Timothy Longman
Political Science
Boston University

My career in African studies has included positions both inside and outside the academy and in both smaller liberal arts colleges and large research universities. I received my PhD in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1995. I taught for over a decade at Vassar College, before taking a position in 2009 as director of the African Studies Center at Boston University, where I am now an associate professor of political science. I have also held teaching or research positions at Drake University, Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, the National University of Rwanda, and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

My research has focused on a range of issues related to state and society in Africa – religion and politics, human rights, transitional justice, democratization, civil society, and gender and politics. I have conducted fieldwork in Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. My book Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda was published by Cambridge University Press in 2010, and I am currently completing a second book, Memory and Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda. I have engaged in considerable interdisciplinary work, publishing works in publications as diverse as the Journal of the American Medical Association, Comparative Education Review, and the African Studies Review.

The 1994 Rwandan genocide was a formative event in both my academic and personal lives that has profoundly shaped how I approach African studies. While I conducted field research on religion and politics in Rwanda in 1992-93, I watched the country slip deeper and deeper into social division and violence. When the genocide began in April 1994, I was back in the US writing my dissertation, and I found myself frustrated by my seeming powerlessness to respond to what was going on in Rwanda. In the face of Rwanda’s violence and the loss of a number of friends, I realized that I needed to combine my academics with practical efforts to promote social change.

After completing my dissertation, I took a position as the head of the Human Rights Watch office in Rwanda, conducting research on the genocide and ongoing human rights violations as well as providing support to domestic human rights groups. After a year, I returned to a teaching position, but I have tried ever since to combine my scholarship with social engagement. I have conducted missions for Human Rights Watch, the International Center for Transitional Justice, and USAID in Rwanda, Burundi, and the DR Congo. Finding ways to bridge the worlds of academics and applied work in Africa remains important to me. I see the African Studies Association as an important vehicle for linking scholars with activists, development workers, and others engaged in applied work in Africa. The ASA can be an important voice for the community of Africanist scholars and can help to increase our ability to have an impact on policy relevant to Africa. 

I have long benefited from the connections I have made and the support that I receive within the African Studies Association. I relish the opportunity to give back to an organization that has been an important academic home for me since I attended my first ASA conference my first year of graduate school.