My Week: Teach, Do Research and Work-Family Balance?

This week, I have a demanding and varied set of tasks ahead.

Monday, I will be welcoming guests to Ashesi University from Kenyon College, Ohio, US (Their 2020 plan is interesting and impressive). I am the Global Liberal Arts Alliance liaison for my institution and the visit is happening as part of that alliance. I will also be working on a research project on social media in the Ghanaian elections with a  colleague to-be-presented at the upcoming African Studies AS-AA conference end of this month. I have a phone call related to the upcoming Uppsala University Global Alumni Day, I am part of organizing in Accra next month (UU alumn? Register here). Monday evening we have the Town Hall meeting at Ashesi for the fall semester.

Tuesday and Thursday I am teaching Written and Oral Communication at Ashesi to 80 Freshmen. This week, we will be talking about referencing in academic writing and how to use technology like Grammarly to write better. I will also grade their reflection paper. You can follow the course on social media under the hashtag #AshWOC. See posts for instance on Twitter. Instagram.

Wednesday, I’ll be working on a research project on higher education in Ghana and increasing university fees. I have a research assistant who is a former student and we have a meeting with an administrator at Ashesi who I think can help us. In the evening farewell dinner with the Kenyon delegation.

Friday morning, I will be talking to high school students at SOS Hermann Gmeiner International College here in Tema about diversity, using my own life as a starting point. I will also have a phone conversation with my mentor. In the afternoon, I will pick my daughters up from school. I am aiming at having a balance between my professional and family life, but rarely have time to pick them up from school, so value this opportunity to spend time with them and connect with their teachers.

Saturday and Sunday I will lay flat! Or something very similar like floating in a pool, resting in a hammock, or watching cookies rise in the oven.

What is your week like?

Summing up the Blogging Year 2016 – From VR to #GhanaDecides

What a year!

I started a project on virtual reality in the classroom with colleague Kabiru Seidu. I taught Social Theory and Written and Oral Communication.

I had my PhD viva and graduated. Whew!

I brought my readings and my kids to the blog which celebrated 10 years.

I was interviewed on a podcast and featured by Pulse in a video and wrote an article for a major Swiss newspaper (I am Swedish, not Swiss, so this I think is an achievement!)

I traveled to Dakar, Cape Coast, Sweden (twice, writing from an amazing xmas get-together in the cold just now!), Ohio and Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.

The world experienced Grand Bassam, Trump, Seinabo Sey, and Ghana its election.

Now I need to rest and come back in full force next year! See you in 2017! 

Imagining Africa at the Center: #ASA2016

This week, I am off to the 59th African Association Annual Meeting, this time held in Washington DC with the theme Imagining Africa at the Centre: Bridging Scholarship, Policy, and Representation in African Studies. 

It will be my third African Studies conference this year after DakarFutures2016 and this summer’s GlobalGhana in Cape Coast. I also enjoyed last year’s ASA in San Diego. So, I am looking forward and over the next week I will be taking in as much as I possibly can on academic talks, networking sessions, book exhibits and also Washington DC! I am especially excited to meet up with a special person from DakarFutures working at the renowned Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and a new contact from Wikimedia Foundation. I’ll also visit Ghanaian Designer David Adjaye’s new National Museum of African American History & Culture, also in the Smithsonian Museum Park (photo from NMAAHC below, I believe it is the brown box next to the Washington Monument).

Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture Architectural Photrography
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture 

At the ASA2016 meeting, I will for sure be spotted when presenting a paper on higher education together with colleagues from the Ghana Studies Association and when I chair a so called Africa NOW! session on the ongoing election season in Ghana. Details below!

Panel: Debating the Quality and Relevance of (Higher) Education in Ghana

Fri 2 Dec, VIII-D-1  4pm.

