Founded in the late 1990s, the Lusophone African Studies Organization (LASO) is an independent professional society open to all scholars with an interest in Angola, Cabo Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe. It is also a coordinate organization of the African Studies Association (ASA) and holds a business meeting and reception at the ASA Annual Meeting.
Why LASO? Because this acronym, when spoken, sounds like laço, a Portuguese term meaning ties, bonds, or connections.
LASO Officers (2017-present)
Chair: Heidi Gengenbach, Department of History, University of Massachusetts Boston
Vice Chair: Abel Djassi Amado, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Simmons College
Treasurer: Regina Lee Roberts, Stanford University Libraries
Secretary: Arianna Huhn, Department of Anthropology, California State University, San Bernardino
What we do
As a transnational network linking Luso-Africa specialists in the US, Canada, Brazil, Portugal, and Portuguese-speaking African countries, LASO plays a unique role in producing and disseminating knowledge about Lusophone Africa across national, institutional, and disciplinary boundaries. LASO gatherings at the ASA’s annual meetings bring together a subset of our far-flung members, both to nurture professional and social connections and to provide scaffolding for our activities in the coming year. Since LASO’s founding, those activities have revolved mainly around facilitating and drawing attention to research, writing, and teaching on Lusophone Africa, especially work being done in the continent itself.
In 2017/18, LASO activities included:
- Sponsored 2017 ASA panel: “Creativity and Urban Expansion in Late-Colonial Mozambique”
- Sponsored 2017 ASA roundtable: “The Year of Teaching Dangerously: Lusophone Africa in Trump’s America”
- LASO Graduate Student Paper Prize, awarded to Alicia Hayashi Lazzarini (Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Geography, Bucknell University) for “Lusophone Assimilation, Spatial Hierarchies, and Contemporary Anglo-Capitalist Investment”
- Recipient of ASA Coordinate Organization Small Grant, enabling LASO to subsidize the travel costs of an Angola-based scholar participating on our sponsored panel at the 2018 ASA
- Inaugural LASO Newsletter/Boletim da LASO (see below)
Looking forward to the coming year, LASO activities include:
- Sponsored 2018 ASA Panel: “Pluralism: Democratization and electoral Integrity in Angola and Mozambique.” This exciting session brings together scholars based in Portugal, Angola, and Mozambique.
- Sponsored 2018 ASA Roundtable: “Kicking Empire: Football in Colonial Africa,” an Authors Meet Critics session featuring participants from Portugal, Germany, Mozambique, and the US. Authors are Nuno Domingos (Instituto de Ciências Sociais-Universidade de Lisboa, Football and Colonialism: Body and Popular Culture in Urban Mozambique) and Todd Cleveland (University of Arkansas, Following the Ball: The Migration of African Soccer Players across the Portuguese Colonial Empire, 1949-1975).
- Enhanced outreach efforts to expand and diversify the LASO community. We are working in particular to increase representation of Cabo Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and São-Tomé and Príncipe, and to include a broader range of academic disciplines and non-academic Lusophone expertise in our membership.
- Enhanced fundraising efforts to enable LASO to sponsor travel to ASA meetings for Africa-based Lusophone specialists.
LASO Origins: Reflections on forming a Lusophone Africa Scholarly Organization
by Kathleen Sheldon, Center for the Study of Women, UCLA
The Lusophone African Studies Organization (LASO) was formed and has been affiliated with the ASA since 1999, but its history began some time before that date. In some ways LASO began in the early 1980s when I was preparing to go to Mozambique for my doctoral research and relying on scattered recommendations—by letter and phone call—for people to contact and how to proceed. From that experience, I began to see the need for a group that could be a point of reference among Lusophone Africa scholars, especially for graduate students seeking support.
