The ASAUK Fage & Oliver Monograph Prize
ASAUK Fage and Oliver African Studies Monograph Prize, 2022
The 2022 prize committee is pleased to announce the winner and runner-up for the ASAUK Fage and Oliver African Studies monograph award. The committee notes that both books, and all but one of the titles on this year’s shortlist, were by historians. This highlights the centrality of African history to African Studies, while confirming the importance of the monograph format in both African history and African Studies.
First, the runner up:
Cheikh Anta Babou: The Muridiyya on the Move: Islam, Migration, and Place Making (Ohio University Press, 2021).
This broad, in-depth historical study by a noted African scholar is based on 30 years’ research crossing three continents. Methodologically, it employs archival studies drawing on multilingual – Wolof, French, English and Arabic – sources, and oral interviews with research participants. Babou’s voice as a historian working on the Murids derives from his ‘insider’ status and Murid/Senegalese heritage, carefully and reflexively presented. The book is composed of short, digestible chapters. The study is interdisciplinary, covering a long historical sweep in a fresh and relevant manner with little redundant material.
The book is noted as an original work on a significant Senegalese/Muslim diaspora community (estimated at around a third of the Senegalese population and perhaps half of Senegalese living abroad). It addresses the under-researched topic of internal Muslim migration, from a historical perspective, including to Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon, within West Africa. The author deemphasises the role of the state in such migration; rather his focus is on ‘social practices from below’ and from ‘the periphery’, including those of women, working class neighbourhoods and traders. Thus the study chimes with other historical and anthropological work on African migration that rejects narrowly political and economic approaches.
The work is global in reach, including chapters on Murid diasporas in Paris and New York, thus contributing to studies on migration to the US and Europe, and on global Islam. Whilst joining the dots between contemporary Senegalese migrants and African Americans, the book also offers new ways to think about the trans-Atlantic diaspora not only in terms of post-slavery legacies but also as a consequence of European imperial history and postcolonial migration.
And the winner:
Sam Fury Childs Daly: A History of the Republic of Biafra. Law, Crime and the Nigerian Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2021)
Developed from a recent doctoral dissertation, this is African history and African Studies more widely at their particularly informative, provocative and sobering, but also their noticeably encouraging, given the study’s clarity of purpose and method. The main focus is the Republic of Biafra’s ‘inner workings or life’ during the Nigeria-Biafra war and its aftermath. Biafran society, economy and livelihood are interpreted through the lens of court records and associated archival and other sources. It was the law, the book demonstrates with subtlety, nuance and empathy, which ‘made Biafra work’, albeit fitfully, contentiously and contingently. Daly’s combined legal and social history contains valuable lessons and useful insights ‘about the human condition in times of conflict’. And, in suggesting crime as perhaps the Biafran war’s most enduring legacy for post-war Nigeria as a whole, and for the country’s international image, the book transcends both geographical and strict disciplinary boundaries.
The book’s originality lies in the way it addresses a significant and widely studied moment in Nigeria’s history which still evinces much emotion from an unusual perspective. It applies familiar ‘heterodox approaches to study of armed conflict’ which are infused with insights of the various ways that ‘the law functions during and after war’. These are tools which have not previously been brought to bear on this familiar and emotive topic, and certainly not in such an academically rigorous but still committed and engaging way. Consequently, what might, in the wrong hands, be absurdist and comical, is here presented in careful and objective but nuanced detail, with overtones of empathy. Notably, given the sensitivities of its subject matter, the author book makes clear that the book represents no more than a single outsider or non-Nigerian perspective on a subject with much contemporary resonance.
Nonetheless the judges consider it to be amongst the best books on (the history of) Nigerian politics. The author has produced a carefully-researched scholarly monograph which is composed of logically organised and accessible chapters. We hope that this highly relevant and accessible account can be made more widely available within Nigeria itself. A History of the Republic of Biafra. Law, Crime and the Nigerian Civil War is an eminently readable and very assured first book by a new and important voice in African Studies, which the judges are convinced is a worthy winner of the 2022 ASAUK Fage and Oliver monograph prize.
The ASAUK presents the Fage & OIiver Prize to the author of an outstanding original scholarly work published on Africa during the preceding 2 years.
John Donnelly Fage (1921-2002) and Roland Oliver (1923-2014) were pioneers of British African Studies. After a decade teaching in the University of the Gold Coast, Fage spent the rest of his career at Birmingham University where he founded the Centre of West African Studies (CWAS). With Oliver he founded The Journal of African History (1960). Oliver taught at the School of Oriental and African Studies (1948 -1986). He was one of the founders of the African Studies Association of the United Kingdom (1963) and played a major role in the establishment of the British Institute in Eastern Africa.
THE WINNER OF THE 2020 FAGE & OLIVER PRIZE WAS THE MAN WHO KILLED APARTHEID: THE LIFE OF DIMITRI TSAFENDAS BY HARRIS DOUSEMETZIS (SOUTH AFRICA, JACANA MEDIA).
This was announced immediately after the Biennial ASAUK Conference AGM, that due to COVID was held entirely online.
THE WINNER OF THE 2018 FAGE AND OLIVER PRIZE IS FRANCIS B NYAMNJOH, FOR #RHODESMUSTFALL: NIBBLING AT RESILIENT COLONIALISM IN SOUTH AFRICA (BAMENDA: LANGAA RPCIG, 2016)
This was announced at the Biennial ASAUK Conference in Birmingham in 2018.
