Welcome back! The Center for African Studies has another busy year ahead despite our mostly remote operation. It’s a hard time to be apart when we typically begin the Fall semester with excited reunions, in-person orientations for new students and faculty, and charged discussions of recent research and travel. This summer was very different. Most of us stayed put, not straying far from home or a small circle of friends and family and remaining in close/frequent communication with those far away. We watched closely for Covid’s spread in Africa and sought news of curfews quarantines, public health measures and calls for testing as we coped with the same here. To great relief, evidence suggests the virus fatalities on the continent are considerably lower than initially anticipated, although there’s little escape from the global economic downturn.

In the midst of it all, valued staff member Aaliyah Clark took a new position in the Department of Political Science. Candace Aho (Candace.aho@ufl.edu) is now at the Center to handle budgets, travel, purchasing, and personnel matters alongside Office and Financial Manager Sarah Foxx (sarahlf@ufl.edu). Alani Ilori received a promotion, adding program development to her responsibilities (ailori1@ufl.edu).

We are going forward with a full slate of activities for the Fall Semester, albeit relying on Zoom and other remote programming platforms. Baraza will occur Friday afternoons as usual using the tools of Zoom Webinar. CAS has an expansive array of Working Groups on the Fall agenda. We invite you – faculty, affiliates, grads and undergrads — to join-in, learn and contribute. Working Groups offer an opportunity to share research, interact with guest experts and promote collaboration. Some of our Working Groups are well-established, such as Islam in Africa, Social Change and Development, Institutions and States, and Natural Resource Management. This year we launch a new group, Mixing Africa’s Disciplines, to explore how the diverse disciplines that compose African Studies get mixed together. Besides guest speakers, the group is hosting several roundtables throughout the fall on fieldwork and grants. Building connections across UF College of Medicine, Emerging Pathogens Institute and Public Health and Health Professions, a new Health in Africa Working Group will be examining collaborative approaches to positive health outcomes and the CDC Global Health Strategy. The Natural Resource Management group invites participation in its new Sustainable Savannah’s Initiative and welcomes input on research, policy and opportunities for international cooperation.

SASA, the Student African Studies Association, continues to provide a platform for research sharing and will feature fieldwork updates from PhD students working in Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Benin. SASA will also continue its weekly Zoom ‘tea-times’ allowing for informal discussions and check-ins with classmates near and far. Again, all are welcome: faculty, staff, graduate, undergraduates.

Two major conferences are slated for Fall 2020.  Achebe|Baldwin @ 40, originally scheduled for April, will be held Oct 22-23. Utilizing an on-line format, it will include panels, roundtables, performances, readings, and live Q&A sessions on literature, politics, history to commemorate the extraordinary first and only meeting of James Baldwin and Chinua Achebe on the UF campus in 1980. Scholars, writers, activists from across the country will probe the ongoing significance of the 1980 event and the insights afforded by bringing the works and lives of these two luminaries in conversation with one another and the circumstances of the present. Visiting Writer-in-Residence Okey Ndibe will be working with UF and high school students and community members during the week of the conference. There will be a screening of the film ‘I heard it through the Grapevine’ recording Baldwin and Achebe together in Florida. The events will culminate with a Graduate Student Forum on The Future of Blackness at UF. Visit this page for event information and registration.

The Annual Gwendyln M. Carter Conference is scheduled for Dec 10-11, 2020.  Organized in conjunction with IFAS Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, the topic of this year’s conference is “Shifting Momentum in African Agriculture through Research & Technologies: Improving Resiliency, Livelihoods, and Nutrition.” Stay-tuned for the full program. This too will be entirely remote involving expert practitioners, scholars and policy makers from around the world and offer ample opportunity for class participation and student involvement. Contact Andrea Bohn abohn@ufl.edu for more information.

Though they will not be face to face, all of these activities will continue to offer a dynamic platform for knowledge and relationship building and vibrant exchange of ideas. Despite its inconveniences, the new format offers an opportunity to enlarge our audience and the breadth of our conversations. Please help us spread the word to our alumni, collaborators, academic counterparts and professional networks in Africa and elsewhere in the US. Given the current limits to travel and research, these exchanges are all the more important. Do share our calendar and website, as well as our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube accounts broadly.

At the same, we cannot overlook matters closer to home, whether the inequities of Covid’s effects or the violence of race-based exclusion and abuse of force that continues to plague the US. The Center for African Studies takes seriously UF’s renewed commitment to racial justice and inclusion on campus and beyond. We continue to build our strong partnership with Alachua County schools to promote African and African American culture and history in K-12 education, including the recognition of Africa-based scientists and scientific knowledge. We vigorously promote teacher and high school student participation in our campus programs. Moreover, we have strong outreach programs in community colleges, HBCU and minority serving institutions in Florida and the wider region, including Georgia and Alabama. CAS is also working with the UF Graduate School to address the unique needs and concerns of students from Africa to best enable their academic success and personal well-being.

