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Recent Distinguished Africanist Scholars

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Each semester, the Institute for African Development (IAD), Cornell University, sponsors a Distinguished Africanist Scholar (DAS) visit to Cornell. The invited Scholar makes a public presentation (free and open to the Cornell and surrounding community) that goes beyond stimulating discussion to providing exciting perspectives on contemporary African issues, challenges and future policy directions. In addition, the Scholar participates in one or more classes as appropriate for his/her broad span of competence and experiences, meets with students and faculty, and as the need may arise, joins the Africanist faculty for a more intensive workshop/seminar.

Who is a Distinguished Africanist Scholar?

 A Distinguished Africanist scholar is a scholar who has performed exceptionally in the academic field on matters pertaining to Africa and its development.

 

Fall 2018

Maina Kiai was the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association from 1 May 2011 until 30 April 2017.

A lawyer trained at Nairobi and Harvard Universities, Mr. Kiai has spent the last twenty years campaigning for human rights and constitutional reform in Kenya – notably as founder and Executive Director of the unofficial Kenya Human Rights Commission, and then as Chairman of Kenya’s National Human Rights Commission (2003-2008), where he won a national reputation for his courageous and effective advocacy against official corruption, in support of political reform, and against impunity following the violence that convulsed Kenya in 2008, causing thousands of deaths.

From July 2010 to April 2011, Mr. Kiai was the Executive Director of the International Council on Human Rights Policy, a Geneva-based think-tank which used to produce research reports and briefing papers with policy recommendations. Mr. Kiai was also the Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme (1999-2001), and the Africa Director of the International Human Rights Law Group (now Global Rights, 2001-2003). He held research fellowships at the Danish Institute for Human Rights (Copenhagen), the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Washington), and the TransAfrica Forum (Washington).

Mr. Kiai has regularly been an advocate informing and educating Kenyans through various media about their human rights.

 

 

Fall 2018

Sophie Oldfield is internationally recognized as an urban and human geographer for research on cities in the Global South through her theoretical and primary research and as coeditor of the path-breaking Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global South (Routledge, 2014). She is a leader in her discipline, serving as president of the Society of South African Geographers from 2012 to 2014 and helping to establish and develop the Southern African City Studies Network from 2007 to the present.

Her research is grounded in empirical and epistemological questions central to urban theory. Focusing on housing, informality and governance, mobilization and social movement organizing, and urban politics, her work pays close attention to political practice and everyday urban geographies, analyzing the ways in which citizens and organized movements craft agency to engage and contest the state. She has a track record of excellence in collaborative research practice, challenging how academics work in and between “university” and “community.” Trained in the United States (PhD, University of Minnesota), Oldfield holds the University of Basel–University of Cape Town Professorship in Urban Studies, based at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town.