Photo by Calvin Mitchell.

The African Studies Center (ASC) at the University of Michigan, is pleased to announce that Andries Coetzee, professor of linguistics, and Laura Beny, professor of law, have been appointed as ASC’s new director and associate director, respectively, effective July 1, 2018.

Coetzee has been an active member of the center’s executive committee, and served as ASC associate director in 2017-2018. He joined the Department of Linguistics in 2004 and has served as graduate program director and associate chair for the department. He also served on the LSA Curriculum Committee and on the Provost's Faculty Advisory Committee. A fellow of the Linguistic Society of America, Coetzee has chaired several major committees for the society and currently the editor of Language, the flagship journal of the Linguistic Society of America.

Most of Coetzee’s research has been in theoretical linguistics, although the empirical focus of his research is often on Southern African languages. Some of his recent publications with African connections are “Plosive Voicing in Afrikaans: Differential Cue Weighting and Tonogenesis,” co-authored with Patrice Speeter Beddor, Kerby Shedden, Will Styler, & Daan Wissing, Journal of Phonetics (2018); “Grammatical Change Through Lexical Accumulation: Voicing Co-occurrence Restrictions in Afrikaans. Language (2014); and “Phonetically Grounded Phonology and Sound Change: The Case of Tswana Labial Plosives, Journal of Phonetics (2010).

He is currently engaged in a project focusing on the linguistic landscape of Potchefstroom, a mid-sized post-apartheid South African city. In collaboration with South African colleagues, Coetzee investigates how changes in society brought about by the end of apartheid are impacting language usage patterns, and simultaneously resulting in language change. 

This year marked ASC’s 10th anniversary, and in the short span of ten years, ASC has established itself as one of the most well-respected U.S. research centers focusing on Africa, strengthened U-M's many existing engagements with African universities, and forged new partnerships spanning the continent. Coetzee remarks,

Laura N. Beny joined the University of Michigan Law School in 2003. Her research and teaching interests include law and international development, finance and capital markets, enterprise organization, and political economy, all with a special focus on Africa. In fall 2018 she will teach a newly developed course “Africa in the Global Legal System,” the first of its kind to be taught at a U.S. law school. Beny has served as a legal consultant to the government of Southern Sudan and a member of ASC’s executive committee. Before joining U-M, she practiced law at a global law firm based in New York City, where she provided legal counsel to both business and pro bono clients.

Her research has been published in American Economic Review, American Law and Economics Review, Journal of Corporation Law, and Harvard Business Law Review, among others, and cited in numerous periodicals, including The Economist, The Age (Australia), and Global Risk Regulator, as well as in Congressional testimony. Co-editor of the book Sudan's Killing Fields: Political Violence and Fragmentation. Beny has also published many opinion pieces on Africa, particularly Sudan and South Sudan, in various international media, including Newsweek International,, and Al Jazeera.