Guest Lecture at Uppsala University African Studies Course: Closing the Circle

In November, I was invited to give a lecture in the African Studies course at Uppsala University. The lecture was to be based on my research, preferably with a link to African youth as that was a theme for this year’s course. I chose the topic: University students in Ghana, Migration Aspirations and the Colonial University.

The lecture focused on decolonial thought, reasons for studying abroad and the situation for Ghanaian and African students at this moment. The class was small, engaged and were happy to interact. Several of the students were also exchange students which led to a reflexive discussion.

I invited a Ghanaian student, Claudia Esi Dentu, a former student of mine to come co-lecture with me. Claudia just happened to be in Sweden this semester on an exchange program with Ashesi University and Malardalens University.

The lead for the course we visited was also a former colleague from Ashesi University, Clementina Amanquaah who now is a Ph.D. student and lecturer at Uppsala University. It felt powerful to reunite with people from the past in my first guest lecture at Uppsala University!

As I was a student of this African Studies course back in the day, I was quite happy to be able to guest lecture in it. It was a closing-the-circle kind of evening!

My Summary Schedule for the AS-AA conference in Accra 12-14 Oct, 2017

On Thursday, the Second Biennial African Studies Association of Africa (AS-AA) conference is taking off here in my academic home, the Institute of African Studies at University of Ghana Legon.

It is a three-day conference with the subtheme that almost reads as my tagline: African Studies and Global Politics.

Together with my colleague Kafui Tsekpo I am presenting a draft paper on social media in Ghanaian elections. Is it a new form of democratic participation? What are the opportunities and limitations? It is presented at the very last session of the conference, Saturday at 5 pm in the School of Law Examination Room. The collaboration comes out of a discussion at the Ghana Studies Conference last summer. I’ll also be the chair for one session. It’s a big deal for me as it is the first time I am chairing an academic session!

The program for the AS-AA conference is long and winding (find in full here PDF) so I made my own cheat sheet, in brackets are notes on the panel sessions (PS) I might attend.

Hope to see you there!

Thu 12

8.30-9.00 arrival great hall

9.00am program starts

11.45-1.15 pm PS 1 (1.2 decolonial edu)

1.15-2.15 Lunch, IAS

2.15-3.45pm PS 2 (2.4 Regina Fuller gender, examination room, school of law)

4.00-5.30pm PS 3 (3.1 Nketiah Conference hall)

7-8.30pm Akwaaba night with Chief Moomen, IAS quadrangle

 

Fri 13

8-9 reg

9.00-10.30 Keynote, Prof Gordon, Prof Allman, Dr Wa Goro (ADB), Nketiah Hall

10.30-10.50 break

11.00-12.30 PS 4 (4.4 Prof Adomako Ampofo tomorrows leaders  4.5 roundtable)

12.30-1.30 Lunch IAS

1.30-3.00pm PS 5 (5.1 African Agency George Bob Milliar in Nketiah or 5.6 panafricanism Leciad)

3.15-4.45 PS 6 (6.3 Democratic condo in Seminar room ias, 6.6 edu with Millicent as chair in leciad)

5.00-6.30pm PS 7 (7.1 citizenship in Nketiah, 7.2 Millicent in Senior common room ias)

7-8.30 AASA Business meeting

8.30-10 film

 

Sat 14

9-10.30 Keynote  Professors Yao Graham, Takyiwaa Manuh, Seth Asumah (Nketiah hall)

10.30-10.50 break

11-12.30 PS 8

12.30-1.30 lunch

1.30-3.00pm PS 9 (9.2 decolonizing edu)

3.15-4.45 PS 10 (10.5 publish that article)

>>5.00-6.30 PS 11 (11.4 Role of Social media in School of law examination room)

7.30-10.00 Closing banquet Great Hall

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!

Why I loved Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

file-2016-10-31-23-38-32I should have posted this as a SundayRead, because it was my weekend read and I really, really enjoyed it. I have been reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

I have heard it being referred to as  “an ambitious debut” probably because it tries to chronicle the slave trade and its aftermath through one family in one book. That has many dangers to it:  can become heavy with historical references, empty on a personal level when bigger narratives are the aim, or just a novel that should have been a textbook. This is none of that.

I cried, I laughed, I lived through the many many personalities you meet in this book (the book opens with a family tree, love books that start with visual schema!) My favourite characters were beautiful Effia and her queer son Quey, Ness Stockham and her tragic fate (climbing down that tree!), and Willie Black and her father H. But I feel like I got close to all of the characters – I wonder, how did Gyasi accomplish that?

While the book balances on an educational tight rope, it skillfully blends themes such as identity, evil, the origin of the word “obruni” for white person, American slavery history such as Jim Crow, the historical advent of mass religion, happiness, the list can go on. Maybe in a few places it feels like contemporary debates are “placed” in the story, or discussed with a contemporary lense: homosexuality, interracial relationships, how to apportion blame in Ghana for the slave trade, however it is those same “educational” debates that makes the novel so relevant and make me consider this book as a text for a class I teach at Ashesi.

