Dear ASA Members and Friends,

For the ASA Secretariat, the summer months are always busy, as work shifts into high gear in preparation for our annual meeting. Meanwhile, ASA Board activity tends to slow, as many members take some well-deserved time away from teaching obligations to focus on their own research and writing. This summer, however, it seems that everyone has been operating in high gear, literally “across the board,” as we work to finalize and operationalize a set of important initiatives that were generated at our fall and spring meetings. Let me offer a brief recap of some of the more significant developments.

Well over a year ago, Walter Bgoya, Managing Director of Mkuki na Nyota and chairman of the African Books Collective, approached the ASA and ASA-UK about developing a set of principles for North American and European-based publishers that, if adhered to, would dramatically widen the access of Africa-based scholars to research published in the global north. This year, thanks to the concerted efforts of many (including past-President Anne Pitcher and Board member and Publications Committee chair, Nwando Achebe), the ASA and ASA-UK have signed on to a “Statement of Principles for the Sale of Rights in African Territories” and are working with other associations to reach every publisher of scholarly works on Africa based in Europe and North America. Keep your eyes open for additional information at the 2018 meeting and for exhibitors who have signed on to this important set of principles. You can see the full statement here.

On the publications front, we have, indeed, been very busy! Many of you have probably been following the exciting initiatives undertaken by new ASR editor Benjamin Lawrance and his team over the past year. Most recently, they have unveiled a strategy, developed in coordination with the journal’s publisher, Cambridge University Press, for expanding in significant ways the pool of peer reviewers of articles, as well as the number of books that the ASR is able to review in any given year. The aim here is for the ASA to develop, test, and implement strategies that might assist in the important process of decolonizing knowledge production about Africa. You can learn more about some of the ASR’s recent initiatives at https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/african-studies-review/article/decolonizing-african-studies/12332A947801F3EEF398310992E312B0/core-reader.

And as the ASR consolidates its transition in leadership, History in Africa is about to embark on a transition of its own. Over the past decade, the HiA editorial team (Michel R. Doortmont, John H. Hanson, Jan Jansen, and Dmitri van den Bersselaar) has transformed the journal into a widely respected, peer-reviewed publication, whose audience far transcends the discipline of history. With the HiA on a firm foundation that guarantees its continuing growth, the editorial team has decided it is time to step down. On behalf of the ASA, I want to express the association’s gratitude to the four editors for their leadership, vision, hard work, and innovation over these ten years! The team’s last issue will appear in 2019 and the Board is currently soliciting statements of interest from potential editors. Please see the call at https://africanstudies.org/publications/call-for-statements-of-interest-history-in-africa-editorship/.

The Publications Committee has not been the only site of intense summer work on the part of the Board. The Advocacy Committee has also had an especially busy summer assembling a task force that will focus on the protection of academic freedom – a task force that we hope is broadly representative of the ASA and its affiliate organizations. The task force will assist the Board (via the Advocacy Committee) in responding quickly, knowledgeably, and with agility to violations of academic freedom. I am grateful to Derek Peterson for heading up this very important effort and for all of those who have generously signed on as task force members. The task force will convene for the first time in Atlanta.

And as the Atlanta meeting moves closer, please check out the preliminary program, available here. There’ll you’ll find ample evidence of all of the hard work undertaken by our two Program Chairs, Nana Akua Anyidoho and Mark Auslander, our Secretariat, the Board Program Committee, and last, but certainly far from least, the outstanding members of the Local Arrangements Committee (Jennie Burnet and Harcourt Fuller of Georgia State University, and Pamela Scully of Emory), who are making sure that conference participants are able to take full advantage of all that the city of Atlanta has to offer.

Finally, and as we begin the countdown to Atlanta, I want to conclude by mentioning two additional initiatives that we hope to be able to present at the annual business meeting. As currently configured, our membership portal does not do as effective a job as it might in assembling demographic data. We are exploring a number of options that will help us understand better, quite literally, who we are. Connected to this effort, I think it imperative that the ASA, like many of its peer associations and as part of its “Policies and Procedures,” have a clear, concise, and unambiguous written statement of its commitment to diversity and inclusion to serve as a guide in all of its activities, business, and operations. While “statements” only matter in so far as they inform or determine practice, to have no statement on this most critical of issues, at this most critical of times, is not an option.

I look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

With Best Wishes,

 

 

 

Jean Allman