Second Annual Jan Vansina Memorial Lecture

Jan Vansina

The African Studies Program hosted the second annual Jan Vansina Lecture in September 2019 to honor the legacy of Jan Vansina, one of the world’s foremost historians of Africa. Vansina played an essential role in establishing and developing the African Studies Program in 1961 and pioneered new fields in African pre-colonial, economic, intellectual, demographic, social, and diasporic history.

Emery Kalema held the lecture and opened the African Studies Program’s weekly seminar series, Africa at Noon, with his presentation on “The Mulele ‘Rebellion’ (DR Congo), Bodily Pain and the Politics of Death.” The event gathered almuni, faculty members and many Africanists. 

Welcoming New Faculty

The African Studies Program was pleased to welcome the Department of History’s new Assistant Professor, Aaron Rock-Singer, the Forest and Wildlife Ecology’s new Assistant Professor, Zuzana Burivalova, the Curriculum and Instruction’s Assistant Professor, Christopher Kirchgasler and the African Cultural Studies’ new Assistant Professor, Jacqueline-Bethel Mougoué.

Decolonizing African Studies

Opening lectures by Steven Feierman and Nancy Rose Hunt were followed by a symposium, featuring twelve presentations and a keynote from Pamphile Mabiala Mantuba-Ngoma of the University of Kinshasa. The event brought together more than 45 alumni, many of whom studied under Vansina. The second annual Jan Vansina Lecture will be delivered by Emery Kalema of Stellenbosch University on September 11th, 2019.

The one-day workshop on Decolonizing African Studies focused on raising awareness on the influence of U.S. military and intelligence interests that still have power over African Studies Centers and Programs in U.S. universities. The event opened with Faculty Director of the African Studies Program at UW Madison, Nancy Kendall, and followed with keynotes Dr. Akosua Adomako Ampofo from the University of Ghana, Dr. Emilie Diouf from Brandeis University, and Dr. Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni from the University of South Africa. The event brought together Africanist students as well as 12 other speakers some of which included Tejumola Olaniyan from the University of Wisconsin- Madison and Jamie Monson from Michigan State University.

Africa At Noon

Marissa J. Moorman’s Africa At Noon lecture on Angolan media. (Photo by Aruna Kallon/ UW Madison)

Although Africa at Noon, the African Studies Program’s treasured weekly lecture series, got cut short, it still featured 20 scholars, practitioners, and leaders. The speakers explored topics such as identity and racial politics in post-apartheid South Africa and in Rwanda, Ghanian football academies, and Angolan media. Justine Davis’ Africa At Noon presentation on “Wartime Experiences of Civic Leaders: Legacies of Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa” will be rescheduled for October 7, 2020. Davis will explore her theory on civil war, democracy, and civil leadership. Judith Byfield’s Africa At Noon presentation on “Intimacy and Empire: Creating Over-lapping Diasporas in Postcolonial Nigeria” will also be rescheduled for October 14, 2020. Byfield’s presentation draws from her new research project, Curry Goat and Gari: West Indian Women in 20th Century Lagosian Society, a project that focuses on English-speaking Caribbean women who migrated to Nigeria as wives of Nigerian men.

Furthering Connections With The Continent

The Mandela Washington Fellowship hoped to return to the University of Wisconsin- Madison in Summer 2020 however the event has been postponed to Summer 2021. UW-Madison plans to host 25 of Africa’s bright, emerging Public Management leaders for a six-week Leadership Institute, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The cohort of Fellows hosted by UW-Madison will be part of a group of 700 Mandela Washington Fellows hosted at 27 educational institutions across the United States. At the conclusion of their Leadership Institutes, these exceptional young leaders will convene in Washington, D.C., for the Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit.

UW continues to foster connections with our Mandela fellowship alumni. In the fall, Marie Josée Houénou was featured in the African Studies Program’s treasured weekly lecture series, Africa At Noon, and presented on “Climate Change Response: Reality Versus Development.” In her lecture, Houénou explored how development challenges impact state commitments to protect environment and climate and showcased mitigation projects, strategies and stories from Côte d’Ivoire, France, India, Rwanda, Benin, Canada, South Africa.

Rescheduled Events

The African Studies Program remains hopeful and plans to reschedule events that were unfortunately canceled due to coronavirus and quarantine orders.

The African Studies Program and the Law School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are hosting a two-day conference on Decolonization at Sixty: Francophone Africa Since Independence on March 19-20th, 2021. The two-day conference will provide an intellectually rigorous and cross-disciplinary exploration of the process of decolonization in francophone Africa.

The African Studies Program’s Outreach Program, Day in Africa, has been rescheduled for October 20, 2020. The annual event allows Wisconsin high school students to explore the languages and cultures of Africa to help expand their knowledge of the arts, music, and culture of many parts of the African continent.

Remembering Faculty


Tejumola (Teju) Olaniyan

On November 30, 2019, Tejumola (Teju) Olaniyan, Louise Durham Mead Professor of English & Wole Soyinka Professor of the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin–Madison suddenly passed. Olaniyan was an internationally-recognized scholar of African, African American, and Caribbean literatures, post-colonial studies, genre studies and popular culture studies, whose distinguished body of work serves as a foundation for other scholars around the world in African and Diasporic studies. Olaniyan’s academic homes at UW–Madison included the departments of English and African Cultural Studies. Olaniyan is survived by his wife, Mojisola Olaniyan, who is the assistant dean and director of academic enhancement at the UW–Madison Law School, as well as his children Bolajoko and Olabimpe.


Professor Harold Scheub presents “The Art of the Storyteller” at the Engineers Without Borders 2009 International Conference held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Catherine A. Reiland/African Studies Program, UW-Madison)

Harold E. Scheub unfortunately passed away October 16, 2019. Scheub dedicated 43 years to the University of Wisconsin and was most notably known for his storytelling and his signature African Storyteller course which enrolled more students than any other humanities course in the history of the university. During his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, Scheub explored South Africa’s Eastern coast recording stories and legends of the Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, Swati and Sotho peoples, walking a total of 1,500 miles in four years. Scheub’s legacy lives on in a digital archive of his Storyteller lectures created by UW Libraries, including a video commemorating his career.


M. Crawford Young, pictured in 2013 in Ingraham Hall on the UW–Madison campus. PHOTO: CATHERINE REILAND

M. Crawford Young, one of the most influential scholars in African politics, passed away on January 22, 2020. Young played a key role in developing the African Studies Program; he served two terms as director of the African Studies Program in the 1960s however his leadership and expertise continued to support the program. Young authored dozens of books and served as an esteemed mentor for graduate students as well as young faculty members. On April 2nd and 3rd 2021, the African Studies Program will be hosting an event celebrating the legacy of Young and his scholarship.


Young’s extensive work displayed at his funeral