Crawford Young, who was a wonderful teacher and a prolific scholar. Crawford continues to publish magnificent works, such as his recent study, The Post Colonial State in Africa

Elizabeth Colson, the eminent anthropologists whose pioneering research focused world attention on the devastating effects of the building of Kariba dam on the Gwembe Tonga. Her work inspired our recent study, Dams, Displacement and the Delusion of Development: Cahora Bassa and Its Legacies in Mozambique, 1965-2007.

The scholar and social critic Thandika Mkandwire, who has written extensively on globalization and distorted African economies, the struggles for effective democracy in Africa, and the role of African intellectuals. He has also left a wonderful legacy at CODESRIA.

Joseph Harris, who has been a guardian of the long and rich Pan–Africanist tradition. Beginning with his early work on William Hansberry and his pioneering study, The African Presence in Asia: Consequences of the East African Slave Trade, he helped to frame the field of African Diasporic Studies.

Francis Deng, a prolific scholar and social activist. His corpus of writing on the plight of internally displaced peoples has established him as the principal authority on this critical social issue.

Terrence Ranger, an intellectual mentor and a dear friend. Terry has written path-breaking works on issues ranging from anti-colonial resistance to religious history and from the making of traditions to the politics of memory. Throughout he career he has also remained a formidable critic of oppression in Zimbabwe, while highlighting the accomplishments of its people.

And of course last year’s winner, Jane Guyer. Jane is arguably the leading anthropologist of her generation. Throughout her distinguished career, particularly as a member of the SSRC-ACLS joint committee on Africa and as Director of African Studies at Northwestern University, Jane has worked tirelessly to promote African Studies in this country and on the African continent

Although the Award is given to an individual, we all know that the success of any scholar depends on deep intellectual collaborations, the cross fertilization of ideas and collective learning and research.  In my case, I would like to acknowledge the critical roles played by the more than 50 graduate students with whom I have worked at the University of Minnesota, the University of Eduardo Mondlane and the University of the Western Cape and from whom I have learned a great deal over the years. They ensured that I did not adhere to inherited orthodoxies and pushed me to think in new and interesting ways. I also benefitted from collaboration with my gifted colleagues in African History at the University of Minnesota—Lansine Kaba, Jean Allman, Tamara Giles Vernick and Helena Pohlandt McCormick. Together, we built from scratch one of the leading programs of African History in North America. And I had the honor of working with two extraordinary editors, John Watson and Gilliam Berchowitz, who provided the intellectual vision and financial support for the Heinemann Social History Series of Africa and the Ohio New African Histories Series. Working with co-editors Louise White, Jean Hay and Jean Allman in the first series and with Jean Allman and Derek Peterson in the second, we published more than 120 books that have figured prominently in the historiography of Africa. I am also indebted to so many of you in the audience who have accompany me on this wonderful journey. Of course, my greatest debt is to Barbara Isaacman, my intellectual companion, best friend and the love of my life for more than fifty years.

As Africanists we owe a great deal to both the continent and its peoples, and we have a responsibility to give back as much as we can. I urge all of you to join me in using our positions, standing and access to scarce resources to promote the work of our colleagues in Africa, who so often labor under extremely difficult conditions. There are, at least, five critical actions that we must take individually and collectively:

  • First, we need to generate funds at our institutions to provide fellowships for gifted students from the continent.
  • Second, we must create post-docs for young African colleagues who desperately need time to write and publish.
  • Third, we must promote and disseminate the important research published in local African journals. Without access to this body of scholarship all of us in the Global North are impoverished.
  • Fourth, as many of you think of retiring, I urge you to give your libraries to African institutions. This is one immediate way in which we can help address the book famine that plagues many parts of the continent. Books for Africa can often help in this project.
  • Finally, and perhaps most significantly, we all must work to create symmetrical collaborations with African researchers.  Only through such relationships can we subvert the hierarchical practices in which Western scholars typically claim the role of theoretician and relegate local scholars to conducting the fieldwork.

Before ending, I wish to give special thanks to Prexy Nesbitt and Bill Minter, who have devoted their lives to struggles for social justice in Africa. They are our truly Distinguished Africanists!!

Thank you so much for your friendship, your camaraderie and your intellectual support. It has been a great run.


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