In this spirit, I welcome the new Director of African-American Studies, historian Dr. David Canton, who comes to UF after many years leading Africana Studies at Connecticut College, directing the Center for Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity and serving as Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion. I look forward to new opportunities for partnership and program building with Dr. Canton and African American Studies.

I look forward to seeing everyone at our many events this semester. Stay-tuned for information on our Virtual Fall Reception and Dance Party!

All the best!

Brenda Chalfin, PhD
Director, Center for African Studies

In 2018 the University of Florida created its moonshot initiatives to address society’s “most urgent problems while redefining the role of a land-grant university for the 21st century.” UF identified and included migration as one of the great challenges and opportunities.

The world is shifting quickly and, specifically in Florida, the population is growing rapidly and becoming more culturally diverse. A growing entrepreneurial immigrant population is sharing their music, dance, art, food, clothing, style, languages and folk traditions in ways that are changing and influencing culture more broadly. The College of the Arts responded to the challenge and societal shifts by creating a new center and a new model for cultural production, artistic practice, research and scholarship: the Center for Arts, Migration and Entrepreneurship (CAME).

CAME operates at the intersection of the creative economy, migrant identity and entrepreneurial leadership. To that end, CAME specifically intends to connect and nourish local, national, and international arts and cultural networks to boost the speed, durability, and effectiveness of cultural innovation and cultivate the relationship between artistic production and economic sustainability.  CAME starts from a place that recognizes migration and its attendant cultural diasporas as locations of necessary innovation, resilience, and ingenuity by people in new contexts.  These cultural forms that persist, remix, or emerge have historically been, are, and will continue to be sites of productive creativity and content that generate abundant tangible and intangible value. CAME will gather collaborators to facilitate the engines of creative and cultural economics at the heart of migration: artists, thinkers, scholars, makers, creators, entrepreneurs, leaders, investors, policy makers, and funders.”

CAME’s UF Partners include:  Center for African Studies; Center for Gender, Sexualities, and Women’s Studies Research; Center for the Humanities in the Public Sphere; Center for Latin American Studies; Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering; College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and IFAS Extension; Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center of the Warrington College of Business ; and UF INNOVATE.

Under the guidance of inaugural center director Osubi Craig, this year CAME opened its vibrant suite in Yon Hall, laid the groundwork for local, regional and international networks, and initiated its first programs with Nigerian choreographer, performer and curator Qudus Onikeku as the center’s maker-in-residence. Last month in Lagos, Nigeria, Onikeku’s QDance Center and CAME produced a virtual danceGathering that has drawn overwhelming critical and popular response from the international dance community.

On April 24 over 70 faculty across UF participated in CAME’s informational session to learn more about the center, its programs and opportunities for networking and project funding. CAME now seeks scholars with related research, teaching, or service interests to become affiliate faculty and advance CAME’s objectives through scholarly projects. CAME invites UF faculty to apply for funding for individual ($1500) and group ($3500) projects or for cross-disciplinary working groups ($2500) that match CAME focus areas. The deadline for FY21 funding applications is May 15. The deadline for affiliate faculty applications is June 1.

For more information about applying for project funding or affiliate faculty status, please contact Osubi Craig at CAME@arts.ufl.edu.

Bob Campbell is best known for his famous photos of Dian Fossey’s research on the mountain gorillas of Rwanda. His work was published in National Geographic, popularizing the conservation of mountain gorillas in the 1970s.

This exhibit uses photos focusing on Dian Fossey’s gorilla conservation work at Karisoke Research Center, curated from the University of Florida Bob Campbell Papers. The exhibit opens September 18 in Smathers Library lobby, and will be available for viewing during building hours.

Bob Campbell photograph of Dian Fossey with orphan gorillas Coco and Pucker, Rwanda 1969, Bob Campbell Papers, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville.

You can access the Bob Campbell Papers online through the UF Digital Collections.

Some photos from the Bob Campbell Papers have been featured in the September 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine.

CAS News Bulletin: Week of September 11, 2017

Gainesville, FL – March 13, 2018- NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, announced today that the University of Florida has been selected as one of five institutions to receive the 2018 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization. The award will be formally presented during International Education Week on November 13 in Washington D.C.

