Dear ASA Members, 

I hope that you and your families are safe and healthy during the current COVID-19 outbreak. This crisis reminds us of just how interconnected we are globally. It is also pushes the limits of what can be done “virtually” in ways that stand to have lasting impact. It was announced today that there are now more than 1,000 cases of COVID19 infection on the African continent and the WHO says Africa should “prepare for the worst.” The implications that this global pandemic will have for Africa, for African Studies, and for Higher Education as a whole are still not clear, but they will be major and lasting.  

While Rutgers University campus is closed for the remainder of the academic year, the ASA Secretariat team has been working in a distributed structure for many years and we have systems in place to ensure continuity of our operations despite this closure. Our team remains available via phone, email, or fax for any questions or support with membership renewals, CFP submissions, and meeting registration. 

This crisis has also put incredible pressure on academic associations such as the ASA to rethink the way they operate and to find relevance in this new reality. Many associations whose meetings were planned for the first half of 2020 have cancelled their Annual Meetings due to travel restrictions. While the ASA is lucky to have time on our side and is hopeful that the situation will normalize by the time of our November Annual Meeting, the question of finding relevance outside of our meeting and our journals is a challenge to all academic associations right now.  

We would love to hear your input on this matter. Please reach out to us and let us know how we can best support you during this unique time. As our members face the need to transition to virtual teaching, restrictions on travel, quarantine, and social isolation, the role of the ASA as a global network has potential to bring strength and connection to our members. We held our first webinar on Virtual Teaching on Monday, March 23 hosted by Janice Levi of UCLA, and we expect to organize other forums such as this for ASA members to support each other during this time.

The ASA is also paying close attention to the impact that the disruption of the academic year 2020-2021 risks to have for our members on many fronts. This includes faculty review and reappointment, dissertations, and scholarship in general as the ability to conduct research is severely limited by travel restrictions and quarantines.  We have recently signed on to a  joint statement issued by the American Sociological Association and signed by more than 30 other learned societies commending those institutions that have been quick to react to this changing dynamic and revised their process for faculty review and reappointment during this period.  

Finally, I want to draw your attention to the fact that we have extended our CFP deadline to April 1. The original March 15 deadline fell during the time that many campuses were being shut-down and we wanted to allow our members time to prepare their submissions amid all the changes. This year’s theme, “The Hour of Decision: Power, Persistence, Purpose, and Possibility in African Studies,” seems especially relevant in light of the challenges facing our field as a result of the current state of world affairs.  

Warmest wishes to all the ASA Community,

Suzanne Moyer Baazet 
Executive Director, African Studies Association

This letter is part of the ASA News Spring 2020 edition. Download the full PDF here.