Given the significance of this year’s 60th Annual Meeting of the ASA, it is only appropriate that I write to you from our conference venue, the Marriott Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago. As I look out over Chicago’s skyline, on a rare warm and sunny February afternoon, I can’t help but reflect on the important role that this city and its institutions have played in the ASA’s history. This year’s meeting will be an important opportunity for our Association to explore its own history, to reflect on the state of the field of African Studies, and to plan for our collective future. This is all the more important in the context of the current political agenda in the United States, which has pushed strongly against the core values of our association. The ASA issued last month one of the strongest advocacy statements in our organization’s history in response to the Executive Order banning travel of seven nationalities, including our African colleagues from Sudan, Somalia, and Libya. We are also actively advocating against the proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a move which would have wide-reaching negative impact on our field. We will continue to be diligent in informing our members of key issues impacting our field and with providing our members a platform from which they can advocate based on their own beliefs.
It is a critical time for scholars of and in Africa to come together to discuss how we can ensure the sustainability of our field and the values of diversity and international collaboration that are core to our mission. This year’s ASA Annual Meeting will be an important venue for these discussions and we hope that you will all be able to join us for this very significant 60th Anniversary conference. Please submit your papers, panels, and roundtables on the issues that you believe are critical for our Association to be discussing at this juncture. This year’s CFP allows for some new and creative submission categories, including the continuation of the AfricaNow! Sessions which we initiated in 2016 and the launch of Flash Presentations.
On a personal note, the first ASA conference that I attended was in Chicago in 2008 so this year’s meeting has a special significance for me as well. I am reminded of all the wonderful relationships that I have built within the ASA community over these years. I am also reminded of the progress I have seen the ASA undergo in the past decade with respect to its financial and operational capacities. The ASA Secretariat is fully staffed and everyone in our office is committed to ensuring the highest level of service to our constituencies and motivated and driven by the ASA’s mission. The ASA staff just completed last week a team planning exercise and we have a clear work-plan in place for how to keep this continual improvement moving forward into the future.