My Work: Data for and from the Higher Education Sector in Ghana

In an era of knowledge economies and sustainable development, the importance of higher education has reemerged (Mkandawire, 2015; Teferra, 2014). However, current data on higher education institutions (HEI) in Africa is not easily available in terms of basic descriptive data on institutions, research output, faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

This paper is a first report from a case study to understand data collection in and analysis of the higher education sector in Ghana, a country that has a mix of public and private higher education. The methodology is literature review and interviews with key stakeholders to clarify the role in collecting and managing HE data by international university associations, GOG/ministry of education, state institutions, quality assurance bodies, and  – on a local level – universities.

Data and analyses hold promise for nurturing this important sector, especially since the sector is growing quickly and is centrally placed politically. Two factors that also mean data ages quickly. For instance, the rise of private higher education since the 1990s provides an almost unmapped terrain in terms of data. With a decolonial approach, I argue that data on HEI must be open and free, but also made a government priority to solve the sustainability issues of collecting data and crafting relevant indicators for strategic and sustainable development of the higher education sector on the continent.

 

Africa NOW! Democratic Gains from Election Season 2016 in Ghana

Panel Introduction and Open Discussion Sat 3 Dec, 9-10 am in meeting room “Maryland A”. 

Ghana is seen as a beacon of hope for the democratization process on the continent and has managed to consolidate its democracy further with each election since 1992. There has been peaceful handing over of power in 2000 and 2008, a contested election in 2012 which was settled peacefully in the supreme court. This year, several new developments including reforms, which have led to that only seven parties are contesting the presidential seat have taken place, Ghana also has a new Electoral Commissioner, Charlotte Osei, replacing Kwadwo Afari-Djan who served as the Chair of the Electoral Commission 1993 to 2015.

The surrounding world has also changed since the last elections, notably with terrorism threats closer to home with the attack on Cote D’Ivoire’s Grand Bassam, in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon. Further, oil and commodity prices are at an all time low. Many countries in Africa are experiencing power shortages and Ghana in no exception. The US elections have also been extensively discussed in Ghana to the point of almost overshadowing a local debate.

Further, an important role in the relative democratic success in Ghana is played by media and civil society monitoring the electoral process. Many laudable initiatives providing platforms for education and debate have been implemented. This year, the threat of limiting the freedom of speech by for instance monitoring online conversations and shutting social media down during the elections which is has been discussed under the so called “spy bill” and by the Inspector General of the Police Service, have added another important issue to address by the civil society.

With this background, this panel will discuss what can be expected from the general elections on December 7, 2016, especially in terms of democratic gains or losses.

Panelists: Dr. Kajsa Hallberg Adu, Ashesi University (convener), Dr. Jeffrey Paller, University of San Fransisco, Prof. Gretchen Bauer, University of Delaware, and you!

Top Three: My Best Podcasts from Ghana and Beyond

This evening, BloggingGhana is doing an event called “PodCast – the New Blog?” (free if you sign up in advance by following the link) and because of that, I wanted to list my top three podcasts out of Ghana. 
File 2016-01-23 00 17 47

In Ghana, there is still not much to choose from, but  these have made a great effort and are podcasts I return to:

  1. AccraWeDey. A chilled conversation between the guys (Joey, Pokuaa and Nii) and a guest on popular culture, whats new on Twitter, and in town. Great intro song and vibe, but maybe sometimes too much friends just chilling?
  2. Hagtivist. A serious podcast that discusses news in Ghana from a well needed humanist angle. This is definitely an activist pod, but could it be available on iTunes? Have fewer hosts or segments that made listening a bit easier?
  3. The cocoa pod? I can’t even find three…Soon that will change hopefully!

My top three English speaking podcasts are:

  1. Startup by Gimlet. All Gimlet shows are hyper produced and great, but the idea of following a company through their start up process has some original drama to it.
  2. The Tim Feriss Show. I love-hate this pod. It is too much of everything, too American, too much focused on personal improvement, but I also learn great deal when ever I am in the right mood.
  3. Voices of VR. I have just started to listen to this pod, but it embodies something that is inherent to the promise of podcasting. In short 15 min episodes, you can create a universe for people with the same interests, here Virtual Reality, and just nerd it out.