Professor Nyamnjoh attended the 2018 ASAUK conference at the University of Birmingham.
He offered the following thoughts on his award:
“Let me start by thanking the organisers of ASAUK 2018 – Dr Insa Nolte and her team at the University of Birmingham, as well as the members of the committee for the Fage & Oliver Prize for 2018. I felt truly honoured and inspired by the Fage & Oliver Prize for my 2016 monograph, #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa. I accepted the award in recognition of the pioneering emphasis by John Donnelly Fage and Roland Oliver on rich ethnographic accounts of a dynamic Africa in conversation with a nimble-footed world of unequal encounters. In light of the challenges highlighted by the RhodesMustFall student movement at UCT, across South Africa, and in Oxford and beyond, I see the award as an emphatic encouragement for me to continue to research and encourage research on the challenges and need to bring into productive conversations of different traditions of knowing and knowledge production in our quest to understand Africa and Africans in their nuanced complexities. In this regard, the need to invest in critical intergenerational conversations on the meaning of Africa in historical perspective that is sensitive to the multiple sensibilities of being and becoming African, cannot be overstated. Doing justice to such a weighty imperative requires an alertness to the normalcy of the humility of incompleteness and the universality of mobility.
Lastly, I see the award as a recognition for the study of interconnections. Among many an ordinary African in many a community in rural and urban Africa, the belief in interconnections and in inclusivity is deep and strong. Individuals are actively encouraged to stay connected in and with their humanity, whatever their personal achievements, and whatever the challenges or predicaments confronting them. African students and scholars interested in rethinking African social sciences and humanities could maximise and capitalise upon the currency of conviviality in popular African ideas of reality and social action. Conviviality invites us to celebrate and preserve incompleteness and mitigate delusions of grandeur that come with ambitions and claims of perfection. As I have argued in #RhodesMustFall, nothing short of convivial scholarship would do justice to the legitimate quest for a reconfiguration of African universities and disciplines of knowledge championed by the student movements of 2015.
A truly convivial scholarship doesn’t seek, the way Cecil Rhodes and Paul Kruger did, to define and confine Africans into particular territories or geographies, racial and ethnic categories, classes, genders, generations, religions or whatever other identity marker is in vogue. Convivial scholarship confronts and humbles the challenge of over-prescription, over-standardisation and over-prediction. It is critical and evidence-based, just as it is critical of the sources of evidence. It is a scholarship that sees the local in the global and the global in the local. It brings them into informed conversations, conscious of the hierarchies and power relations at play at both the micro and macro levels of being and becoming. Convivial scholarship challenges us – however grounded we may be in our disciplines and their logics of practice – to cultivate the disposition to be present everywhere at the same time. It’s a scholarship that cautions disciplines, their borders and gatekeepers to open up and embrace differences. With convivial scholarship, there are no final answers. Only permanent questions and ever exciting new angles of questioning.
I dedicate this award to the all the students of the #RhodesMustFall Movement, whose words and actions provided much ethnographic food for thought.”
THE TWO WINNERS OF THE INAUGURAL FAGE & OLIVER PRIZE, FOR A BOOK PUBLISHED IN 2014 OR 2015, WERE DEBORAH JAMES FOR MONEY FROM NOTHING: INDEBTEDNESS AND ASPIRATION IN SOUTH AFRICA (STANFORD, CA: STANFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2015) AND TERRI OCHIAGHA FOR ACHEBE AND FRIENDS AT UMUAHIA: THE MAKING OF A LITERARY ELITE (OXFORD: JAMES CURREY, 2015).
This was announced at the Biennial ASAUK Conference, held at the University of Cambridge, 7-9 September 2016.
Deborah James, Money from Nothing: indebtedness and aspiration in South Africa. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015.
This timely, empirically rich, and theoretically innovative study explores the upsurge in consumer indebtedness, and its flipside, accessible credit in South Africa, following the post-1994 government’s initiative to abolish “credit apartheid” and “bank the unbanked”. It reveals a complex, contradictory and multi-faceted picture of ordinary people’s experiences of debt, and their efforts to keep a grip on expenditure while meeting family obligations and investing in a better future through education and training. It shows the significance of debt for a growing African middle class, and the complex forms that private ownership of property amongst African families has increasingly been taking. Based on original research, it is illuminated with captivating individual case studies while speaking authoritatively to a whole domain of comparative and theoretical work on popular economies, the formal and informal sectors, and the meaning of indebtedness.
Terri Ochiagha, Achebe and Friends at Umuahia: the making of a literary elite. Oxford: James Currey, 2015.
In this book, new light is shed on an iconic figure. In the last decades of colonial rule, Government College Umuahia in Eastern Nigeria produced an extraordinary cohort of creative writers – among them Chinua Achebe, doyen of African novelists. This study is an original exploration of the formation of this elite and the reasons for their adoption of fiction and poetry as their mode of expression. It traces the role of individual British teachers in their interactions with the young Nigerian writers-to-be, thus vividly illustrating the more culturally creative aspects of the colonial encounter. Ochiagha draws on interviews, memoirs and hitherto unknown archival sources, including school magazines, photographs and letters revealing the life and ethos of this prestigious school, to trace the emergence of a new literature. Elegantly written, this is a historical sociology of literature of a kind rare in African Studies.