Yolanda Covington-Ward

Term: 2019 – 2021

I am Department Chair and an Associate Professor in the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh (with a secondary appointment in the Department of Anthropology). My research focuses on embodiment, identity, religion, performance, and politics, emphasizing the agency and creativity of people of African descent in transforming the worlds around them. My first book Gesture and Power: Religion, Nationalism, and Everyday Performance in Congo (Duke University Press, 2016) was awarded the 2016 Amaury Talbot Award for African Anthropology from the Royal Anthropological Institute and the 2017 Elliott P. Skinner Book Award from the Association for Africanist Anthropology. I have new projects looking at migration and identity formation for Liberian immigrants in the U.S., religious embodiment in the American South in the 19th century, and Congo recaptives in 19th century Liberia. I am co-editing a volume (with Jeanette Jouili) on Embodying Black Religions in Africa and Its Diasporas (forthcoming, Duke University Press, 2021) and a second volume (with Naomi Andre and Jendele Hungbo) on African Performance Arts and Political Acts (forthcoming, University of Michigan Press, 2021).

Anne S. Lewinson

Term: 2020 – 2022

I have done ethnographic field research in Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania (on the coast of the eastern Africa). My research looks at how Tanzanians’ expectations of city life and urban culture have transformed over the past 20 years as their society moved from African socialism to a liberalized, more globally-interwoven economy. I work with low-level professionals (white- and pink-collar workers). My publications have used the areas of life cycle events, popular culture, domestic architecture, neighborhoods, and gender relations as windows for understanding life in contemporary African cities. I am currently continuing research into how schooling and geographical mobility creates a professional urban class with a distinctive identity as Tanzanians.

Joeva Rock

Term: 2020 – 2022

Joeva Rock is a socio-cultural anthropologist studying agricultural biotechnologies, development, and statecraft in Ghana. She is a Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley and has served as Secretary of the AfAA since 2018.

Kristin Hedges

Program Editor
Term: 2019 – 2021

As an applied medical anthropologist, my primary research interests focus on using community-based research approaches to understand local cultural construction of health, illness, and risk. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya and lived with the Narok Maasai community, I have continued working in this same community for the past twenty years. I conducted research on the HIV vulnerability of Maasai women. From a cultural perspective, I work to understand how the political and economic circumstances of the women’s lives impact their risk behavior. My new research project focuses on Maasai traditional herbal medicine. This project attempts to understand how health care seeking behaviors are changing in response to deforestation, westernization, and poverty. This project will work with community healers to document medicinal herbs, the frequency and characteristics of their use, health care decision making processes, use of traditional medicine versus pharmaceuticals, and the role that traditional medicines play in supporting a healthy lifestyle.

Omolade Adunbi

Program Editor
Term: 2020 – 2022

I am a political and environmental anthropologist and an Associate Professor at the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS), and Program in the Environment (Pite). I am also a Faculty Associate at the Donia Human Rights Center (DHRC) and the Energy Institute at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. My areas of research explore issues related to governance, infrastructures of extraction, environmental politics and rights, power, violence, culture, transnational institutions, multinational corporations and the postcolonial state. In 2016, he received The Class of 1923 Teaching Award at the University of Michigan. My book, Oil Wealth and Insurgency in Nigeria (Indiana University Press, 2015) won the 2017 The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland’s Amaury Talbot Book Award for the best book in Anthropology of Africa. My forthcoming book, Enclaves of Exception: Artisanal Refineries, China and Special Economic Zones in Nigeria, (Indiana University Press) interrogates the idea of Free Trade Zones and its interrelatedness to oil refining practices and infrastructure. My new project is at the intersection of social media, climate change and the politics of the environment.

Christian Vannier

Contributing Editor
Term: 2020 – 2022

Christian Vannier graduated in 2008 from Wayne State University with a PhD in anthropology specializing in the anthropology of development and critical NGO studies in the Caribbean. Today, Christian is a lecturer at University of Michigan, Flint where he teaches courses in both the Department of Africana Studies and the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice. His research program examines Vodún religious practice in West Africa, where actor-centric networks centered around indigenous shrines and micro-economic organizations provide members with the foundations for moral values and ritual agency in a context of political repression and economic penury. Christian is the co-author An Ethnography of a Vodu Shrine in Southern Togo and co-editor of Cultures of Doing Good: Anthropologists and NGOs.

