July 24, 2017

Dear ASC Family,

It is with great excitement that I write to launch the 10th year of the U-M African Studies Center. On July 1, 2008, former president Mary Sue Coleman and former provost Teresa Sullivan inaugurated ASC. Owing to the talents and efforts of our affiliated staff, faculty, students, African partners, and Michigan community friends, we have much of which to be proud and as much or more to look forward to. For the roles each of you have played in making ASC one of the most vibrant, diverse, and inclusive African studies centers globally in terms of academic engagement and disciplinary breadth, I thank you.

I also wish to thank on behalf of the entire ASC community outgoing Director Oveta Fuller (Microbiology and Immunology) and Associate Director Judith Irvine (Anthropology) for their leadership, hard work and dedication in making the 2016-17 academic year another resounding success. Some highlights include:

  • the ninth cohort of U-M African Presidential Scholars, including faculty from Ghana, South Africa, Liberia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Nigeria;
  • two more successful AHI-organized workshops with partners at the University of the Witwatersrand and funding from the Mellon Foundation on Political Subjectivities and Popular Protest (November 2016, Ann Arbor) and Performance Arts and Political Action (June 2017, Magaliesburg, South Africa);
  • fourth biennial STEM-Africa conference on Africa-US Frontiers in Science (May-June 2017, Yaoundé, Cameroon);
  • Endangered Heritage workshop organized jointly by ASC and other International Institute centers (February 2017, Ann Arbor);
  • conference on Africa-China: Infrastructure, Resource Extraction and Environmental Sustainability(April 2017, Ann Arbor), primarily organized by DAAS;
  • sixth year of ASRI-organized training courses in Stata, R and Quantitative Research Methods held with partners at the University of Ghana-Legon and the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (July-August 2017, Accra, Ghana);
  • two events organized by the Ethiopia-Michigan Collaborative Consortium (EMC2), A Spotlight on Ethiopia (March 2017, Ann Arbor) and Ethiopian Futures: Moving Forward (July 2017, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia);
  • exciting seed grant awards to ASC faculty for new collaborations with African partners;
  • another round of highly competitive spring/summer student and faculty funding awards; and
  • release of the first three titles in the African Perspectives book series published by the University of Michigan Press and co-edited by myself and Anne Pitcher (DAAS/Political Science, current president of the African Studies Association).

I also wish to thank our outgoing ASC Academic Program Specialist Traci Lombré who has strengthened ASC’s presence on campus and beyond the past two years and successfully managed all the many competing priorities underlying the heavy activity list above. Traci will not be far, however. Many hearty congratulations on her acceptance to the American Studies PhD program here at U-M where she will be investigating the unsung story of Kansas’ role in the Harlem Renaissance. Farewell, Traci! We look forward to seeing you at upcoming ASC events and keeping you as part of the ASC family.

With goodbyes also come hellos. Last year we welcomed Henrike Florusbosch (PhD 2011, Anthropology, U-M; jflorusb@umich.edu), a specialist on Francophone Africa, Mali in particular, to the ASC staff. Henrike’s primary responsibilities are grant management and grant writing; coordination of the African Heritage (AHI), African Social Research (ASRI), STEM-Africa, and EMC2 initiatives; and engagement with the UMAPS alumni network. She retains a portion of her time as a lecturer in Afroamerican and African studies (DAAS) and in anthropology so will not be full-time in the fall semester as she teaches a course on “Childbirth and Culture” (cross-listed between anthropology and women’s studies). Welcome Henrike!

I also welcome our new Associate Director Andries Coetzee (coetzee@umich.edu), professor in linguistics, who pursues innovative research on phonetics and phonology, with a specific focus on linguistic variation and on how such variation is embedded in the social structure of speech communities. Hailing from South Africa, his current research focuses on the complex linguistic landscape of post-apartheid South African society. He maintains close ties with South Africa, and holds an appointment as Extraordinary Professor at the NorthWest University, his South African alma mater. He regularly collaborates with South African scholars, and spends several months out of every year conducting fieldwork in South Africa. Professor Coetzee has been involved in ASC since its formation, in particular as a member of the UMAPS Evaluation Committee and Executive Committee. His goals as associate director are to learn as much as possible about the many and the varied Africa related initiatives and research projects at U-M, to work with the ASC staff and community to advocate for Africa-related programs across the University, and to help secure the long term financial stability of ASC to ensure continued support for the exciting work done in and about Africa by the U-M community.

Let me also welcome Cindy Nguyen (ctnguy@umich.edu), who last week assumed the position of ASC academic program specialist. Cindy comes to us with an extensive background in higher education and non-profit work, and most recently from having served as project coordinator for Innovate Blue, the U-M hub for entrepreneurship and innovation. There she faced the challenge of coordinating and aligning the activities of the 15 different centers for entrepreneurship existing at U-M, working with 30+ student organizations focused on entrepreneurship, and coordinating the Innovate Blue academic minor. Keeping atop of many activities and working with a diverse set of constituencies is thus old hat for Cindy. I look forward to seeing her apply her many talents to enriching ASC even further through careful oversight of our programs, finances, and events for our 10th anniversary year.

Please know that ASC is moving! Beginning July 31st, the African Studies Center will be located in Suite 500 of the Weiser Hall (formerly Dennison Building), 500 Church Street. Please look for us in future there.

Finally, I am very happy to announce that ASC recently received a generous donation from Dr. Dale Williams, a retired family physician, and one of the original founders—and a continued benefactor—of the U-M Department of Family Medicine. Dr. Williams invented the high quality solar Heli Lantern, distributed by Harding Energy (Norton Shores, MI). Dr. Williams has donated 100 Heli Lantern kits, complete with lantern, solar panel, AC wall adapter charger, DC car charger, USB phone/tablet charger cable, and carrying case; each kit is valued at over $100. If you are interested in distributing some Heli lanterns in rural African sites where you work, please email Henrike (jflorusb@umich.edu). We have already distributed some in Tanzania, Ethiopia and South Africa, with more heading to Gabon soon.

Thank you for taking the time to read this in the midst of your research, teaching and relaxation activities. The ASC staff (Andries, Gloria, Cindy, Sandie, Henrike, Raquel, Kathy) and I all wish you a continued happy summer and look forward to seeing you in the fall. Please mark your calendars with the upcoming events: 

  • August 24th – 2017-18 UMAPS cohort arrivals
  • September 28th at 4 pm – ASC Fall Reception
  • November 20th-22nd – AHI-Mellon workshop on Decolonizing Sites of Culture in Africa and Beyond

Best wishes,

Kelly Askew
Director, African Studies Center
Professor, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies
Professor, Department of Anthropology