I am a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University, where I have taught since 1995. At Rutgers, I am a founding member of the Center for African Studies, an affiliate of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, a former Chair and Graduate Director in anthropology, and past Director of the Institute for Research on Women. I have also served as President of the national Association for Feminist Anthropology.
I became an Africanist in 1985, when I spent three years working for and then leading the community development team of the local Catholic diocese in Arusha, Tanzania. During that time, I travelled throughout the diocese, meeting with community members (most of whom self-identified as Maasai) to discuss their problems and priorities. My experiences and the questions they raised – about the value of development, tensions between men and women, and more – sent me to graduate school in anthropology at the University of Michigan (PhD 1995) and have defined the trajectory of my career and my long-term political and intellectual commitment to research in Tanzania.
In addition to numerous other publications, I have authored three books: Being Maasai, Becoming Indigenous: Postcolonial Politics in a Neoliberal World (Indiana, 2011, awarded Honorable Mention for the Senior Book Prize of the American Ethnological Society), The Church of Women: Gendered Encounters Between Maasai and Missionaries (Indiana, 2005), and Once Intrepid Warriors: Gender, Ethnicity and the Cultural Politics of Maasai Development (Indiana, 2001); and edited or co-edited four others: Gender and Culture at the Limit of Rights (Pennsylvania, 2011), Gendered Modernities: Ethnographic Perspectives (Palgrave, 2001), Rethinking Pastoralism in Africa: Gender, Culture and the Myth of the Patriarchal Pastoralist (James Currey, 2000), and “Wicked” Women and the Reconfiguration of Gender in Africa (Heinemann, 2001, with Sheryl McCurdy). My research and writing have been supported by awards from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, two Faculty Fellowships from the NEH, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, ACLS, NSF, American Philosophical Society, Wenner-Gren, SSRC, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.
I have been a member of the ASA since the late 1980s. From 1997 to 2000 I served on the ASA Board of Directors, where, among other duties, I coordinated the strategic planning effort and served on the Executive Committee. I have also been a long-time member of the Women’s Caucus (including eight years on the Steering Committee, 1998-2006) and the Tanzania Studies Association.
I believe that the ASA is at a critical juncture with the wane of non-security related funding for area studies generally, and African studies specifically, in the US. We must do more to communicate the significance of our research within and beyond academic venues, seek support for crucial language and area training, and promote the education and careers of the next generation of Africanist scholars at home and abroad. If elected, I would work vigorously to support these goals by networking with foundations and other organizations in the US and abroad; using social media to better communicate ASA’s mission and initiatives to our members, the public, and the media; and collaborating with the ASA Board and members to develop projects such as mentoring programs for graduate students, new online publication venues, expanded financial support for language training and research, and workshops on editorial writing, blogging, and other kinds of public communication and advocacy.
I am a Professor of Anthropology and African Studies at the University of Florida. I have been an active member of the ASA since I attended my first annual meeting in Boston as an undergraduate in 1983. Over the course of my academic career I have benefited greatly from the interdisciplinary and cross-continental exchanges fostered by the ASA, the 5-College African Studies Program (where I received my BA), the Center for African Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (where I received my doctorate), and more recently, the UF Center for African Studies (where I have been teaching since 2001).
My research is based in West Africa and addresses the social experience and social production of large scale political and economic change. Among my publications are two books: Shea Butter Republic: State Power, Global Markets and the Making of an Indigenous Commodity (Routledge, 2004) and Neoliberal Frontiers: An Ethnography of Sovereignty in West Africa (Chicago, 2010). I am currently working on two research and writing projects: one on public goods, waste and urban planning in Ghana’s city of Tema, and another on maritime governance and off-shore oil in the Western Gulf of Guinea. Along with training the next generation of Africanist scholars, I am deeply committed to interdisciplinary research and collaboration with African students and colleagues. I have led study abroad programs in Ghana for the University of Denver and the University of Florida. I was a Ghana Fulbright fellow in 1995 and a 2011 Fulbright Hays recipient and am a long-time affiliate of the Institute of African Studies at University of Ghana-Legon.
