Sabbatical or Time to Think, Read, and Write

I am lucky enough to work in a sector where there is a tradition to allow a block of time every 6-7-8 years of employment to focus on research. The time has come to me and this spring, Jan-May, I will be 100% focused on thinking, reading, and writing.

It is exhilarating – so much potential! – and scary. I am worried I will somehow squander the time, get derailed by emails, or just get less productive when the walls of structure that I am used to are gone.

Three weeks into the sabbatical, I am still a bit worried, although have read much more research already than I did all of last semester, and asked senior colleagues for help and guidance. I am also walking more, both to lessen the anxiety and to think better. But should I continue to work from my house with all distractions that come with it or should I find an office space away from home? For now, I am taking up colleagues on their offers of co-writing sessions and paying a short-term visit to a research environment in Sweden for focus and inspiration.

Potential Outputs

  • I hope to finish four papers that are almost (some just halfway) done and send them off to academic journals (and attend fewer conferences and workshops). 
  • I also want to publish shorter texts with more popular outlets (and write fewer emails and blog posts). 
  • I also hope to read more, especially classic texts like Nkrumah and Mamdani but also new ones, especially on decolonial theory and higher education, as well as monographs by researchers I know and aspire to write like (and do fewer lists of books and articles I should read). 
  • I want to do two-three sets of interviews to deepen projects already started (and not only rely on previous data I have collected)
  • I want to apply for research funding (and not think too much about what I am teaching next). 
  • Finally, I want to relax my body which has patiently supported a four-hour daily commute for years!

What would you do if you had five months of work time to plan yourself?

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Becoming Ghanaian: Registration as a Citizen Part 3 – The Interview

After 11 years in Ghana, I have applied to become a Ghanaian Citizen. This is the third post in the series of my experience of the application process. Read part 1 Submitting the application and paying the fee and 2 Submitting the Application to Ghana Immigration Service.

Just before the holidays, I sent a few WhatsApp 

messages to my Ministry of Interior contact to ask of my citizenship application. I wanted specifically to know if the application had reached the stage where they would make a home visit and interview my husband and me. After a little back and forth, we decided on the last Friday before Christmas.

It was a brief affair. After arriving almost two hours late, due to Christmas traffic and phone network disturbances to clarify our location, the visit / interview seemed to be centered around two issues:

  1. Did we live where we said we lived?
  2. Had my husband written the “consent letter” to support my application included in my docket?

Everything else was pleasantries that reminded me of cordial, although formal, family visits before an engagement or similar where you take turns to welcome/accept the welcome, offer water/drink the water, and state the purpose of the visit/ accept the purpose of the visit.

At the tail end of the two officers’ visit, we enquired how long it would be before my application was concluded and were told it would most likely be finalized in the first quarter of this year.

So there we have it, step three toward my Ghanaian citizenship is now behind me. End of this month, it will be one year since I started the process and took the selfie that illustrates this post at the Ministries in Accra. 

If you have any questions on this process, please post them below and I will do what I can to help.

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Akwaaba Re:Publica! #rpAccra

The Digital Festival Re:Publica is coming to Accra end of this week. See the exciting program for 14-15th Dec here.

I am participating in three events:

  1. “Tired of Manels? Crowdsourcing for better representation” – a diversity conversation with Ashesi University students Janis M’imiemba and Molife Chaplain (Sat 15th at 12.30pm)
  2. “The Importance of Local Languages and Informal Sciences in Africa” – a conversation about the opportunities of the current moment in academia (Fri 14th at 14.45pm)
  3. “Open Science in Africa” – a meet up following on the session above (TBA)

Find all the details of my participation here.

You can get tickets on the Re:Publica website or follow the conversation on social on #rpAccra

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My Tentative Conference Program: ASA 2018 #africanstudies2018

I just landed in Atlanta, Georgia and am looking forward to spending the rest of the week at the African Studies Association conference networking and learning from my researcher heroes. The conference has the theme Energies: Power, Creativity and Afri-Futures and is expecting about 2000(!) delegates in 300 events over three days. You can follow all of it under the hashtag #AfricanStudies2018 across social platforms and Ghana studies’ scholars use the hashtag #GSAatASA2018

I have crafted my own mini-program which starts with my own panel at the conference – a discussion on Politically Motivated Internet Shutdowns will happen in this AfricaNOW! special series of issues that are ongoing or new. I also look forward to listening to talks by Finnish/Nigerian feminist and blogger MsAfropolitan Minna Salami during the Women’s Caucus Luncheon as well as the President’s Lecture by Prof Jean Allman, Prof Ato Quayson on Kofi Annan and Prof Mahmood Mamdani – all personal heroes and role models of mine!