UF is being honored for its broad commitment to international education and research, grounded in its fundamental goals of preparing our students to meet the challenges of a globalized world, striving for faculty research excellence with a global impact, and advancing campus diversity. A key component of the effort is UF’s 2014 Quality Enhancement Plan, entitled “Learning without Borders: Internationalizing the Gator Nation,” which was presented as part of UF’s reaccreditation process.

“We are pleased and proud to receive the 2018 Senator Paul Simon Award recognizing UF’s efforts in international education,” said UF President Kent Fuchs. “This award affirms our commitment to international students, education, research and exchange as essential to the college experience, the pursuit of knowledge and the betterment of people everywhere.”

CAS News Bulletin- Week of March 19, 2018

Dr. Peter Schmidt is professor of anthropology and a former director of the Center for African Studies. He has conducted archaeological research in Tanzania, Eritrea, Kenya, Ethiopia, and throughout eastern Africa. His work has a strong focus on facilitating community archaeology in the regions he conducts research.

His publications include: “Hardcore Ethnography: Interrogating the Intersection of Disease, Human Rights, and Heritage.” Heritage & Society (2014);  “Rediscovering Community Archaeology in Africa and Reframing its Practice.” Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage (2014); and “Postcolonial Archaeologies in Africa: Breaking the Silence. African Archaeological Review (co-author, 2010).


CAS News Bulletin- Week of May 14, 2018 

A quick note to wish everyone a wonderful summer. It’s been quite a year here at UF. We weathered hurricanes and white-nationalist rallies, only to end the year with a bungled graduation ceremony. Goings-on at CAS have been much more successful, and inclusive.

Building on hard-work of graduate program assistant Riley Ravary, we welcomed our first class of CAS Undergraduate Ambassadors: Elisabeth Rios-Brooks, Moustapha Hoyeck, Melody Mullally, Carli Snyder, and Morgan Ungrady. Chosen for their commitment to African Studies, academic excellence, and intercultural competency, the group took on peer-advising and classroom outreach.

CAS also made its mark on campus with a historical marker celebrating more than 50 years of African Studies at UF.  Located near the Nelson Mandela and Wangari Maathai commemorative trees, the Grinter lawn is starting to reflect the greatness of Africa. The rainy installation ceremony begat the beautiful music of Pauzeni Sauti African Choir and the thoughtful remarks of campus leaders, from CLAS Dean Richardson to Political Science major Josee Kapseu, outgoing African Student Union President.

The buzz of baraza, conferences, and steady stream of visitors continued apace. We co-hosted the SEAN-SERSAS African Studies conference with UNC’s African Studies Center and welcomed established and emerging Africanists from across the region. This was followed by the Carter conference featuring the UF Library’s extraordinary Papa Mfumu’eto Comic Collection from Congo-Kinshasa. Spilling over from Smathers to the Harn, the event brought CAS into the heart of Gainesville, including Depot Park and Eastside High school. Fiston Mwanza’s keynote was unforgettable. His book TRAM 83 should be on everyone’s summer reading list!

The semester wound-down with yet another remarkable event sponsored by the Sahel Research group and co-chaired by 2016 UF PhD Mamadou Bodian, visiting from Dakar. Involving leading scholars from across the region, the symposium examined Islamic activism on university campuses and addressed questions of secularism, sectarianism, gender, inter-religious alliances and more. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the symposium was the presence of Dr. Walar Abakar from Chad’s King Faisal University, arriving less than 2 weeks after the removal of Chad from the US travel ban.

There was also an unforgettable African Student Union showcase in the Reitz Ballroom featuring food, fashion, gumboot dancing, and the ever personable MC, Mr. Cocoyam.

As for summer, plans are already in full-swing. Eight students received pre-dissertation travel awards: Jesse Borden, Netty Carey, Aaron Ellrich, Mustapha Mohammed, Zoliswa Nhleko, Audrey Smith, Ben Smith, and Sarah Staub. These awards would not be possible without the contributions of the Madeline Lockhart, Hunt and Jean Davis, and Alumni Endowments. We appreciate your support!

Many other students and faculty are also planning summer research in Africa. Aided by additional funding from UFIC, we have three faculty leading undergraduate research tutorials this summer. Abdoulaye Kane is wrapping up three weeks in Morocco and Senegal where he is researching religion and migration with three UF students in tow. Initiating an exciting partnership between CAS and IFAS, Cheryl Palm is traveling to Kenya with two students to study livelihoods and ecosystems. Renata Serra will be heading to Ethiopia with a group of three students to examine agricultural and food policy in tandem with colleagues from UF’s USAID Livestock Initiative.