We can tell it was a labor of love because the language is sweet, decorated with gems such as “She dipped her to a into water so cool she could taste it “ (p.196), “hell was a place of remembering , each beautiful moment passed through the mind’s eye until it fell to the ground like a rotten mango, perfectly useless, uselessly perfect” (p.28) or “He had never seen a woman move that slowly. It was like she had to wade though deep and mucky waters to get to him” (p.250). And the sex scenes!

The book accomplishes what many political debates, pertinent protests, and academic works have not: to show that we are all one family, one that is hurting, and desperately needs to step into the cold water, share the
burden, and just come back home. 

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.

PhD Update: Seminar Season

Supposedly, I am in my last year of my PhD-studies. That means trying to write up, conclude and present, present, present!

It is scary and taxing to display your work, try to explain three years of thinking and researching, including mistakes and weaknesses, but I feel it is absolutely necessary.

I have already had some aha-moments when rushedly going over my work again to prepare. As my brother aptly put it, it is like cleaning your house before the guests are coming.

Suddenly, it all comes together.

International Conference on African Studies #ICAS13 at Legon, Ghana

You have the mic.This week, my department, the Institute of African Studies at University of Ghana is organizing a major conference on the theme: “Revisiting the first international congress of Africanists in a globalised world”. The three day conference is apart of the institute’s 50th anniversary celebration and also links to the 1963 convention for Africanists opened by Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah. This conference will be opened by the current president, John Dramani Mahama!

Key note speakers are Kenyan professor and writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, professor Fatou Sow, specialist in gender studies and Dr. Carlos Lopez from the UN Economic Commission for Africa. Almost all the big names in the world of African Studies seem to be in the program, framed by exhibits, cultural performances and receptions.

I will be involved in two capacities – as a PhD candidate of the institute obviously I have to present a paper. Mine is a slight deviation from my PhD research project – concerned with migration aspirations among university students in Ghana –  instead this paper is on the future of graduate school in Africa. My presentation time is just after the conference opening on Thursday afternoon (Session A, Panel 3, Computer room of the INstitute at 12.20-2.00 PM to be exact). In addition to being a presenter, I have volunteered to handle social media for the conference. So you can follow the institute account for proceedings on Facebook and Twitter or follow the hashtag #ICAS13.

I will be posting here on my blog during the conference as well.

So let’s wish  all international participants welcome and while we are at it, please wish me luck!

Photo from an earlier post on AiD.

Minor Field Study (MFS) in Ghana

Yesterday, I met up with two students coming to do their minor field study (MFS)  in Ghana.

MFS  is almost an institution in Swedish academic circles. Since 1968, MFS is a stipend financed from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), administered by the International Programme Office for Education and Training (in Swedish: Internationalla Programkontoret) in collaboration with higher educational institutions in Sweden. The goal with the program is to expose young university students to life in developing countries and give them an experience of doing research there. The student has to propose a research plan and spend at least 8 weeks in the chosen field destination. The stipend covers travel expenses and a little more. Over the years more than 10 000 students have gone through the program. Recent theses coming out of the program since can be found in this MFS Thesis Database. Usually, the program is very popular and highly competitive.

Back to yesterday afternoon. I first took Emma and Ebba to eat some fufu and drink some bissap at Buka. We talked about everything from clinics to corruption, from surveys to soup, from PhD to perfect beaches. After washing our hands, we went around to do some errands, see some Ghanaian art and crafts and finished the day with a drink by the beach. I could see myself  in them – the personal involvement in student activities, the interest in the foreign and exotic, the wonderful curiosity. I was impressed with their confidence and their future goals.

Emma and Ebba are not the first MFS students I take around Accra.  They follow Emilie, Asa, Jessica and Ulrik  – all MFS students who I have met in Ghana. To some I have been a contact person, an address to put on the VISA application, to others “Field Supervisor” and a discussion partner.  I must say I enjoy spending time with them and gladly share what ever small knowledge on research I possess as well as my own experiences in this green country.

Ironically, my own MFS application was not approved when I was studying for my Bachelor’s Degree. But that is another story.

University of Ghana Admission Letter in Hand

Today was the day when I was formally invited to pursue a “course of study leading to the award of Doctor of Philosophy Degree in African Studies”.

The events leading up to me holding the very much desired letter in hand includes many drops of sweat (but only a few tears), numerous visits, phone calls and emails on my part since I applied for the program in March of 2009. I almost gave up in September, but finally did a presentation of my proposal in November and a few weeks ago got my first call back.

Since then, I have made three trips to the School of Graduate studies and today was the day! I feel content and anxious to get started.

For the first half of the program, I have secured funding through the generous Swedish Women’s organization SWEA, but as I am now admitted I should probably get to worrying about finding scholarships for the latter half.

Dear reader, any ideas?