This is my tentative and quite busy schedule – still I hope to also have much time for networking and one-on-one-talks! See you there?


10.30-11.30 My AfricaNOW! panel, see description below

2:00 pm  [Room L403]   Reframing anthropology

2-3.45 publish that article

4-5.45 pitch that article

7.30-9.30 Welcome reception at Morehouse College


8:30 am [International Hall C]  Registers of Belief, Creativity and Power in Ghana

2-3.45 CCNY Publishing in for Africa

4-5pm Kofi Annan by Ato Quayson

6-7pm President’s Lecture Jean Allman

 7:15 pm in M302 Ghana Business meeting


7.30-8.30 Queer African Studies association meeting

10:30 am    Roundtable: Futures—African Studies and the Racial Politics of Knowledge Production, 1998-2028 

12.45-2pm Womens Luncheon: Minna Salami

2:00 pm  [International Hall C] Roundtable: Ghanaian Popular Culture Studies: (also Advocacy, also Flash presentations)

6-7pm Mahmood Mamdani Hoormud lecture

7-12pm Awards and Dance party


The increase of politically motivated Internet Shutdowns in Africa: Lessons from democracy research and activism

This session seeks to frame a discussion on internet disruptions as a frontier of democracy research and activism on the continent and seeks to be highly interactive. After an introductory presentation on the state of internet disruptions in Africa, an academic discussant will highlight pertinent issues for democracy scholars and an activist discussant will report on new strategies to curb these disruptions.

Recent elections where shutdowns have been an issue: Mali (August), Cameroon (October),

Dr. Kajsa Hallberg Adu, Ashesi University (presenter), Dr. George Bob-Milliar, KNUST, Ghana (Academic Discussant), Mr. Peter Micek, General Counsel, AccessNow (Activist Discussant)

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Becoming Ghanaian: Registration as a Citizen Part 2

After an initial application, payment to MINT, or Step 1 of the Ghanaian Citizenship process I covered in an earlier post, you get called to submit additional, but mostly overlapping documents to the Ghana Immigration Service located just behind MINT. In my case, the processing took just three weeks, but as I was called only once and not mailed, I only went back to check on my application months later, so here you need to be proactive.

The new docs are:

  • A police report which cost 120 GHS. You need a passport picture and your residence permit. The process takes a week.
  • Getting a tax clearance certificate can take long, so start in time. If you are employed, it is your employer who applies for you.
  • As the government last week rolled out the National ID card, getting the Non-Citizen ID card has been impossible, but I was allowed to submit my paperwork without the non-citizen ID card (which ironically I have never needed to use before since its inception in 2014).

Next, I will be visited by an immigration officer in my house with my husband to make sure we are truly married and cohabiting.

After that we might be called for an interview to clarify if the visit was not satisfactorily.

Citizenship applications are approved in batches and I was told I just missed one, so waiting for the next.

So far the process has taken me almost a year since I started thinking about it and gathering the documents and since the beginning of June, since I originally submitted my application, that is effectively six months and about five visits to MINT/GIS.

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“Shared History” and Decolonising the #RoyalVisitGhana

Last week British successor to the throne, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, more popularly known as Camilla, came to Ghana for a four-day visit. The tour was part of a 9 day West Africa visit with stops in not just Ghana, but the Gambia and Nigeria as well.

Britain was heavily involved in the transatlantic slave trade which greatly affected and weakened what is now Ghana, subsequently tightened its grasp through bloody wars with the local kings and leaders, especially the Ashanti kingdom. In 1874, the protectorate of Gold Coast was proclaimed and until 1957 when Ghanaian freedom fighters negotiated independence, the British flag flew over this land and Gold Coast people were killed, exploited, and without basic rights. Hence, a state visit from the former colonizer with such a power imbalance infused history is symbolically important and interesting to study – and discuss, see info on an event below!

With this background, I was shocked and outraged when I saw the UK in Ghana facebook account discussed the visit with the words “celebration of a shared culture” – how is this bloody past equal to “a shared love of Ghanaian music”? Since when?


