I am Professor of Anthropology at American University. I have specialized in contemporary development and change, with a focus on French-speaking West Africa. Most of my work has been in Mali, but I have also carried out research in Cameroon, Senegal, and Burkina Faso.
My work is at the intersection of the academy and development practice. My academic work has focused on gender and social change, the social correlates of agricultural development, and forced resettlement due to infrastructure development. I am also an active development practitioner; I carried out studies for the UN and World Bank on economic growth in the zones freed from onchocerciasis and assisted in the resettlement of people displaced by Mali’s Manantali dam. These different strands have synergistically enhanced each other. For example, I worked with researchers at Mali’s Institute des Sciences Humaines on the onchocerciasis project; we then used those data to write Innovation and Individuality in African Development (Koenig, Diarra, and Sow, 1998) on issues raised by rainfed agricultural development in southern Mali. During Manantali resettlement, I continued to work with the same organization; we carried out studies for the project, and then did the final project evaluation. After receiving an NSF grant to study consequences for the resettled some years after resettlement, we also wrote several articles (e.g. Koenig and Diarra, Les enjeux de la politique locale dans la réinstallation: Stratégies foncières des populations réinstallées et hôtes dans la zone du barrage de Manantali, Autrepart: Cahiers des sciences humaines). One of these articles (Koenig and Diarra, The Environmental Effects of Policy Change in the West African Savanna: Resettlement, Structural Adjustment and Conservation in Western Mali) won the first Robert Netting Prize in Political Ecology.
I have attended ASA meetings for many years and have always valued the way that they bring different disciplines together; I always think that I learn more new things at ASA meetings than I do at disciplinary ones. I believe that ASA growth could be enhanced by encouraging more involvement of practitioners. Both political scientists and the arts community have long integrated work in the academy and practice; I would like to see practitioners in other disciplines at ASA as well. For example, the work of development practitioners complements that of academic anthropologists, sociologists, geographers, and economists; encouraging participation of practitioners would enhance intellectual discourse at meetings. So too would inclusion of people from medical and natural science disciplines doing important work in Africa. At the same time, it is also important to consider ways that we might help improve publication opportunities for African scholars who work primarily on the content.
I appreciate this opportunity to serve. I have long participated in ASA and served as Board Member for the Mande Studies Association, but this will be my first opportunity to take part in formal ASA governance. I have gained previous experience as Member of the Board of the Society for Economic Anthropology and member of the Editorial Board of American Anthropologist.