I believe that the advance of Africa-centered scholarship, promotion of students and scholars of African origin, and an informed understanding of African policy debates are essential to US academic institutions committed to global diversity and the redress of global inequalities. The ASA has much to contribute to this project and the wider goal of fostering the equitable circulation of knowledge, resources and persons across countries and continents. To successfully accomplish these objectives, as an ASA board member I will work with members and executives to help the organization broaden its scope and relevance. For instance, the ASA has tremendous potential to enlarge its role in Africa-centered policy debates. The ASA could also do more to cultivate ties with the private sector without compromising the organization’s ethical standards. The organization might equally enhance its contribution to Africa-based research and scholarship and pursue collaborations with other area studies, scholarly, and community associations. These initiatives will boost the resources at the ASA’s disposal and increase the significance of the organization for its members along with policy makers and the wider public.
Tapping into the energy and expertise ASA members and executives, there are many ways the organization might work toward these ends. One place to start is grant-writing and publication workshops at the ASA meetings bringing together new and more established scholars and funding agencies. The ASA can also lay the groundwork for collaborative research and training opportunities for Africa and US-based students and faculty. The American Political Science Association summer workshops, now in their seventh year, have proved highly successful and might be used as a model by other disciplines and area-based interest groups, perhaps in partnership with African Studies organizations outside the US. In order to showcase cutting edge research and up-and-coming Africanists and tap into the open-access revolution, the ASA should also reconsider the mission and format of its flagship publication, the African Studies Review. Moving forward sometimes entails moving backwards and a return to the older practice of commissioned review essays on topics of current concerns could help the journal regain both readership and ranking.
The continued vitality of the ASA requires it to broaden its revenue base. New members and membership categories should be developed. These could include institutional memberships for colleges and universities as well as student and program based memberships to foster meeting attendance and participation specially organized workshops geared to their needs. There may also be a way to use the meetings to tap into the demand for continuing education credits for teachers, attorneys and other professionals. Private sector and non-profit sponsorships might also be sought in accordance with ethical standards approved by ASA members. At once generating revenue and forging ties beyond the confines of academe, annual meeting attendance and panel support from philanthropic foundations should also be pursued.
In order to boost the ASA’s profile, members, executives and annual meeting sessions need to decisively engage current policy debates and do so with requisite publicity and organizational attribution. The ASA should seek and help place news editorials on current issues from its members and sponsor on-line forums. These can shape policy debates, inform the public, and serve as a teaching resource. To both foster the expertise and the impact of its members, the ASA could also promote new sorts of working groups focused on concerns such as climate change, infectious disease, or oil and mineral wealth, among others. With the organization promoting its members and members promoting the ASA, the cause of African Studies in the US will be advanced. This will enhance the clout of the organization and its capacity to advocate for continued support of Title 6 African Area Studies National Resource Centers along with newer initiatives in African Studies education, a pressing concern of Africanist scholars, students and educators in the US. Such an activist stance on the part of ASA members and executives will contribute to the long-term sustainability and relevance of our organization.
Souleymane Bachir Diagne (French and Philosophy, Columbia University)
An alumnus of Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris where I studied philosophy, and the Sorbonne where I did my PhD on the philosophy of Boolean algebra of logic, I started my teaching career in Senegal, at Cheikh Anta Diop university where I developed in particular a curriculum in logic and the history of sciences on one hand and on the other hand in the history of philosophy in the Islamic world. I also took part in the debates on African philosophy and the Humanities on the African continent, especially as an active member of the Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa (Codesria). After twenty years of teaching and research at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar I was from 1999 to 2008 a professor at Northwestern University (in the departments of philosophy and religion and in the Program of African Studies) before joining Columbia University ( the departments of French and Philosophy and the Institute of African Studies).