But was later informed of the major billboards around town which had President Akuffo Addo and Prince Charles on them along with the text “Shared History, Shared Future”, a message that both omits and distorts reality and hence insults the intelligence of Ghanaians. What is shared about being exploited? What is shared from one entity exporting its language, education system, religion at the expense of the other? What is shared if one nation colonized the other?

A Facebook friend also pointed out that the shared future, propped up by an acute need for trading partners for the UK ahead of the automatic (Br)exit from the EU next year…


And there were other things:


As Ghanaian artist Fuse ODG complained in this video and Satirist Machiavelli drew something only Ghanaians can understand…

Now, this is not just Britain’s doing. Ghana has to think harder in how it positions itself when power visits. Look at the Benin traditional leader asking Prince Charles to return stolen goods, for instance. Or is there a gain to Ghana (or the Ghanaian elite?) for playing along I do not understand?

Come discuss tonight Saturday 10 Nov at Libreria at 6.30pm!

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Artefact Speech #atAshesi

The last three weeks, the class I teach this semester, Written and Oral Communication has focused on the oral communication part. We have spoken about Rhetorics and its ancient beginnings, sustained importance, watched Patrick Awuah’s TED speech from 2007 and analyzed it rhetorically and after that, students crafted their own speeches with themselves and an artefact that represents them in some way as the topic.

I adore this assignment designed by my anthropologist colleague Joseph Oduro-Frimpong and revel in the intimate group meetings I have with my students. In short five minute speeches, students get up in front of their peers, practice rhetorics, and open themselves and share – and my do they share!

We are invited to hear about family tragedies and lost opportunities, crazy love stories and incredible triumphs, supportive siblings and bouts of sickness, but also books that change lives, sporting equipment, diaries and bibles, instruments, or even little trinkets and everyday objects are loaded with meaning. The speeches are sometimes inspirational and other times funny, and as the assignment dictates, most often supported by all three corners of the Rhetorical Triangle. Only confidence is missing sometimes! We address this with love-bombing the presenting student with “what worked well here?”-feedback. And only after highlighting the good we discuss what can be improved in the delivery.

Every year this is my favorite assignment as it allows me to meet with a smaller subsection of the bigger class of 47-48 students and get to know them a little better. This year, I was especially impressed.  After just two months in university, these first-year students’ are able to speak with wisdom, bravery, and authenticity, and they reminded me that when students are given the chance, they can indeed be teachers.

Artefact speech 2018
Thank you all for sharing so generously!



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MAKE BE with #TheBeyondCollective / Art Exhibit

Life in Ghana can be very monotonous. It is the red dust, the wailing religious songs, the water that doesn’t flow, the soup that never stops flowing, the discussion on how Ghanaians’ attitude to maintenance must change, the discussion on how the red dust is too much and the water doesn’t flow. Rinse and repeat. Then there are the art events which challenge all of that and carve out a whole new way of looking at where we are and who we are.

Last night was like that, an experience put together by the collective exhibit, “MAKE BE” by The Beyond Collective consisting of artists

Nana Anoff

Randa Jebeile

Eric Gyamfi

Poetra Asantewa

Nii Obodai

Rania Odaymat (also the curator)

Francis Kokoroko

While Poetra Ansantewaa, Eric Gyamfi, Nii Obodai, and Rania Odaymat looked inwards in beautiful, intricate, and overlaying works, with self-portraits, or in Poetra Asantewaa’s case her memories, as their medium,  Francis Kokrokoo, Randa Jebeile, and Nana Anoff looked outwards – Kokroko by using the symbol and actual presbyterian choral singers as his topic, Jebeile using colorful mosaics, and Anoff triumphing them all scale-wise by lifting half an airplane to the exhibit venue.

A collaborative piece between Kokroko and Odaymat and an NGO working with justice in Ghana’s prisons became the proud centerpiece of the exhibit: Remember Me, a large screened slideshow framed by barbed wire, with queenlike portraits of the women in Nsawam prison, sentenced to stay there for life, here fully made up, wearing beautiful and sparkling jewellery and attire. Their eyes glistened of many layers of feelings. Deep sadness. Defiance. Anger. Hope. Fear. Pride. The women seemed temporarily released by the dream of what could have been and it was mesmerizing.

