It is with the utmost sadness that the African Studies Association announces the unexpected passing of our former President, Professor James Anthony Pritchett, on November 29th, 2019. Professor Pritchett served as Vice-President of the Board (2013), President (2014), and Past-President (2015). He was also a Board Member from 2004-2006. A major leader in African Studies programs nationally, Professor Pritchett directed the African Studies Center at Boston University before moving to Michigan State University to direct the Center there.
Professor Pritchett received his doctorate from Harvard University in 1990. His work is broadly concerned with the interaction between tradition and modernity in contemporary Africa, particularly the ways in which social change is interpreted and validated according to local belief systems. He is the author of Lunda-Ndembu: Style, Change and Social Transformation in South Central Africa (University of Wisconsin Press, 2001), and Friends for Life, Friends for Death: Cohorts and Consciousness among the Lunda-Ndembu (University of Virginia Press, 2007). Professor Pritchett served as a Research Officer at the University of Zambia, and conducted fieldwork there, as well as in Angola and Congo. He also had a strong interest in the African Diaspora, and studied communities of African-descended people in the Caribbean, Brazil, and elsewhere in Central and South America.
Professor Pritchett profoundly shaped the field of African Studies through his visionary leadership and his passion for engaging the continent from a broad range of positions and perspectives. In so many ways, his 2014 Presidential Lecture “A Reflection on the State of African Studies” changed the way we understand our past and how we, in turn, must plan for our future. Those who had the privilege of working with James Pritchett will never forget his patience, integrity, generosity, and warmth. He will be deeply missed by us all.
A memorial will be held in Lansing, MI on December 14th. We will share further details soon.
May he Rest in Peace and in Power.