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The Bethwell A. Ogot Book Prize of the African Studies Association is awarded annually at the ASA Annual Meeting to the author of the best book on East African Studies published in the previous calendar year. Initiated in 2012, the award was made possible by a generous bequest from the estate of the late Professor Kennell Jackson, the award honors the eminent historian, Professor Bethwell A. Ogot.
Scholarly works published in any country, in any language in the previous calendar year are eligible for the award. Edited collections, new editions of previously published works, bibliographies, dictionaries and works of fiction are not eligible. For the purposes of this award East Africa is defined to include the territories of present day Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia (as constituted at independence), Djibouti, Eritrea, and Mauritius.
For the purposes of this prize, scholarly works will be understood broadly to encompass works informed by an understanding of the scholarship in a given field or fields. In making its selection the prize committee will pay particular attention to significance, originality and quality of writing.
Deadline: April 30
The award was made possible by a generous bequest from the late Kennell Jackson, Ph.D., a historian of African history at Stanford University who passed away in 2005. Born in 1941, the son of a school teacher and building contractor, Kennell Jackson was educated in segregated schools in Farmville, Virginia. He earned his bachelor's degree from Hampton Institute in 1962. He studied at the University of Ghana and at Cambridge University, and earned his Ph.D. in African history from UCLA in 1972. His dissertation, "An Ethnohistorical Study of the Oral Traditions of the Akamba of Kenya," was an ambitious, pioneering effort to reconstruct the deep history of a smaller-scale or stateless society using oral records. This work and the series of publications that developed from that research, including in particular his chapter in the influential collection, Kenya Before 1900 (1976) contributed to the broader effort, pioneered by that volume's editor, B.A. Ogot, to decolonize East Africa's history. Kennell Jackson joined the Stanford faculty as an assistant professor in 1969. In that role he taught African and African American history to generations of students. A devoted student mentor, Jackson became the resident fellow Branner Hall, the university's largest all-freshman dorm, a role he maintained until his death.
At Prof. Jackson's request the award has been established to honor Dr. Bethwell A. Ogot, the distinguished Kenyan historian and public servant. B.A. Ogot was born in 1929 in Gem in western Kenya. He was educated at Maseno High School and at Makerere University where he studied mathematics and history. After teaching briefly at Alliance High School in Kenya he enrolled at the University of St. Andrews where he studied history and philosophy. He returned to East Africa as a history tutor at Makerere, and then went to the U.K. to the School of Oriental and African Studies as a Ph.D. student. He then began his path breaking work on Luo oral traditions, which resulted in his 1967 book, History of the Southern Luo. In London he led the Kenya Students Association and provided assistance to Oginga Odinga and Tom Mboya in the 1960 negotiations leading to Kenyan independence. In the late 1960s and early 1970s he was instrumental as a faculty member and chair in making the history department of the new University of Nairobi among the most prominent on the continent. As a scholar, teacher, research supervisor, mentor and colleague, Ogot did much to stimulate the rapid expansion of research in Kenya at that time. Among those to whom he provided guidance and inspiration was UCLA Ph.D. student, Kennell Jackson. Ogot was also the long-term president of the Historical Association of Kenya where he did a great deal to stimulate the publication of new research in the Kenya Historical Review, Hadith, and the Transafrican Journal of History. His edited collection, Zamani (1968) was a key text in the development of research and teaching on East Africa. Later he was instrumental in the creation and publication of the UNESCO General History of Africa. During more than four decades Ogot has taken a leading role in Kenya's key cultural institutions, as a dean at the University of Nairobi, as director of the Louis Leakey Memorial Institute for African Prehistory, as professor at Kenyatta University, director of research at Maseno University College and then in 2003 as Chancellor at Moi University. In his career he has served on a series of important official commissions and boards. In addition he has been an influential and often controversial contributor to national debates about the role of Kenya's past in its present and future. A Fellow of the Kenya National Academy of Sciences, in 2008 Ogot received the African Studies Association, Distinguished Africanist Award.