Oussenia Alidou
Languages and Literatures
Rutgers University

I came to the USA from Niger in 1988 to undertake doctoral work in linguistics at Indiana University. A native of a predominantly Sahelian Muslim country where the impact of French colonial rule set me as an oddity in “Anglophone” America, I was fascinated by the different reactions my identity elicited and the different “ways of seeing Africa” that I was  exposed to in my encounter with Africans and non-Africans on campus. As a result, I developed an interest in African studies, eventually completing a graduate minor in the field. As my academic orientation became more inter-disciplinary, my interest in African studies deepened. My current position as Associate Professor at Rutgers is partly a culmination of this linguistically-grounded interdisciplinary background.

The more I read about Africa, the more I observed that there was a fundamental disconnect in the (re)presentation and understanding of Muslim women’s experiences. This discovery influenced the direction of my research, resulting in my first book Engaging Modernity (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005), a runner-up for the 2006 Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize. In my current book Muslim Women Leaders in Postcolonial Kenya (in press with the University of Wisconsin Press) I explore the experiences of Muslim women in Kenya where Muslims are a minority.

My commitment to Africa has also had an activist side. This work has also resulted in two co-edited books: A Thousand Flowers: Social Struggles Against Structural Adjustment in African Universities (with Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis, 2000), and Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Africa (with Ahmed Sikainga, 2006). I was also privileged to work with and, in 2010-2011, serve as Chair of the Association of African Studies Programs. In 2010 I received the Distinguished Alumna Award of the Africa-America Institute in recognition of my accomplishments in scholarship and community service.

As a member, I have been involved with the ASA since 1994. I have served as a program committee member and I am currently on the committee for the ASA Women’s Caucus Book Prize. In my capacity as Director of the Center for African Studies (CAS) at Rutgers University I have advocated for the best possible resources for the ASA Secretariat located at Rutgers, and have had the wonderful privilege of working with its staff to host ASA presidential lectures and welcome ASA Board members and presidential fellows. Last year I worked diligently with CAS members on Rutgers’ successful bid to retain the ASA Secretariat at Rutgers University.  

I am serving my second term as Director of CAS, thanks to the confidence of our members in my ability to promote initiatives that attract impressive trans-disciplinary academic constituencies. In this capacity I also have developed a strong outreach network with organizations focusing on African immigrants and U.S.-based youth interested in Africa. To promote ASA’s outreach agenda I have a particular interest in working with campus youth organizations focusing on Africa, capitalizing on their social media and other skills as we seek to prepare the ground for the next generation of ASA members.