The RISE Podcast: Adam Ashforth on How Communities See the Role of Education in Malawi

Adam Ashforth discusses his ethnographic research in Malawi and what the education system looks like for the average person in the country.


Image of Adam Ashforth

Adam Ashforth

University of Michigan

Image of Jason Silberstein

Jason Silberstein

RISE Directorate

Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

In this episode of the RISE Podcast, Jason Silberstein, a RISE Research Fellow at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, speaks to Professor Adam Ashforth. The conversation draws on Adam’s ethnographic research to explore what the education system looks like for the average person in Malawi. He shares accounts from the Malawi Journals Project, which shed light on what most families see as the core purpose of education. In doing so, we learn just how absent the state is in many schools and how this space is filled with local relationships of accountability. 


Guest biography

Adam Ashforth is a Professor in Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. Adam has published extensively on state formation and the political implications of spiritual insecurity in everyday life in South Africa. During South Africa's transition to democracy he spent many years living and writing in Soweto. He is currently researching responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in everyday life in rural Malawi and ethnic conflict in Kenya's Rift Valley. His publications include four books: The Politics of Official Discourse in Twentieth-Century South Africa (Oxford, 1990); Madumo, A Man Bewitched (Chicago, 2000); Witchcraft, Violence, and Democracy in South Africa (Chicago, 2005) [winner of the Herskovits Award, 2005]; and The Trials of Mrs. K.: Seeking Justice in a World with Witches (Chicago, 2018).


RISE is funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Programme is implemented through a partnership between Oxford Policy Management and the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. The Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford supports the production of the RISE Podcast.

RISE blog posts and podcasts reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation or our funders.