horns in Maroua (north Cameroon).

His work has come to the attention of the Internationalization Committee of the Society for the History of Technology through his work on an Introduction Global History of Technology, a collaborative textbook project due to be published by University Press of France in September 2016 (in French). His ongoing research on the evolving craft practices is of particular interest and importance as the material produced by both local and/or traditional craftsmen and artists is an essential cultural record, making up for the lack of written accounts available in a historically oral culture such as Cameroon. Traditionally, crafts and the knowledge about how to perform them have been passed down through families or in some cases to apprentices. They produce objects reflecting a wide range of needs such
as objects related to rituals of birth and death, but also certain specific needs such as the inauguratio of a new chief or moments of political change in the community. Hence, his work sheds light on how the influx of imported goods challenge the local production of practical and aesthetically objects which used to both embed and mark the social make-up of the Cameroonian society. Africa is not the only place where this type of shift has occurred, but Dr. Wassouni's work offers an opportunity to document a tectonic change affected by factors such as international tourism and growth of export market for African art and craft goods, environmental constraints and new technologies of artisanal production. Dr. Wassouni brings to SHOT research on a thoroughly understudied field and an academic perspective that will enrich the SHOT community.

Last but not least, Dr. Wassouni is working on documenting changes in artisanal practices in a context of an ongoing Boko Haram insurgency which is putting further stress on the technological landscapes of north-east Cameroon.