2011 Distinguished Africanist Award: Dr. Toyin Falola

Award presented by Dr. Aili Tripp, University of Wisconsin, ASA President

Citation read by Dr. Charles Ambler, University of Texas at El Paso, Past President and Chair of the Distinguished Africanist Selection Committee

It is now my great pleasure to introduce the 2011 Distinguished Africanist, Dr. Toyin Falola, the Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin and Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and of the Historical Society of Nigeria.

The African Studies Association honors Dr. Toyin Falola for his wide-ranging and prodigious contribution to scholarship in African studies, for his deep commitment to teaching and mentorship; and for his extensive service to African Studies and the African Studies Association.

A full biography of Dr. Falola is printed in the Annual Meeting program.  Still youthful, Dr. Toyin Falola is very much an elder in our field.  Dr. Falola earned a BA and a PhD in history at the University of Ife, where he began his career as a university teacher and scholar.  He moved to the University of Texas in 1991.  While at Ife, Dr. Falola began a career in scholarship that has resulted in books, articles, chapters, and reviews that reflect his seemingly endless intellectual curiosity.  To date he is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of more than 100 books that range widely across time, space, discipline and subject area.   Some have made powerful contributions to established areas of research.  Others have pointed us in new directions of inquiry.  In addition Toyin Falola is a published poet and his wonderful memoir, A Mouth Sweeter than Salt was a finalist for the Herskovits Prize.

In addition to his own work, Toyin Falola has been a passionate advocate for African Studies.  Through the book series he edits, his service on editorial boards, his work in African Studies organizations in the United States and in Nigeria and notably through his sponsorship of an annual African studies conference at UT Austin, he has tirelessly supported and encouraged the work of his fellow Africanists.  The recipient of the University of Texas System Chancellor’s Teaching Award and recently the UT Austin outstanding graduate teaching award, is an affectionately revered teacher and mentor—and a good friend to many.  We especially honor him for his work training future members of our profession, many of whom I am sure are here today and at this meeting. Toyin Falola exemplifies the goals of our association through his scholarship, his promotion of the field, and his tireless efforts to build links between African scholars and institutions and those in the U.S.   He is the recipient of many awards and honors.  We are proud to add the award of Distinguished Africanist to that list.

Dr. Toyin Falola

Brief Biography

Dr. Toyin Falola has been selected to receive the African Studies Association Distinguished Africanist award for 2011.  Toyin Falola, a Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and of the Historical Society of Nigeria, is currently a Distinguished Teaching Professor and the Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor in History at the University of Texas at Austin.  Dr. Falola is honored for his wide-ranging and prodigious contribution to scholarship in the field of African Studies; for his deep commitment to teaching and to mentorship; and for his extensive service to African Studies and the African Studies Association.  He is a Life Member of the ASA.

Toyin Falola began his career in education in 1970 as a teacher at the UAMC Primary School, Pahayi, Ilaro Nigeria.  After earning a B.A. in history at the University of Ife, he remained there to do a Ph.D., completing a dissertation on “The Political Economy of Ibadan” (1981).  He remained at Ife as a member of the history faculty, moving to the University of Texas in 1991.  While at Ife Falola completed the first of the more than 100  books that he has published to date.  His important early work on the political economy of southwestern Nigeria would lead to studies that have ranged widely across time, space, discipline and topic.  Among his best-known works are Violence in Nigeria: The Crisis of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies (1998), The Power of African Cultures (2003), and Nationalism and African Intellectuals (2001).  In addition, he has published countless articles, book chapters and reviews.   The expanse of his intellectual interests is breathtaking.  In recent years he has edited, co-edited, or co-authored books on Teen Life in Africa (2004), Black Business and Economic Power (2002), and The Politics of the Global Oil Industry (2008).  Particularly noteworthy are his co-edited volume, exploring Pawnship, Slavery, and Colonialism in Africa (2003), an important examination of the practice of African history, Sources and Methods in African History:  Spoken, Written, Unearthed (co-edited, 2002) and the widely cited co-edited volume, Africanizing Knowledge:  African Studies Across the Disciplines (2002).  Just this fall his co-edited work, Landscape and Environment in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa (2011) was published.  His evocative memoir, A Mouth Sweeter Than Salt (2004), was a finalist for the Herskovits Prize.  He has also published a volume of poetry.   

Beyond his own scholarship, Toyin Falola has been a passionate and indefatigable champion of African Studies research.  Through his initiation and editorship of the University of Rochester series, Studies in Africa and the Diaspora, the Carolina Academic Press African World Series, his long-term editorship of African Economic History Review and through service on many editorial boards he has supported and encouraged other scholars.  His efforts to promote the discipline are especially visible in the annual conference on Africa that he first convened more than ten years ago in Austin.  Each year the conference takes up a distinctive theme, and each year a diverse mix of scholars, students and practitioners, based in the U.S. and Africa, meet and present their work in an exciting and democratic atmosphere.  The volumes that have emerged from these conferences, co-edited by Dr. Falola have become important avenues for the publication of new research.

Toyin Falola is an affectionately revered teacher and mentor.   The recipient of the University of Texas System Chancellor’s Teaching Award in 2003 and other teaching awards, Falola has mentored a long line of doctoral students, all of whom have gone on to tenure-track positions.  His mentorship reaches out far beyond the confines of his own students to many junior scholars in North America, Europe and Africa.  A devoted citizen of the community of Africanists, he currently chairs the ASA Herskovits Prize Committee and has offered his time and expertise in numerous similar roles.  A pioneer in digital communication among Africanists, he has been particularly instrumental in building linkages between scholars and institutions in North America and those on the continent.  The recipient of numerous honors, including the 2006 Cheikh Anta Diop Award for Excellence in African Studies and the Ibn Khaldun Distinguished Award for Research Excellence, his contributions have most recently been recognized through the inauguration of an annual conference in Nigeria in his name.  The ASA is proud to recognize Dr. Toyin Falola as the Distinguished Africanist for 2011.

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