Derek R. Peterson
History and Afro-American & African Studies
University of Michigan
It is an honor to be asked to stand for election to Board of Directors of the ASA.
I’ve been an ASA member since 1995, when as an impressionable graduate student I attended the annual meeting for the first time. Today I teach African history at the University of Michigan. I’ve written two books, most recently Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival, which won the ASA’s Herskovits Prize and the American Historical Association’s Martin Klein Prize. I have edited or co-edited seven books.
I am a believer in universities and in the salience of the humanities in African politics today. Over the course of years much of my energy has been dedicated to building up infrastructures that join scholars and students in the global North with colleagues working in African institutions. Before coming to Michigan I was Director of the African Studies Centre at Cambridge University, where we inaugurated a program that annually brought six scholars based in African universities to Cambridge for half-year residencies. In 2008 we launched the ‘Cambridge African Studies Centre’ book series to host the work emerging from the visiting fellows’ program. At the University of Michigan, where I’ve been based since 2009, I am coordinator of the ‘African Heritage Initiative’, a working group that brings humanities scholars in Ann Arbor together with colleagues at universities in Ghana and South Africa. Our work resulted in the publication of The Politics of Heritage in Africa (2015), which I edited with the archaeologist Kodzo Gavua and the historian Ciraj Rassool.
With financial support from the Center for Research Libraries, I coordinate an ongoing effort to organize and digitize endangered government records in Uganda. The project is based at Mountains of the Moon University in western Uganda. Over the course of six years we have catalogued seven archival collections; several of these collections have been brought into the university and made available for scholars’ and citizens’ use. I am co-editor of the ‘New African Histories’ book series published by Ohio University Press, and serve on the editorial boards of several academic journals. From 2005 to 2009 I was an elected member of the Governing Board of the ASA of the United Kingdom, and in 2015 I was co-chair, with Dismas Masolo, of the Program Committee of the ASA of the United States.
As a member of the ASA Board of Directors my focus would lie in three areas. First, I am interested in finding novel ways to invigorate the Annual Meeting. As Program Committee co-chairs Masolo and I introduced new session formats with the goal of stimulating debate about key books in the field. Second, I am anxious that anthropologists—who are increasingly drawn away from the ASA due to competition from the American Anthropological Association—would find a congenial home in our association. Third, I am keen to harness the ASA’s coordinating power to link up already-existing programs that bring African scholars of the humanities and social sciences into collaboration with North American colleagues.