My top three Swedish speaking podcasts are:

  1. Hanna & Amanda. Queens of mixing ordinary talk with adverts and tips, much like AccraWeDey is heading towards I am imagining.
  2. En varg söker sin pod. Articulate “friend-pod” on popculture focusing on film, books, news and other pods intertwined with the lovely flow of intelligent discussion between two best friends in the Swedish creative industry.
  3. Kära barn. A podcast where people ask a midwife and psychologist questions relating to children ages 4-18. The expert’s tone of voice always makes me so calm! (Although I would maybe mot follow all advice)

My secret is I would love to have my own podcast, but can’t seem to get it together. I am hoping to learn from the experienced podcasters this evening what it takes!

This is the first in a series of Top Three on my blog. More to follow soon!

Summarizing the ASA2015

asa friendsSo, I am back from the intense African Studies Association 58th Annual Meeting in San Diego, California, US 19-21 November, 2015!

It is difficult to summarise such intense days, but I would say my main goals were met:

  1.  getting some feedback on my research. CHECK
  2. meeting with other researchers, both interested in Ghana and in migration and higher eduction. CHECK and some awesome, smart and funny ones that I think will remain friends for life!
  3. tweeting and Periscoping! CHECK, periscoped a convo on Afrobarometer and Prof Adomako Ampofo’s speech. Also used the nice conference app to share info within the conference!
  4. learning more about publishing and post-doc opportunities. CHECK, wrote some follow-up email today!
  5. finding books and initiatives in the exhibit that accompanies the conference. CHECK omg CHECK
  6. experiencing some art and maybe good food in the world-reknowned Balboa Park in San Diego. CHECK
  7. meeting up with other African Studies tweeps. CHECK

What I did not get to do was eating great hotel breakfast (the breakfast buffet was not included, shock of the trip!) or really see the city of San Diego as there was really no time.

What I did do that was not on my list was: challenge my fear of heights, both in Balboa Park and on the 12th floor of the nice hotel, and eat crickets! (Tangy, crunchy, and salty!)

 

Hopes for African Studies Association meeting, ASA 2015, in San Diego

So by this time next week, I’ll be on my way to the big African Studies Association 58th Annual Meeting, ASA2015, in San Diego, California, USA. The conference has the theme: The State and the Study of Africa and will be happening 19-22 November. It is an enormous event which attracts over 2000 scholars! I am terribly excited and have the following hopes:

  1.  getting some feedback on my research. I am presenting a paper in a panel called: Rethinking Decolonialization: Institutions, Archives and Identities (Session VII- D1, Fri 20th, 2-3.45pm). My paper is how university students in Ghana and their narratives can help decolonializing migration studies.
  2. meeting with other researchers, both interested in Ghana (as under the Ghana Studies Association meeting scheduled for Fri 20th at 7.30pm) and in migration and higher eduction.
  3. tweeting (follow me on @kajsaha) and Periscoping!
  4. learning more about publishing and post-doc opportunities.
  5. finding books and initiatives in the exhibit that accompanies the conference.
  6. experiencing some art and maybe good food in the world-reknowned Balboa Park in San Diego.
  7. meeting up with other African Studies tweeps, see my list below.

Shirley Temple: Actress and Ambassador in Ghana

Shirley Temple Black Americans have for long understood the potential of a face known from film. Not just President Ronald Regan or Governor Arnold Schwartsenegger  made the transition from white screen to colorful politics, actress Shirley Temple did too.

In 1974 she landed in Ghana as the American ambassador. The country was 18 years out of colonialism, but head-deep into dependency, especially due to the American oil crisis at the time. Temple stayed in Ghana for two years.

When I first heard about this interesting career change and Temple’s time in Ghana, I marveled. I became almost obsessed with finding photos of Temple in Ghana and my eyes widened as I saw her coiffed hair bobbing around in the Ghanaian sun surrounded by traditional leaders and welcoming parades.

