report from the ASA
I spent the weekend in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the African Studies Association. Some political scientists skip ASA, but I really enjoy it. It's a chance to hear research not only in my field, but also from other disciplines like history and anthropology from which I don't normally get to keep up with all the latest research. It's also nice to have people from other disciplines in the audience when you're presenting a paper; we got great feedback and suggestions on the pirate paper precisely because of this factor.
Given the huge turnout at Saturday's 7am meeting of the African Politics Conference Group, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who sees benefits from involvement in the ASA. Here are a few highlights of research that I heard, as well as some other news:
- Cyril Obi of the Nordic Africa Institute gave a wonderful (and hilarious) paper on weak democratic consolidation in West Africa. He argued that what looks like backsliding to non-democratic behavior is actually just an indication that most West African states never truly consolidated their democracies. My favorite quote was to the effect that expecting democracy from above in West Africa is akin to expecting "wolves [to give] birth to lambs." I can't wait for the publication of this one.
- UC Berkeley grad student Dan Fahy gave a great paper on Uganda's role in the eastern Congo since 2003. There's been so much work on what Uganda did in Ituri, etc. during the war, but very little on recent developments, so this is much-welcomed research.
- UT Austin professor Alan Kuperman presented a provocative paper on Rwanda in which he contended that the 1994 genocide was essentially a counterinsurgency move in response to the perceived presence of a 5th column of disloyal Tutsis in the country. It's part of a larger project that seeks to explain why regimes do or do not attack civilians during civil war. Keep an eye out for this one.
- Grad students, the APCG voted to establish a graduate student paper prize of $100. One will be awarded annually to the best paper on African politics presented at the ASA, ISA, or APSA. Be sure to nominate the best papers you hear on the topic!
- In non-ASA news, a grad school colleague forwarded a late-season job announcement my way last week. If you're on the job market as an Africanist political scientist and would be interested in teaching at a liberal arts college on the east coast, shoot me an email and I'll forward you the details.