by Derek Peterson, Chair, ASA Task Force for the Protection of Academic Freedom

The African Studies Association is pleased to announce the formation of a new Task Force for the Protection of Academic Freedom.

This new group works to defend and advance scholars’ ability to freely pursue, distribute, and discuss their research in academia and in public life. Through the Task Force, the African Studies Association (ASA) monitors infringements on academic freedom in Africa, in the United States, and worldwide. Such infringements include governmental refusal to allow scholars of Africa to conduct research, publish their findings, deliver academic lectures, and travel to international scholarly meetings. The Task Force documents and, where appropriate, protests against instances where professors and academic researchers are persecuted for their professional or personal activities. The Task Force is concerned with violations such as the revocation of academic degrees; demotion or dismissal; and arrest, arbitrary detention, disappearance, and extrajudicial killing. The Task Force likewise works to ensure that the subjects of academic research are not endangered or harmed by scholars’ work. It encourages ethical conduct in research, as defined in the ASA’s ‘Ethical Conduct Guidelines’, which can be found here:

https://africanstudies.org/about-the-asa/asa-ethical-conduct-guidelines/

The Task Force obtains information directly from concerned persons, from their professional associates, and from members of the ASA’s Coordinate or Affiliate Organizations. Evaluations of requests for action are coordinated within the Task Force in dialogue with the members of the ASA’s Advocacy Committee and in conversation with activists, legal experts, and other actors directly involved in the situation. The Task Force may compose a letter of inquiry to the appropriate authorities and, where necessary, follow up with additional letters. If the Task Force deems it appropriate, it may compose a public statement concerning a case. All letters of inquiry, and all public statements, are issued by the Board of Directors on behalf of the ASA. Where possible, these activities are undertaken in coordination with other scholarly associations.

The members of the Task Force include representatives of the different Coordinate and Affiliate Organizations of the ASA. Each Coordinate and Affiliate Organization nominates one (or in some cases two) representatives to sit on the Task Force. The Chair may recruit additional members with relevant expertise. The Task Force works under the aegis of the Advocacy Committee of the ASA, and members of the Advocacy Committee of the ASA are members of the Task Force, as is the President and Vice President of the ASA. The ASA’s Secretariat provides logistical support to the Task Force.

Task Force members serve two year terms, renewable once.

The Task Force meets for discussion once a year during the Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association. Members maintain contact between sessions and can take up new cases at any time during the year.

The work of this Task Force is conducted in dialogue with the ASA’s wider work of advocating for the political interests of Africa’s scholars, detailed here: https://africanstudies.org/advocacy/. The Task Force augments and extends the ASA’s ongoing efforts to hold governments in the United States, Africa and elsewhere responsible to the ideals of free inquiry.

Members of the ASA who wish to contact the Task Force should write to advocacy@africanstudies.org with details about the matter they wish to raise.

Members of the Committee

Derek R. Peterson (Chair)

University of Michigan

Maria Grosz-Ngate (ASA President)

Indiana University

Sean Jacobs (Advocacy Committee of the ASA)

New School for Social Research

Sylvester Ogbechie (Advocacy Committee of the ASA)

University of California, Santa Barbara

Lahra Smith (Advocacy Committee of the ASA)

Georgetown University

Yusuf Serunkuma Kajura (Advocacy Committee of the ASA)

Makerere University

Akosua Adomako Ampofo (Ghana Studies Association)

University of Ghana-Legon

Anthony Diala (Nigeria Studies Association)

University of the Western Cape

Jody Benjamin (Mande Studies Association)

University of California-Riverside

Ibra Sene (West African Research Association)

College of Wooster

Tushabe wa Tushabe (Queer African Studies Association)

Kansas State University

Anita Plummer (Women’s Caucus)

Howard University

Charles Tshimanga-Kashama (Central African Studies Association)

University of Nevada-Reno

Mark Dike DeLancey (North American Association of Scholars on Cameroon)

DePaul University

Carina Ray (Association of Concerned Africa Scholars)

Brandeis University

Ebony Coletu (Association of Concerned Africa Scholars)

Pennsylvania State University

Jessica Krug (Lusophone African Studies Association)

George Washington University

Scott Reese (Islam in African Studies Group)

Northern Arizona University

Jessica Achberger (Africana Librarians Council)

Michigan State University

Jeffrey Ahlman (Africa Network)

Smith College

Jeffrey Paller (African Politics Conference Group)

University of San Francisco

Kristin D. Phillips (Tanzanian Studies Association)

Emory University

Anitra Nettleton (Arts Council of the African Studies Association)

University of Johannesburg