I believe that the diversity manifested by my intellectual trajectory and in my fields of teaching and publications – history of philosophy, logic and the history of algebra, Islamic philosophy, Islam in West Africa, African philosophy and literature- as well as my deep and continuing engagement with Codesria (I have served on different committees of that important institution committed to Pan-Africanism including its Executive Committee and its Scientific Committee of which I was president) can be translated into a vision for the development of African Studies and of ASA. It is my intention to contribute to the mobilization of the academic and intellectual community on the African continent around the activities of ASA. As it develops a more organic connection with academics in Africa, I believe that ASA’ s reflections and activities need to engage with the situation and the future of universities in Africa where those academics work and where knowledge about the rapidly changing realities of the continent is produced.
The intellectual history of Africa is still to be written and that is an important task in which more and more scholars of the continent from different disciplines are engaged. The history of written erudition in particular needs to be studied. The renewed attention to African manuscripts written in Arabic or in Ajami (that is African languages using Arabic script) is displacing old models as resarchers on Islam in Africa are also focusing on what a research program of Codesria has called the “non europhone intellectuals” referring to a long tradition, which started well before the colonial period, and remained alive, of intellectual written production in different fields, such as jurisprudence, theology, logic, philosophy, mysticism, medical science, government, etc. Programs that I am associated with, namely African Studies at Northwestern University and at Columbia, are conducting an important work of re-membering Africa, that is relativizing the separation between North and Sub-Saharan Africa, a division that ignores or obscures the interconnectedness of the intellectual histories of those regions, as the site of a rich written tradition and intellectual history. ASA is certainly a place where such an interdisciplinary research must be exposed, discussed, and developed.
In a word: African philosophy and Humanities, the future of African higher education in a changing Africa, a history of erudition in Africa are questions and topics on which I believe that I will contribute to the continuous development of our Association.
Timothy Longman, (Political Science, Boston University)
My career in African studies has included positions both inside and outside the academy and in both smaller liberal arts colleges and large research universities. I received my PhD in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1995. I taught for over a decade at Vassar College, before taking a position in 2009 as director of the African Studies Center at Boston University, where I am now an associate professor of political science. I have also held teaching or research positions at Drake University, Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, the National University of Rwanda, and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
My research has focused on a range of issues related to state and society in Africa – religion and politics, human rights, transitional justice, democratization, civil society, and gender and politics. I have conducted fieldwork in Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. My book Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda was published by Cambridge University Press in 2010, and I am currently completing a second book Memory and Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda. I have engaged in considerable interdisciplinary work, publishing works in publications as diverse as the Journal of the American Medical Association, Comparative Education Review, and the African Studies Review.
The 1994 Rwandan genocide was a formative event in both my academic and personal lives that has profoundly shaped how I approach African studies. While I conducted field research on religion and politics in Rwanda in 1992-93, I watched the country slip deeper and deeper into social division and violence. When the genocide began in April 1994, I was back in the US writing my dissertation, and I found myself frustrated by my seeming powerlessness to respond to what was going on in Rwanda. In the face of Rwanda’s violence and the loss of a number of friends, I realized that I needed to combine my academics with practical efforts to promote social change.
After completing my dissertation, I took a position as the head of the Human Rights Watch office in Rwanda, conducting research on the genocide and ongoing human rights violations as well as providing support to domestic human rights groups. After a year, I returned to a teaching position, but I have tried ever since to combine my scholarship with social engagement. I have conducted missions for Human Rights Watch, the International Center for Transitional Justice, and USAID in Rwanda, Burundi, and the DR Congo. Finding ways to bridge the worlds of academics and applied work in Africa remains important to me. I see the African Studies Association as an important vehicle for linking scholars with activists, development workers, and others engaged in applied work in Africa. The ASA can be an important voice for the community of Africanist scholars and can help to increase our ability to have an impact on policy relevant to Africa.
I have long benefited from the connections I have made and the support that I receive within the African Studies Association. I relish the opportunity to give back to an organization that has been an important academic home for me since I attended my first ASA conference my first year of graduate school.
The ASA Board of Directors congratulates its new officer and directors, and extends its sincere appreciation to all the candidates for their willingness to serve the Association. Electees will take office at the Fall meeting of the Board.
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