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Emerging Scholars Network: Where are we?

The African Studies Association is pleased to welcome a new column for ASA News, which will focus on information important to emerging scholars. The ASA thanks Emerging Scholar Representative for the ASA Board of Directors Ruth Murambadoro for writing this article to share with the association. If you wish to become involved with the Emerging Scholars Network, or would like more information about the network, please fill out this form.

I am thrilled to be writing this message to my fellow colleagues because I value the faith that was put in me as a representative of Emerging Scholars within the Board of Directors of the African Studies Association. In the past couple of months, I have taken the time to acquaint myself with the work of the organisation, and more specifically learning about the foundation of the Emerging Scholars Network.

I have learned that at the 2014 Fall Board Meeting of the African Studies Association, the Board approved the creation of a seat on the board for a representative of graduate students within the organisation. At the same time, there were deliberations on establishing the Graduate Student Caucus (GSC) of the ASA which was a leadership structure led by graduate students within the organisation. The GSC would be set up to fulfil three key roles: (i) To establish what the ASA could offer to graduate students in the organisation, (ii) to identify activities that the GSC can organise which benefit its members, and (iii) to develop a structure for the GSC and its leadership.

Moving on to 2017, the GSC is now called the Emerging Scholars Network of the African Studies Association (ESNASA) and I am serving as its representative in the board taking over from the foundation that was established by Dr. Catherine Lee Porter my predecessor. I see myself as a catalytic actor who is here to make a few strides, yet staying on course with the vision that created the Emerging Scholars Network.

The main challenge I have faced in this role is how do I reach out to all emerging scholars within the organisation and those outside but with interest in the programs of the ESNASA. Recent consultations I made to a couple of emerging scholars within the ASA and outside, led me to consider establishing the ESNASA as institutional chapters and this idea was approved in the 2017 April board meeting. If you are reading this message and have interest in being an institutional representative for your institution (anywhere around the globe), drop me a message and I can share more on how we can set it up.

I also shared with the Board the suggestions that were brought to me on how the ASA could assist emerging scholars within the organisation. Among the top needs of emerging scholars was funding, research support and mentorship. I am delighted that the Board adopted these needs as key strategic goals of the organisation shaping the post 60th anniversary agenda. I hope some of you will consider donating to the 60th anniversary campaign because this fundraising drive is geared at putting in place the funds needed to fulfill the needs of emerging scholars and more.

Let me give a practical example of the impact of the ASA on advancing the work of emerging scholars, especially in Africa. When I was sitting in the April Board meeting I got the opportunity to go through proposals for initiatives being done by coordinate/affiliate organisations, which assist emerging scholars on the continent and beyond. From 12-14 October 2017, African studies scholars will be congregating in Ghana for the ASA of Africa Biennial conference. Through the ASA people in Ghana or Mali can share views about their communities to a wider audience and this sharing of ideas makes ASA a platform for cultural exchange, a learning space and community to inspire critical thinking. The ASA also recognises talent and provides a nurturing ground for every aspiring scholar and artist to reach their full potential.

In April, the ASA Board reviewed the membership fee for graduate students in Africa and reduced it from $35 to a fee of $5. I hope the reduced membership fee will allow more graduate students on the continent to join ASA and connect with many other scholars who can assist them to reach their full potential. If there is any Africa based emerging scholar without the means to pay for membership, follow this link and get the support you need to join the ASA community.

With approval from the Board, the ASA Secretariat is in the process of redesigning the ASA website and this upgrade is going to bring new and innovative features that will allow emerging scholars around the world to better connect and share resources and ideas. What comes to mind is the idea that through the ESNASA, emerging scholars will be able to communicate on a platform that has a readily available database of resources that advance their scholarship. It will become possible to pick a mentor, to organise a webinar and to identify colleagues to collaborate with on research projects, fieldwork and workshops.

The ASA is committed to providing a platform and resources that advance African studies and African scholarship. What role will you play?

by Ruth Murambadoro

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