African Studies Association 2019 Awards for Africanists

PISCATAWAY, New Jersey, 26 November 2019 – The African Studies Association is honored to announce its annual awards heralding some of the most prominent contributions to the field of African Studies.

The ASA announced the honors on Saturday, 23 November 2019 in Boston during the closing ceremony of the organization’s annual meeting.

Highlights of the 2019 award ceremony include:

The Distinguished Africanist Award honored the life work of Pearl T. Robinson (PhD, Columbia University) one of the most respected and well-known scholars of Africa today. Robinson has authored more than 40 articles and book chapters on African and African American politics. She is a past Director of Tufts’ International Relations Program and has taught at Makerere University in Uganda and the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Robinson served as President of the African Studies Association in 2006-2007.

Previous honorees include: Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Iris Berger, J.H. Kwabena Nketia, Goran Hyden, and Toyin Falola.

Each year, the African Studies Association presents the Distinguished Africanist Award to a member of the association who has made extraordinary contributions to the field. The committee considers a range of criteria, including research productivity, cumulative research impact; impact on teaching; impact on publishing; editorial work; graduate supervision; impact on transformative policies or institutional building in Africa, community outreach; and impact on professional organizations.


The ASA Book Prize was awarded to Michael A. Gomez of New York University for his book, African Dominion: A New History of Empire in Early and Medieval West Africa (Princeton University Press).

Honorable Mentions for the 2019 ASA Book Prize included: Kristin D. Phillips, An Ethnography of Hunger: Politics, Subsistence, and the Unpredictable Grace of the Sun (Indiana University Press); Alexander Thurston, Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement (Princeton University Press); and Awet Tewelde Weldemichael, Piracy in Somalia: Violence and Development in the Horn of Africa (Cambridge University Press); John Thabiti Willis, Masquerading Politics. Kinship, Gender, and Ethnicity in a Yoruba Town (Indiana University Press).

The award recognizes the most important scholarly work in African studies published in English and distributed in the United States during the preceding year. The ASA began awarding the prize in 1965.


The Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize honored Michigan State University professor Laura Fair for her book, Reel Pleasures: Cinema Audiences and Entrepreneurs in Twentieth-Century Urban Tanzania (Ohio University Press).

Honorable Mentions for the Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize included:
Damascus Kafumbe, Tuning the Kingdom: Kawuugulu Musical Performance, Politics, and Storytelling in Buganda (University of Rochester Press) and Thomas McDow, Buying Time: Debt and Mobility in the Western Indian Ocean (Ohio University Press).

The ASA presents the Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize annually to the author of the best book on East African studies published in the previous calendar. The prize began in 2012 and is named in honor of Prof. Bethwell A. Ogot, a leading Kenyan historian, public servant and public intellectual, through a generous bequest from the estate of Prof. Kennell Jackson, Jr., of Stanford University.


The ASA Board of Directors is pleased to honor four individuals with the 2019 ASA Service Award: Michel Doortmont, University of Groningen, John Hanson, Indiana University, Jan Jansen, Universiteit Leiden, and Dmitri van den Bersselaar, Universität Leipzig
for their decade of service as editors of History in Africa. As editors, Michel Doortmont, John Hanson, Jan Jansen, and Dmitri van den Bersselaar transformed History in Africa into a peer-reviewed journal that not only engages a broad range of historical issues, but commands respect throughout the field.

Re-established in 2013, the ASA Service Award is designed to recognize individuals or organizations that have distinguished themselves through outstanding dedication to the ASA’s mission of encouraging production and dissemination of knowledge about Africa.

The 2019 Paul Hair Prize recognized Dedan Kimathi on Trial. Colonial Justice and Popular Memory in Kenya’s Mau Mau Rebellion (Ohio University Press), edited by Julie MacArthur.

The Paul Hair Prize is presented in odd-numbered years to recognize the best critical edition or translation into English of primary source materials on Africa published during the preceding two years. The first prize was awarded in 1993.


The winner of the 2019 ASA Graduate Student Paper Prize was Mary Victoria Gorham (University of Florida) for her paper, “Displaying the Nation: Museums and Nation-Building in Tanzania and Kenya.”

This year, the committee has selected two papers for Honorable Mentions: “Voters, Party Credibility and Opposition Voting in South Africa,” Safia Farole, and “Music as Socially Reproductive Labor: Murid Creative Practice in Dakar’s Médina,” Brendan Kibbee.

The ASA Board of Directors established the annual Graduate Student Paper Prize in 2001 and singles out an essay presented at the previous year’s Annual Meeting.

The inaugural ASA Film Prize honored director Shameela Seedat for her film Whispering Truth to Power.

The ASA Film Prize is awarded to an outstanding film, whether fiction or documentary, made in the preceding two calendar years by an African filmmaker. The prize winner is an innovative, probing, work that helps audiences think about social, political, economic, and cultural questions pertinent to the lives of Africans and dynamics on the African continent.


The Cover Art Prize was awarded to artist and scholar Diana Adesola Mafe (Denison University) for her painting “Iya ni Wura.”

The Cover Art Prize is awarded annually to a living artist whose work directly addresses the theme of the Annual Meeting.


The Gretchen Walsh Book Donation Award committee has selected the University of Makeni library in Makeni, Sierra Leone.

The African Studies Association, with the support of the Africana Librarians Council Gretchen Walsh Book Donation Committee, offers an annual grant to assist book donation projects with shipping costs to send books to African libraries and schools.

The African Studies Association honored the eight 2019 Presidential Fellows, Patricia Serwaa Afrifa, Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka, Austin Emielu, Jimoh Ganiyu, Susana Molins Lliteras, Bernard Matolino, Evarist Ngabirano, and Babajide Ololajulo, who all participated in the 2019 ASA Annual Meeting as well as conducted institutional visits.

The ASA has a strategic priority to create opportunities for emerging scholars based in African Institutions through the Presidential Fellows Program. The 2019 Fellows were hosted by the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Rutgers University, University of Detroit-Mercy, Morehouse College, University of Arkansas, University of North Carolina Charlotte, University of Wisconsin Madison, Syracuse University, University of Notre Dame, and the Social Science Research Council.

The African Studies Association honored twelve 2019 Carnegie Corporation of New York Fellows Patience Adzande, Deborah Alio, Sewoenam Chachu, Frank Chidawanyika, Daniel Olisa Iweze, Debbie Jewitt, Nicodemus Minde, Khangelani Moyo, Titilope Ajayi, Gbemisola Animasawun, Sylvia Esther Gyan, and Gabriel Karubanga, who all participated in the 2019 Annual Meeting.


About the African Studies Association:
Established in 1957, the African Studies Association is the flagship membership organization devoted to enhancing the exchange of information about Africa. With almost 2,000 individual and institutional members worldwide, the ASA encourages the production and dissemination of knowledge about Africa, past and present, and hosts an annual meeting to foster networks of Africanist scholars and practitioners, provide access to path-breaking research and key debates in African Studies, and to promote a better understanding of Africa. The ASA also edits two highly regarded journals, the African Studies Review and History in Africa, as well as books and monographs. The 2020 ASA Annual Meeting will be held in Washington, DC, November 19-21, 2020. For further information, please visit:

Follow us:
Twitter: @ASANewsOnline