Knowledge has messy roots. This presentation is about how I came to study postcolonial education in West Africa without ever intending to, and how research for this project has been equally as peripatetic. My dissertation asks how, in the 1960s and 1970s, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire sought to bend colonial-era education systems to the task of national development. Though they emerged from different empires, they came of age in the same ‘development moment’, whose prescriptions for how to modernize looked surprisingly similar in Anglophone and Francophone Africa. As much as I draw on archives (of local schools, at the national and international levels) and national newspapers to study this question, I also turn to the conversations I have had with over 70 teachers, students, and educational development workers of the era. As I think through the challenges of postcolonial schooling in Africa, I often return to the questions about empire and education that I began asking myself as a secondary school teacher in Singapore. How do the five years I spent teaching in Africa, Asia and America influence the research I conduct on West African classrooms? What divides the personal from the professional in matters of knowledge production? Literature scholar Ato Quayson jokes that everyone has his or her own “African studies conversion narrative.” This presentation invites us to critically examine the postcolonial structures that make the conversion a possibility in the first place.