Paul Nkwi

International Liaison

Paul Nchoji Nkwi (1940) is professor of African anthropology at the University of Yaounde I, Cameroon. He studied anthropology and education at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland and obtained his habilitation in the same university in 1982. He taught anthropology at the University of Yaounde, at the Catholic University of Central Africa, Yaounde, and at the St.Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary Bambui, Bamenda, Cameroon. He was visiting professor at Harvard Medical School, Department of Social Medicine, University of South Carolina, Columbia as a Fulbright Scholar, at the University of Frankfurt, Frobenius Institut as a Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa,Visiting Fellow at the University of Leiden (1982),and Research Fellow at the University of Bergen, Centre for Social Policy, (Bergen, Norway). Nkwi was the founding president of the Pan African Anthropological Association” 1989-1994. In 1973, he won the Frobenius Esasay Award to celebration the Centenary of Leo Frobenius. He has been Vice president of the African Academy of Sciences, and founding Executive Secretary of the Cameroon Academy of Sciences.

Richard Werbner

International Laison

Richard Werbner, International Liaison for AfAA, is Professor Emeritus in African Anthropology, Honorary Research Professor in Visual Anthropology, at the University of Manchester. Sometime Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution, and at the National Humanities Center, he has also held visiting appointments at universities in Japan, Belgium, Israel, Czech Republic, Australia, Botswana and the USA. Founder and Convener of the Satterthwaite Colloquium on Religion and Ritual, he carried out his first fieldwork among Winnebago of Nebraska in 1958, and began his long-term fieldwork in southern Africa in 1960, among Kalanga, first in Zimbabwe and later in urban and rural Botswana, and among Tswapong and Tswana. Among his books are Anthropology after Gluckman (2020), Divination’s Grasp (2015), Holy Hustlers, Schism and Prophecy (2011), Reasonable Radicals and Citizenship in Botswana (2004), Tears of the Dead (1991). His two series of films are available through Ethnographic Video Online and the Royal Anthropological Institute. His edited collections include Land Reform in the Making (1981)), Postcolonial Identities in Africa (1996), Memory and the Postcolony (1998), Postcolonial Subjectivities in Africa (2002), His current works in progress are a critique of Talking Cures, and co-authored with Pnina Werbner, a comparative book on Seeking African Customary Justice.

Francesca Declich

International Laison

Francesca Declich is an Associate Professor at the University of Urbino Carlo Bo in Italy. She is a Social Anthropologist and expert in the Horn of Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique. She studied in Rome, Oriental Institute in Naples and London (LSE, Uni London SOAS). In 2018 she edited for Brill the book “Translocal connections across the Indian Ocean. Swahili networks on the move.”
I believe that the African countries of the Western Indian Ocean share many cultural features that were concealed in separate realms of knowledge produced within the ex-colonies. I thus carried out fieldwork in Italian and Anglophone Somalia, Anglophone Tanzania and Lusophone Mozambique studying several features across countries including matriliny, dance, memories of slavery, domestic slavery and forced migrations. As I think anthropologists can also find valuable information in archives some of my publications cover historical topics especially on gender, ethnogenesis, rituals, slavery and abolition in Somalia and Mozambique. These include articles on Domesticity as Socio-Cultural Construction: Domestic Slavery, Home and the Quintal in Cabo Delgado (Mozambique) in Gender and History (2016) as well as Nassib Bundo and Other Rebel Slaves and Liberti of Gosha. A Reassessment (1835-1906) in Africa (2020). Yet, I have published widely on the Somali Bantu since when the civil war in Somalia led a large part of the population in diaspora, on resettlement processes, diasporas and integration. My ethnographic films address second generations Somali migrants in Tanzania and the US (Coming of Age in Exile – 2011) and secret society’s dances as cultural features kept by descendants of slaves across countries in Africa The Hidden Guarantee. Identity and Gule Wamkulu between Somalia and Mozambique (winner of the jury price 2009 Museé du Quai de Branly, Paris). I also have roots in the network of Africanist anthropologists in Italy, being past vice-president of the (ASAI) Associazione di Studi sull’Africa in Italia (2021-2023). Thereby stems my role as International Liaison. I am currently, Associate Professor at the University of Urbino in Italy. My experience in Africa covers further countries including Burkina Faso, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, Somaliland, South Africa.

Bennetta Jules-Rosette

Student Paper Awards Committee and Past President

Bennetta Jules-Rosette is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology and the Director of the African and African-American Studies Research Center at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of nine books and over 120 scholarly articles on African, African-American, and diaspora studies. Her areas of interest include ethnographic and semiotic studies of art, religion, and technology. Her books include African Apostles: Ritual and Conversion in the Church of John Maranke (1975), A Paradigm for Looking: Cross-Cultural Research with Visual Media (1977, co-authored with Beryl L. Bellman), The Messages of Tourist Art: An African Semiotic System (1984), Terminal Signs: Computers and Social Change in Africa (1990), Black Paris: The African Writers’ Landscape (1998), Josephine Baker in Art and Life: The Icon and the Image (2007), and African Art Reframed: Reflections and Dialogues on Museum Culture (2020, co-authored with J.R. Osborn). Professor Jules-Rosette is a past President of the Association for Africanist Anthropology (2005-2009), a past President of the Semiotic Society of America (1988-1989), and a former Board Member of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (2005-2009).