 It would be interesting to know more about what her everyday life in Ghana was like, maybe now that she is gone, some writings might appear? Some interviews will be done? but never the less, her life reminds us that no matter where you start in life, you might end up in Ghana, smiling in the sun.

Photo borrowed from The Guardian from a worthwhile biography.

Swedish Society and Culture Lecture

Tomorrow I am lecturing on “Swedish Society and Culture” at Malmö University.

It is a topic I should know very well. I am a product of it. I studied Political Science with a focus on Scandinavia/comparative politics. In addition, it is a presentation that I have given earlier to students in Ghana (with good help from the Swedish Institute).

But maybe what makes me most suited to talk on this topic is that I have lived outside of Sweden for a majority of the last 10 years of my life. I think experiencing other societies (US, France and Ghana in my case) makes the specificities of Swedish society stand out more clearly. Also, living abroad makes you – or at least it has made me – an ambassador of my country. I find myself describing the Swedish model (defending the high taxes), explaining why Swedes are thought – see pic – to be overtly sexual (a myth stemming from artsy Swedish films in the 1950s) and displaying Swedish traditions and joie-de-vivre (disproving that Swedes would be extremely suicidal because of the darkness up north).

Tomorrow I will do it again. Wish me luck!

PS. My blog being messed up means that I have not felt inspired to post lately. Sorry to anyone who still follows this space! I think I will just keep posting and worry about the look when I have time. Update: It is now fixed!

Picture borrowed from the Swedish Bikini Team.

My Experience of 9/11 2001 in the US (and a Book)

Book cover for "Life After Sept 11th, 10 stories from New York" by Marianne Lentz

Some time ago, my Rotary Scholarship mate from my year in the US, got in touch. We met in 2001 at Reinhardt College in Georgia, US. She is now a journalist and was doing research for a book about the aftermath of September 11th 2001. She wanted me to tell her what I remembered from that day. This is the text I sent her:

“I woke up in my dorm room in the morning of 9/11. It was an ordinary day and after taking a shower I reviewed my Spanish homework. As I was sitting on my bed doing that, I suddenly hear my roommate Michele screaming and run over to her. She has the TV on and screams as she points to the set. As we are watching we see the smoke coming out from the first of the two World Trade Center towers and a distraught speaker voice talks about a second plane and we watch in amazement as that plane hits the second tower.

She has already her phone in hand and calls her mother in Uruguay and hostfamily – the hostfather works in the WTC…I run back into my room as I hear my phone ring, its my hostdad. I dont remember if he is trying to calm me or himself down, but  he is letting me know he believes “it is Bin Laden who is behind all this”. It is the first time I hear the name.

Before I am off to class, the news reaches us that also Pentagon in Washington DC has been hit. As I have a friend living in DC, I want to hear she’s alright. I phone her, but cannot get through. A few moments later the news presenters on TV urges the public to stop calling friends and relatives to allow for the phone lines to be used by emergency workers. I feel pretty stupid.

In Spanish class, we talk about what happened and in a later class we stand in a circle holding hands in silence. I channel my confusion and sadness over the events by walking around campus taking pictures of the nature. (I can look for the pics if you think they would be interesting for you, but I dont think thery were very special) During the day, we realize that also Atlanta, a mere 45 minutes away, and its headquarters for CNN and Center of Disease Control are possible targets. The threat creeps closer.

Already the same afternoon, American flags are hanging out from many windows. Over the next weeks, we will fear that our drinking water has been poisoned, that antrax can be sent to our mailboxes and that the terror can strike at any time again. At this time, I had spent only one month in the US, but could still clearly feel that this day had changed everything.”

Today Marianne Lentz’s book is out. It ended up being an interview book with 10 New Yorkers, their memories of that dreadful day and how it impacted on their lives. It’s currently only available in her native Danish, but hopefully soon in English too. I’m proud of you, Marianne!