At the 1992 ASA meeting in Seattle, I co-organized a panel on “New Directions in Mozambican Social History” with Allen Isaacman and Arlindo Chilundo. When we gathered in the hotel lobby, I looked around and saw a dozen or so Lusophone scholars, and I realized that we needed a structure to facilitate future panel organizing and other get-togethers. I began to think seriously about organizing such a group. Other colleagues were clearly interested in forming a network focused on Lusophone Africa at this time. The Lusotopie journal began publishing in France in 1994, and in 1997 a Lusophone Africa listserv was established, based at the University of Virginia and moderated by Maria Fatima Rodrigues. Around the same time, someone (whose name I regrettably cannot recall) convened a lunchtime gathering of about 20 scholars at the ASA annual meeting. We talked about what we wanted in an organization and shared contact information, intending to use the list to build a more formal group. Although nothing official happened for the next two years, panels on Lusophone Africa continued to appear at ASA meetings through the late 1990s.
A couple of months before the 1998 ASA in Chicago, I decided to convene a meeting, and with email more established, I wrote to everyone I could think of who was working on Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé e Príncipe and who was likely to attend ASA. It was too late to book a meeting room, but I printed up flyers and spread the news that scholars working on Lusophone Africa would hold a breakfast meeting in the hotel restaurant. Over 30 colleagues showed up, and we had a lively discussion about what we wanted to do. Those who were present authorized me and a few others to move forward with setting up the organization that became LASO.
LASO was included in the 1999 ASA program, and at that first formal meeting we discussed our next steps. We investigated the by-laws and organization of similar groups, and a small committee wrote by-laws and successfully sought recognition as an ASA coordinate organization (2002). We began organizing panels immediately, and that same year LASO obtained ASA funding to bring Mozambican scholar Victor Igreja to the annual meeting. We also held our first reception, sponsoring a book launch for five books that had been published in the previous year. I served as chair on the newly elected steering committee, with Liz MacGonagle as vice-chair, Lloys Frates as treasurer, and Marissa Moorman and Steve Kyle responsible for organizing panels for the following year. Since then our business meeting has always included time for informal chatting, since a central part of our mission is to facilitate networking among scholars with shared interests who may not have other opportunities to meet face to face.
LASO has continued to sponsor panel and roundtable sessions at ASA meetings, and more recently has introduced a graduate student paper prize (for papers presented at the annual meeting), a Facebook page, and a biannual electronic newsletter.
*A longer version of this essay was published in the Spring 2018 issue of the LASO Newsletter/Boletim da LASO.
One of LASO’s first initiatives in 2002 was to establish a new listserv with H-Net, an organization that sponsors a wide range of networks in history and the humanities. Kathleen Sheldon, Marissa Moorman, and Nick Creary served as early editors, with Rosa Williams joining more recently as web editor. Calling it H-Luso-Africa, the editors drew from an earlier listserv on Portuguese-speaking Africa that was based at the University of Virginia, and it quickly grew to several hundred subscribers. Messages included publication announcements, calls for papers, conference information, book reviews, and queries about research and about housing and other conditions for pursuing research in Lusophone Africa. We were successful in our primary goal of facilitating networking among the global community of scholars interested in the relevant countries, as evident in the international makeup of our editorial team over the years, which has included José Curto (Canada), Gerhard Seibert (Portugal), and Philip Havik (The Netherlands). Subscribers ranged from graduate students to retired scholars, school teachers, activists, and development practitioners. Though subscribers based in North America and Europe predominated at first, as access to the internet has improved internationally we have seen a real increase in subscribers from Africa and Brazil.
Now, H-Luso-Africa has over 900 subscribers, and with the addition of a web editor we have greatly expanded the resources related to Lusophone Africa available at our site, with lists of dissertations in progress, journals, research centers, university programs, organizations similar in focus to LASO, and much more. Check us out at https://networks.h-net.org/h-luso-africa.
LASO Newsletter/Boletim da LASO
We are excited to announce our new electronic newsletter, an initiative of LASO Vice-Chair Abel Djassi Amado. This twice-yearly publication, which complements the valuable services of H-Luso-Africa, seeks to connect the diverse global community of people with interests in Lusophone Africa in enriching new ways. The inaugural issue appeared in Spring 2018, with the second issue planned for this October. To subscribe to the newsletter or to submit material for publication in upcoming issues, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send submissions electronically. LASO reserves the right to reject items that do not comply with the organization’s goals and purposes, and to edit and/or modify for content, format, or length.
Additional information on LASO activities and on Lusophone African countries can be found at:
H-Net List: https://networks.h-net.org/tags/lusophone-africa.