J.R. Osborn

Student Paper Awards Committee

J.R. Osborn is a scholar and experimentalist of communication. His work explores media history, semiotics, communication technologies, and design aesthetics with a regional focus of the Middle East and Africa.  Dr. Osborn is currently an Associate Professor of Communication, Culture & Technology (CCT) and Co-Director of the Technology Design Studio at Georgetown University. He is the author of Letters of Light: Arabic Script in Calligraphy, Print, and Digital Design (2017) and co-author with Bennetta Jules-Rosette of African Art Reframed: Dialogues and Reflections on Museum Culture (2020). African Art Reframed analyzes the global circulation of African art, drawing upon extensive curator interviews, ethnographic site visits, the visual and digital analysis of artworks, and studies of audience responses.

Gwendolyn Mikell

Elliott P. Skinner Book Award Committee and Past President

Gwendolyn Mikell is the Professor of Anthropology and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where she has taught since 1976. She served as Director of the African Studies Program in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown from 1996-2007 – a program which she helped develop from 1982 onward; and she was Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology from 1992-1995. She was Senior Fellow for African Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2000 – 2003. She has been President of the African Studies Association, a Jennings-Randolph Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the Institute for African Studies at the University of Ghana-Legon, the Institute for Social Research at the University of Natal in Durban- South Africa, and the Institute for Developing Economies in Tokyo. She is a Board member of the Smithsonian Museum of African Art; and she has served on the Boards of the American Anthropological Association, the African Studies Association, CIES-Fulbright Program, and the British-Marshall Selection Committees As a political and economic anthropologist, Mikell’s research interests are in African political and economic transitions, democratization and peace, African feminism, and the political /religious dynamics of African women’s organizations. She is the author of numerous articles and two books – Cocoa and Chaos in Ghana (1982, 2005) and African Feminism: The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa (1997); and she has a forthcoming book project that follows Kofi Annan’s initiatives on Africa 1997-2009. She holds the B.A. in Sociology from the Univ. of Chicago; a Certificate in French from the National University of Cote d’Ivoire; and the M.A. & Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University.

Betty Harris

Elliott P. Skinner Book Award Committee and Past President

Betty Harris is a Full Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. Her research interests include political economy, especially of Southern Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland), including agriculture, water, commercialization, Chinese trade; race and ethnicity in the US; and the history of anthropology (particularly of South Africa).

Jennifer Coffman

Past President

Jennifer Coffman is a full Professor in the School of Integrated Sciences at James Madison University.

Anita Spring

Past President

Dr. Anita Spring is a professor emeritus in the Department of Anthropology, and director of the Sub-Saharan Africa Business Environment Report (SABER) Project.

Maria Cattell

Past President

I have been doing research on aging, families, gender and other matters in Kenya since 1982 with many return visits over the years, most recently in 2018, in addition to research projects in South Africa and Philadelphia. I’m a founding member and past president of AfAA, was AfAA’s Program Editor for the AAA annual meetings for 12 years, and served on the Elliott P. Skinner Book Award Committee for 8 years. In 2011 I gave AfAA’s distinguished lecture on “Gender, Generation and Time in Sub-Saharan Africa” and was honored to receive AfAA’s Distinguished Leadership and Service Award. I served two terms as president of the Association for Anthropology, Gerontology and the Life Course and two terms as co-convenor of the Women’s Caucus of the African Studies Association. In 2020 I was elected president of the Association of Senior Anthropologists. I taught at Franklin & Marshall College and at Millersville University before retiring. My publications include three books: Old Age in Global Perspective: Cross-Cultural and Cross-National Views (co-author), Social Memory and History: Anthropological Perspectives (co-editor), and Women in Anthropology: Autobiographical Narratives and  Social History (co-editor).

Kathryn Mara

Graduate Student Representative

Kathryn Mara earned her PhD in African Cultural Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2020. She is interested in language, cultural practices, and representations of mass violence in an east-/central-African context. Her dissertation examined the social context of genocide representation, that is, how people talk about it. Through a focus on language and commemoration, she explored narrative practices, attitudes, and processes of socialization among Rwandans living outside of Rwanda.

Rachel Sebastian

Graduate Student Representative

Rachael Sebastian is a PhD Candidate in linguistic and sociocultural anthropology at Binghamton University. Her dissertation research centers on codeswitching and language choice in multilingual music in Tanzania, and how artists use music to organize and mobilize people to improve life in their communities. Other research interests include sex tourism in the Caribbean, and the economics and geographic implications of street music in New Orleans. She is also a musician, artist, and photographer.