Meet Your Board: An Interview with Emerging Scholar Representative Ruth Murambadoro

The ASA Board of Directors recently added the position of Emerging Scholar Representative to facilitate the participation of graduate students and emerging scholars in the membership and the leadership of the African Studies Association.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you in your studies, and what is your area of research?

I am a Zimbabwean-born decolonial scholar who loves ‘politics’. My PhD project is looking for traditions of justice among conflict stricken communities in Zimbabwe. Over the past two years, l did field research in Buhera and Mudzi districts engaging with key-informants, government officials and the civil society. Beyond the PhD project my research interests are transitional justice, reconciliation, democracy, political psychology and state reconstruction in Africa.

How and why did you initially become involved in the ASA?

The ASA found me, that is how l got involved. In 2015, an ASA member Prof. Masolo nominated me for the Presidential Fellowship because he believed my research to be outstanding. When l got the news around August that l had been given the award, I went on to the ASA website to learn more about the organization. At that time, previous winners of the award had been colleagues who hold PhDs and l felt proud to have set my foot on the global podium without the PhD. I accepted the award because it gave me the opportunity to travel to America to represent my community, clan and the University of Pretoria. Through the fellowship l visited the University of Louisville, Kentucky, as a guest scholar where l presented my research in the form of public lectures and seminars.  I also attended my first ASA conference in San Diego, California where colleagues who attended my session were receptive and engaging.

What motivated you to run for the ASA Board of Directors Emerging Scholar Representative?

Having set my foot on the global podium, l decided to stay and be the voice of emerging scholars. As a fellow of the Social Science Research Council and the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, I am strategically positioned to mediate the needs and aspirations of emerging scholars across the globe. More so, the partnerships that ASA has with other organizations working in various parts of the world informed the extent to which l will be able to represent emerging scholars beyond the board.
 
What was the thing that surprised you most about your first Board of Directors meeting?

The length of the meetings and professionalism. I arrived in Washington a day before the conference started and went on to sit for my first board meeting. Even though the board is made up of colleagues with different academic backgrounds and experiences, l was impressed by the level of respect and professionalism carried throughout the meeting. The board activities started at 9am and ended a little after 7pm, l saw this as a test of endurance and determination. Similar attention was given to all issues that the board needed to deliberate on, which gave me the confidence that the organization is committed to serving its members.

As the Emerging Scholar Representative, what are your priorities over the next two years?

Visibility and effectiveness. I wish to see more emerging scholars forming research collaborations and establishing relations that assist them to mitigate issues related to their respective constituencies. It can be in the form of attending the annual ASA meeting, hosting regional or sub-regional meetings and even virtual meetings. What remains key for me is creating the space for emerging scholars to engage and address the issues facing their constituencies. Hence, I wish for emerging scholars to take advantage of my portfolio to accentuate the reach of their research work.

What role do you see emerging scholars playing in the ASA?

I see emerging scholars as leaders positioned to stand for varying matters of their constituency, some of which is new issues and others long-standing. As such, they bring the ASA to the centre of debates shaping the society and empower the organization to mediate the needs of the people from an informed position.

Do you have any advice for current ASA members that consider themselves junior, or emerging scholars about how to make the most out of their membership?

I think being a member of the ASA should not be taken as a ticked box on the CV. There is a need to go through the ASA website and get involved in programs or partner organizations working within your research area. If there isn’t a current program that suits your interests, take the challenge and establish one. You can never know the full effect of your skills until you put them into practice through collaborative work. A problem shared is half solved. ASA has a large pool of members and partners to work with, but the initiative to work with others remains with the individual.
 
What is the greatest thing you’ve taken away from your membership and experience with the ASA?

Developing a progressive attitude of learning enables one to take each encounter with fellow colleagues as an opportunity to refine personal interests and life trajectory.