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Let’s be thankful for it is our duty;
and be marveled for it is our duty;
and be astounded for it is our duty;
for we are blessed with great gifts.
Serigne Mbaye Diakhaté, Murid Ajami Poet (1875-1954)
A warm welcome to everyone in 2015! I would like to use my space here to reflect on the ASA’s achievements over the past year and share some exciting news about the year to come.
The 2014 Annual Meeting was one of our most successful meetings to date, with close to two thousand attendees. We had a record number of submissions and high-quality presentations, and the conference venue allowed for many interactions and fruitful collaborations. We all enjoyed many brilliant papers on new ideas and issues, all pushing the frontiers of knowledge in new and positive ways while expanding our scholarly horizons.
Demonstrating our great association’s engagement with important contemporary issues facing Africa, the 2014 annual meeting featured a series of panels addressing the Ebola crisis that devastated the populations of three countries, notably Sierra Leone and Liberia, and triggered outlandish reactions across the globe. Beyond that, the ASA made significant progress in better connecting our annual meeting to scholars and organizations based in the African continent by including more online access for those who could not physically attend the meeting. In particular, an interactive panel featured several participants from the West African Research Center (WARC) in Senegal. Similarly, one will find multimedia archives of the 2014 Opening Ceremony and Reception, the Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola Lecture delivered by Professor Francis Abiola Irele, the Hormuud Lecture delivered by Professor Maxi Schoeman, and the Women’s Caucus Lecture delivered by Professor Mîcero M. Gîthae Mûgo in the Winter 2015 issue of ASA News. Members who were unable to attend this year’s annual meeting or those who attended but missed these events should check out the multimedia archives. We are also grateful to Professor Leonce Ndikumana, the ASR Distinguished Lecturer, whose fine paper will be published shortly by the African Studies Review.
The annual meeting equally featured the first ever “First-Time Attendee Breakfast.” Our annual meeting has become so big and vast that we created this event to better welcome these new participants and help them navigate their way through the ASA Annual Meeting. The breakfast was a resounding success, as over 60 first-time attendees took part along with several “veterans” of the annual meeting like the 2014 President James Pritchett. This event demonstrates the ASA’s unwavering dedication to remaining a global and welcoming organization that is accessible to new audiences and generations of scholars.
These successes would not have been possible without the remarkable support of our organization’s members, volunteers, and staff members. As always, sincere appreciation goes to the ASA Board of Directors for their tireless efforts. I would also like to thank Professor Odile Cazenave and Professor Clifton Crais for their outstanding work as the Program Committee chairs for the 2014 annual meeting program. Along with twenty-one committee members, they succeeded in putting together a fabulous program. The success of the meetings in Indianapolis was also made possible by the work of our Local Arrangement Committee Chairs, Professor Maria Grosz-Ngate and Professor Bessie House-Soremekun, as well as the other committee members from across Indiana. A very high level of creativity manifested itself in the LAC-sponsored activities. They created an innovative model that allowed the ASA to maximize participation in the annual conference by engaging and involving many local individuals and organizations in Indianapolis and surrounding areas, most particularly individuals who are part of the African Diaspora. Lastly, the ASA commends the ASA Secretariat, Suzanne Baazet, Funmi Elise Vogt, Kathryn Salucka, and Rush Perez. Their collective efforts helped make the annual meeting possible and the 2014 edition such a great and memorable event for all attendees.
Despite our organization’s successes, African Studies as a field suffered some harsh blows in 2014 with the deaths of a number of stellar scholars, teachers, activists and friends. Some died before the annual meeting and we honored them in special panels. More recently, we were shocked to learn about the passing of Professor Terrence Ranger and Professor Jeff Guy shortly after the November meetings. This issue of ASA News features obituaries for Ranger and Guy. The legacies of those we lost in 2014 will certainly endure for generations. Their work serves to inspire us all to achieve greater things.
Overall, 2014 was an exciting and transformative year for the ASA, and one envisions this growth and momentum to carry over in 2015. We have released our call for proposals for the 58th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association, “The State and Study of Africa”. This theme is particularly pivotal. Those based in universities and colleges outside of Africa need to find better ways to engage our peers on the African continent. African Studies needs to discover (and rediscover) better ways to engage, pressure and stimulate those in power so that our collective intellectual output may benefit our global society. Our work must inspire new interpretations of the past, offer solutions to the problems of present, and chart innovative paths for a better future. The 2015 annual meeting’s theme intends to become a start in a new trend.
This year’s annual meeting will take place in San Diego, California, November 19-22, 2015. The deadline for abstract submissions is March 15, 2015. I must already thank the 2015 Program Committee Co-Chairs, Professor Derek R. Peterson and Professor Dismas A. Masolo, and the rest of our program committee. These volunteers never receive enough credit for their selfless hard work. They ensure that the ASA continues on its course and makes possible the organization’s great initiatives in 2015.
Seize whatever you reach!
President, African Studies Association