Sponsored by a Fulbright Hays award, CAS Graduate Assistant and Anthropology PhD candidate Riley Ravary is leaving for dissertation fieldwork on environmental governance in Uganda. UF English Department May 2018 PhD and Fulbright Fellow, Mandisa Haarhof, is returning to South Africa to take up a teaching post at the University of Capetown. Safari Nzuri! Sauka Lafiyaa! Wishing them both safe travels and best of luck in these new ventures. Read about Riley and Mandisa below.

The close of the semester also marks the retirement of longtime CAS faculty and former Center Director Peter Schmidt. A big thanks to Dr. Schmidt for his tremendous dedication to CAS and investment in training and educating the next generation of Africanists.

I look forward to seeing everyone in August. Thanks for another great year of African Studies at UF.

Brenda Chalfin

Jesse B. Borden
Department: School for Natural Resources and Environment
Thesis Title: “Ecological Disturbances and Canopy Communities”Ann Lee Grimstad
Department: History
Dissertation Title: “Zanzibar: the Nine Hour Revolution”Erik Timmons
Department: Anthropology
Dissertation Title: “Hip-Hop Life and Livelihood in Nairobi, Kenya.”

Jacqueline Allegra Curnick
Department: MDP
Field Practicum: “Environmental health and justice in Alaska and Documentary: Pulling teeth from a polar bear.”

Margarita Fontecha Tirado
Department: MDP
Field Practicum: “A new hope: Social capital and community capacity-building for forest conservation in Caquetá (Colombia), under a post-conflict scenario.”

Max Gelber
Department: MDP
Field Practicum: “Plenty of fish in the sea? Shark fishing and the fin trade in Ghana: a biting review.”

Corey Jones
Department: MDP
Field Practicum: “Gendered post-conflict reconstruction in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Florencia Lathrop Rossi
Department: MDP
Field Practicum: “Mujeres de Corcovado: Experiences using design and visual communication as tools for agency.”

Anna Martinson
Department: MDP
Field Practicum: “Nonprofit financial sustainability in Seoul, South Korea: Teach North Korean Refugees.”

Miguel Olivas-Pérez
Department: MDP
Field Practicum: “The impact of the public policies in the forestry sector in Mexico.”

Grace Palacios Chávez
Department: MDP
Field Practicum: “Kichwa Lamas’ gender roles in the conservation of their community forests.”

Estefania Rodriguez
Department: MDP
Field Practicum: “Gender-sensitive evaluation of the goat value chain in the lowveld of Swaziland.”

Tania Romero Bautista
Department: MDP
Field Practicum: “An evidence-based approach to improving the effectiveness of conservation and sustainable development (CSD) projects in Madre de Dios, Peru.”

Derek Sindler
Department: MDP
Field Practicum: “Conservation agriculture in practice: Rice in northwest Dominican Republic.”

Beginning in 2018, Benjamin Soares will direct a three-year multi-disciplinary project, “Islam and Africa in Global Context,” funded through a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation’s Initiative on Religion in International Affairs to the University of Florida. The project will be carried out by the Center for Global Islamic Studies in conjunction with the Center for African Studies. The main objectives are to deepen knowledge of Islam in Africa, challenge scholars of Islam working on other geographic areas to engage more fully with scholarship on Africa, and strengthen the study and understanding of Islam in the US, as well as in non-US institutions of higher education especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The main project themes include: Muslims and new media; contemporary ways of being Muslim; Muslim-Christian encounters; and Islam and politics. In addition to helping to consolidate UF’s standing as a leading hub for the study of Islam in Africa, the project will also support non-US-based scholars, institutions, and higher education, particularly in Africa, through the training and mentoring of a group of scholars (some of whom might be future policymakers). It will also facilitate long-term international exchanges and networks.


CAS News Bulletin- Week of April 16, 2018

Dr. Nancy Hunt has been announced as a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow. Congratulations!

Her project, “Ideation as History: Dream Collectors and Picture Archives from Post-1968 Urban Congo” seeks to join images and words to dreaming in the ex-Belgian Congo. Her approach uses both history and anthropology to consider how text-image links to Congo’s postwar period.

She will use two archives of Congolese-created pictures and text to think about the history of daydreaming, nightmares, childhoods, and dream-collecting within a single post colony. In addition to her archival work, Dr. Hunt will use fieldwork to invite a wide spectrum of Kinshasa residents to read, see, and interpret text-images from the two archival collections. Through investigating pictures, ideations, categories, and borderlines, Dr. Hunt’s research will seek to obliquely engage the emergent, contradictory spaces of “global mental health,” a psychiatric field wending its way into Africa as research and care. To learn more, visit her Guggenheim Fellow Profile.


CAS News Bulletin- Week of April 9, 2018