From the Desk of the Executive Director

Dear ASA Community,

As I write to you from the gardens of the Novotel Hotel in Dakar, Senegal I am reminded of what an extraordinary time it is for the ASA. The ASA’s new program manager Renee DeLancey, Ushma Suvarnakar from the American Anthropological Association, and I are onsite to put the finishing touches on the “Innovations, Transformations, and Sustainable Futures in Africa” conference which kicks off this week.

After a whirlwind month which included a very productive ASA Spring Board meeting, the ASR Editor’s Retreat, and the American Council of Learned Societies Annual Meeting, it is incredible to find myself in Dakar, awaiting the start of this week’s conference.

Since my first contact with the ASA almost a decade ago, there have been two recurring themes that have dominated the Association’s strategic conversations: the importance of engaging scholars based in African Institutions and the critical need to host an event on the continent to further this engagement. This week’s conference will mark the first time in the 59 year history of the ASA that the Association hosts an event in Africa.

As I sit here, looking out over Goree Island and awaiting the 200 participants who will join us over the next few days, I am reminded of what a long path it was to get here.  So many ASA members have made contributions to ensure this event became a reality. I’m reminded of Teresa Barnes who led a committee on meetings in Africa during her ASA Board term. Peter Little, Gracia Clark, Judith Byfield, and Jennifer Yanco spent countless hours representing the ASA on the #Dakarfutures2016 steering committee. Mwenda Ntarangwi and Ellen Foley led the review of the overwhelmingly positive response to the Dakar2016 Call for Proposals with incredible dedication and creativity. Ousmane Sene, the director of WARC, has shown us the true reach of Senegalese hospitality and ensured that our participants will have the opportunity to interact with the academic, political, and artistic communities of Dakar. If the ASA had honorary membership, I would bestow it on Ed Liebow, Executive Director of the American Anthropological Association. His personal commitment to making this event a success speaks to the importance he places on African Studies and the engagement of his members on the African continent. Finally, I am reminded of the active engagement of our President, Dorothy Hodgson, as an African Anthropologist to ensure this meeting was a strategic priority of the Association during her term.

While not every ASA member will be with us in Dakar this week, I hope that each one of you feels a strong sense of pride for the important step forward that our Association has made. Please take the time to visit www.dakar2016.org to review the program for this meeting and to see what innovative and exciting content has been generated through the CFP. You can also follow the event on social media with hashtag #dakarfutures2016.

Our next challenge is to ensure that this is not a one-time event, but the start of a series of ongoing conferences. The ASA aspires to host future events on the continent in collaboration with not only AAA, but also with other disciplinary learned societies and coordinate organizations. We are already well underway on this front and hope to announce some exciting developments at this year’s Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

While it’s hard to think that in only six days I will leave Dakar behind, I’m excited for the tasks awaiting myself and the Secretariat after the closing of this event. The preliminary program for the Annual Meeting has just been finalized and we will spend the coming months continuing to engage with the Program Chairs, Local Arrangements Committee, and ASA Board on finalizing the content and logistics of this year’s Annual Meeting. We will finalize the selection and participation of our Presidential Fellows in the Annual Meeting, and we will submit a new proposal to the Carnegie Corporation of New York to continue the engagement of their networks of scholars in Africa in our Annual Meeting. We’re also preparing to launch phase two of our member portal, which will include many exciting new member resources and tools to add value to your ASA membership experience.

I hope that you share my excitement about the state of our Association and I hope that the innovative new activities of the ASA motivate you to continue to support the critical work of the Association. It is only by the engagement, input, and dedication of our members that these kind of initiatives can come to be. I encourage each of you to think about ways in which the ASA can be more relevant and support you in your research, your teaching, and your broader engagement with African Studies. The Secretariat is always open to receiving your input and guidance on how we can ensure the relevance of our Association. I look forward to seeing all of you this fall in Washington, DC!

Warmest Regards from Dakar,

Suzanne Moyer Baazet,
Executive Director of the African Studies Association
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