The connection between all works was a contemplative and intimate stance demanding much from the viewer and I complained to a fellow visitor that I thought some of the works were too subtle or abstract, almost like I could not get a grip on any message from them. He disagreed completely and there we were, far from the red dust and conversations on maintenance culture.

Indicative of this rich pop-up art show was that only when scrolling through Instagram coverage of the exhibit already at home, I realized one could enter Nana Anoff’s airplane! There is much more to see, much more to be, and more to make than what is at first apparent.


More info:


La Maison, Icon House, Airport City, Accra, Ghana.

4th – 8th October 2018

MAKE BE is an exhibition celebrating two years of reflection by seven artists. Paying homage to the Ghanaian context, it focuses on the resourcefulness of living in a space

and place that can bring magic and mayhem in the switch of a second. It is about creation and conversation, especially in an age of change and uncertainty.

The most significant obstacles we face as creatives are personal, while the biggest battles we wage are intimate. In contemplation of this, it made sense to turn our lens,

brushes, pens and craft inwards for reflection. It is an invitation for each artist to convey what existing and creating means to them.

-Rania Odaymat, Curator

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A Whirlwind of Events: #NAD2018, #NEFScienceWeek, #FIFAfrica18, #MIASA

The fall semester has just started and that means it is like a new year for us academics. I have decided to go back to a paper calendar to make sure I do not overbook myself (when the space for a day is filled, my day is filled!). However, September was slightly overfilled anyways. But with some great events:


Nordic Africa Days is a biannual conference organized by the Nordic Africa Institute. It is my “home conference” as a Swedish researched in Ghana and I have been attending since 2007!

This year, I organized a panel session with my colleague Michael Boampong called Conceptualizing Youth Mobilities and presented a paper within it.



Next Einstein forum contacted me about moderating a panel which proved to be very interesting where industry representative Ethel Cofie or Women in Tech/ Edel Consulting Ltd met education representative Dr. Patrick Arthur from University on Ghana on the gap between STEM education and industry. Some highlights from the conversations:

  • Review primary education to make sure we educate producers (eg. programmers), not consumers (eg. users of Word and PowerPoint).
  • Make sure the higher education sector is wired for innovation by having incentive structures not just for peer-reviewed journal articles, but also for innovation/entrepreneurial initiative.

  • #NEFScienceWeek


Forum for Internet Freedom in Africa organized by CIPESA and MFWA is something I luckily happened to come across as I was doing research for a new project I have initiated on Internet Freedom and Internet Shutdowns. It turned out the experts were on their way to Accra! The same week as finding out about this conference, I was able to join its last afternoon. It was a fantastic networking opportunity and the sessions I visited launched reports like The State of Internet Freedom in Africa and the Internet Universality Indicators, discussed how to measure Internet Shutdowns and how to advocate effectively for them not happening.


The Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa funded by the German government had its inaugural conference at University of Ghana – I only made it to the very final and concluding session. The institute has planned for some interdisciplinary and interesting studies investigating big issues, from the concluding presentation, however, I worry that the research groups and methods seemed to already have been decided in Germany and that could mean the so-called collaboration in actual fact is only a satellite department of a German institution coming to Ghana. I hope I am wrong…

My paper calendar…

…is that beautiful blue book with gold details. On the inside it gives me a full week’s overview and just enough space to list my meetings and main to-dos for each day. I realize it is less stressful to have a finite space for planning my time.

How do you make sure your days and weeks are not overfilled, but allow for quality work and breathing pauses?

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Yielding Accomplished African Women Speaker

Last week, I was a speaker at the Yielding Accomplished African Women (Yaa W) Program. It is a summer program for Ghanaian female university students, including some of my own students from Ashesi University – that serves as a Finance and Technology Accelerator!

The program is the brainchild of Diana Wilson (in the first photo with me below), a graduate of University of Virginia, who has a truly interdisciplinary or even liberal arts background of studying Sociology, Women lib studies and Finance. In her commerce internships she saw a gap of assertive black women and decided to do something about it. During her senior year of college she has enlisted colleagues to help her out and this summer it happened. Read Diana’s statement about the leadership program she created named after Yaa Asantewaa here. What if more people were like Diana? What a wonderful world it would be…

I have been thinking a lot about the talks I do outside of work and how to make sure they are impactful and also rewarding for me. I think maybe I will insist in the future on longer sessions such as the 3 hour session I did with Yaa W and smaller groups. I very much enjoyed talking to the young women in the program about wellness-work-love-fun-development balance (borrowed heavily from OneStep’s Success audit), love-bombing over criticising, and elevator pitches / first impressions.

I was happy to be able to assist in a mission I believe in and felt after a halfday of leadership discussions I had made 10 new friends!

What talks do you happily give outside of work?

With Diana and her team.


In the conference room with the students.


In the sun after our session!

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Becoming Ghanaian: Registration as a Citizen Part 2

On Wednesday, I submitted my application to register as a Ghanaian citizen to the Ministry of Interior (MINT). I described the first step of the process in Registration as a Citizen Part 1. Between then and now, I was making sure all paperwork ( see a checklist in the earlier post) was in order and properly copied. 

Next steps

I was told the next step (to be expected in a few weeks) is a letter sent to Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) for them to start their investigation. GIS will call me in for an interview. Then GIS will write a report to be handed back to MINT. The folder will then be sent with a recommendation to the president. The whole process takes 6-12 months.


Group effort

I am part of a group of several foreigners living in Ghana applying this year. We are all members of the International Spouses of Ghanaians (ISAG) group. We have a WhatsApp group where we share information and cheer each other on. It has been very helpful and I encourage anyone who has to go through larger application processes to organize with others or join already available groups, for instance on Facebook. The group I Väntan På Familjen for instance shares info on family-related residence permits to Sweden.

The officers at the ministry are also very helpful and friendly. I spent less than 15 minutes getting my application reviewed and submitted.


Clarification on completing the application

Submitting the paperwork to office 17 I learned:

  1. The application sponsors ( in my case, a lawyer friend and a family member in the public sector) should ideally use their STAMP under their signature when signing the form. (Nowhere is that indicated on the form or checklist). I had letters from the sponsors in addition, one of them luckily with a stamp, so it passed with some frowns.
  2. The MINT officers did not ask for a police report (something we were told when buying the forms but was not on the checklist).
  3. Before submitting, a Notary Public stamps the application. You can find one to put a red seal on your application at the High Court (around the block from the Ministry of Interior) for GHS 50.

If you have any questions about the process, I will try and answer them. I will also continue reporting here about the progress of my application to naturalize!

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Learn about the Issues from UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

I shared the following with the Ashesi Community and thought I might also share it with my readers:

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Prof. Philip Alston has concluded his visit to Ghana and will fast-track his full rapport to come out in June (as opposed to often a year after the visit). While we wait for the full rapport on the situation for the most vulnerable Ghanaians, we can read his press statement.

I believe this statement is important anyone who:

  • Wishes to be well-informed on the situation on the ground for Ghanaians when it comes to extreme poverty.
  • Would like a well-respected human rights professor’s view on the most pressing human rights issues of Ghana (Prof Alston earlier visited USA and Nigeria to do similar reports).
  • is planning impactful research, as the press statement is a good starting point for current and relevant data and for pointing out pressing areas for intervention.

Some highlights from the press statement:

Issues where the topics of human rights and extreme poverty intersect: Gender, Criminal Justice, Urban Poverty, people living in informal settlements, sexual orientation and gender identity, persons with disability.

GOOD NEWS: “Ghana remains a champion of democracy in Africa, and its record in achieving certain Millennium Development Goals by 2015 is impressive. It met the targets for halving extreme poverty and halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water, and it achieved the goals relating to universal primary education and gender parity in primary school. Today, it is set to become Africa’s fastest-growing economy in 2018.”

BAD NEWS (echoing the poverty research carried out by Dr. Cooke) “Inequality is higher than it has ever been in Ghana, while almost one-quarter of the population lives in poverty and one person in every twelve lives in extreme poverty. Spending on social protection is very low by the standards of most comparable African countries, and very little is spent on social assistance. Ghana has many admirable programs, but no discernible plans for funding many of them adequately. As a result, a large number of Ghanaian do not enjoy their basic economic and social human rights and the prospects for meeting many of the Sustainable Development Goals are not encouraging.”

I had the opportunity to interact with Prof Alston and his team while in Ghana and look forward to the full-text report in June and also the debate his visit to Ghana will spur ( I have already seen headings where the government “slams back” etc), hopefully to the benefit of the most vulnerable in our country.

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